The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel spent part of Friday defending his decision to leave Oklahoma out of his post-transfer portal early top 25 for the 2022 college football season.
Mandel didn’t think much of Oklahoma in his “too early top 25” back on Jan. 11 either. He had the Sooners No. 25 then, just behind No. 24 Kansas State.
Oklahoma has been revolving door since Riley left; 14 starters, most notably QB Caleb Williams, have either turned pro or entered the portal. But UCF transfer QB Dillon Gabriel is a nice Plan B. He should have Marvin Mims and Theo Wease as targets. Brent Venables will need to rebuild in the front seven, though LB Danny Stutsman had a promising freshman season. Cornerbacks D.J. Graham and Woodi Washington are solid. – Mandel, The Athletic.
Clearly, Mandel is putting more stock into Oklahoma’s transfer portal and 2022 NFL Draft defections rather than the Sooners’ transfer portal additions. That starts with freshman quarterback Caleb Williams who passed for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns in seven starts.
It includes OU’s leading rusher in 2021, running back Kennedy Brooks. Oklahoma is also set to replace four of its top-five pass catchers. Wide receivers Michael Woods, Jadon Haselwood and Mario Williams are gone. Tight end Jeremiah Hall is off to the NFL Draft, too.
Offensive linemen Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson elected to forego their extra seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft was well.
Defensively, the Sooners will be replacing three of their top four tacklers (linebacker Brian Asamoah, safety Pat Fields and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell) and its top three sacks and tackles for loss producers (outside linebacker Nik Bonitto, defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas and defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey).
All of this is true. Leaving Oklahoma outside of the top 25 entirely and behind teams like Kentucky, USC, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Houston, Wisconsin and LSU feels a little crazy and a step too far, though.
Seemingly, Mandel doesn’t put much stock into Oklahoma’s transfer portal additions. UCF transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel is the Sooners’ starter and he’s passed for over 8,000 yards and for 70 touchdowns over the course of 25 career starts.
Gabriel has a No. 1 target in wide receiver Marvin Mims, Oklahoma’s leading receiver each of the past two seasons with 1,315 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in his two seasons combined.
Theo Wease is set to return from injury and OU got a good sign for the future when wide receiver Jalil Farooq caught three passes for 64 yards in Oklahoma’s 47-32 win over Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The Sooners added offensive linemen McKade Mettauer from Cal and Tyler Guyton from TCU to help offset the losses of Hayes and Robinson up front. Mettauer made 28 starts at right guard for Cal over the past three seasons.
OU also added an infusion of transfer portal talent up front defensively to help weather the losses of Bonitto, Thomas and Winfrey. Defensive linemen Jeffery Johnson from Tulane and Jonah Laulu from Hawaii. Johnson and Laulu combined for 77 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2021.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Jalen Redmond returns for the Sooners and he’s registered 21.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in his Oklahoma career. At linebacker, OU got good news when DaShaun White decided to come back to Norman for another season. Plus, David Ugwoegbu and Danny Stutsman will be in the mix there.
In the secondary, OU adds Wyoming transfer C.J. Coldon, North Carolina transfer Trey Morrison, and Louisville transfer Kani Walker. That’s in addition to the return of OU’s starting cornerbacks from 2021 in D.J. Graham and Woodi Washington. Defensive back Key Lawrence, who was one of the Sooners’ best players defensively for a stretch of last season, also returns.
Mandel has Baylor as the highest-ranked Big 12 team at No. 11 and Oklahoma State at No. 15.
OU will get both Baylor and Oklahoma State at home in 2022. Mandel had Kansas State in his “just missed” section of his rankings alongside the Sooners. Oklahoma plays Kansas State at home in 2022 as well.
Mandel probably isn’t creating his rankings with teams’ schedules for next season in mind, but, if he was, that would be another reason it’s just difficult to envision Oklahoma ripping off the type of 8-4 or 9-3 season it would take for the Sooners to wind up outside the top 25 when it’s all said and done.
In the time being, a little bulletin board material never hurt anybody.
Oklahoma begins its first season with head coach Brent Venables on Sept. 3 against UTEP from Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
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