Reggie Grimes was talking the other day about the wealth of talent on OU’s defensive line.
Competitive depth, they’re calling it these days in Norman.
Grimes, a fourth-year defensive end, sees little difference between the defensive linemen who will start the opener Saturday against Arkansas State and those who will only see the field in garbage time. Now, it’s anyone’s guess where the truth lies. The defensive line was so-so a year ago, but there’s been an influx of newbies.
“There’s not a drop-off between guys who are first, second and third,” Grimes said.
“We can ball.”
We’re about to find out.
Frankly, you can say the same about his team.
About the team at OSU, too.
We honestly don’t have a good sense of what either the Sooners or the Cowboys will be this season. They could be middle-of-the-road teams in the Big 12, or they could face each other in the conference title game.
Either scenario seems completely and totally possible.
As OU and OSU prepare to open Saturday, we find ourselves in a weird place. We are struggling to predict what kind of teams and what quality of seasons we’re about to witness.
Such a thing has become rare in our state.
Over the last two-plus decades — basically since Bob Stoops took over at OU and Mike Gundy took over at OSU — us pundits, whether professional or amateur, always had a pretty good idea about the teams’ potential in the preseason. Now, our suspicions haven’t always been true. You only have to go back a year to see that; pretty much everyone thought the teams would be way better than they ended up being.
But this season, predicting feels like as much of a crapshoot as any time in recent history.
That may be due in part to the seasons OU and OSU had a year ago. Neither was good, not by their standards anyway.
In Norman, the Sooners got off to a hot start. Remember when they went to Nebraska, drubbed the Cornhuskers and soared to No. 6 in the national polls? Pundits started saying the Sooners could make the College Football Playoff.
Yes, that was last season, the same season that the Sooners ended up 6-7 and endured their first losing season in 25 years.
In Stillwater, the Cowboys got off to a hot start, too. Theirs actually lasted into October. After OSU beat Texas in a thriller of a game, the Cowboys rose to No. 9 in the national polls. Pundits started saying they could make the College Football Playoff.
But then, Spencer Sanders got hurt and the wheels came off and OSU lost five of its last six.
So, maybe we’re having a tough time figuring these teams out because last season was such a roller coaster. Were those decent teams that hit on some bad luck, quarterback injuries and one-score losses among them? Or were they bad teams with inferior talent and suspect coaching?
We can guess, but we really don’t know.
Add in roster overhauls that have come courtesy of the transfer portal, and there are even more questions.
Is Alan Bowman going to resurrect the OSU offense? We don’t even know if he or Garret Rangel is going to be the starter; Cowboy coach Mike Gundy hasn’t named one and hasn’t committed to when he will.
Is Brent Venables going to resurrect the OU defense? To do that, he needs linebackers who are difference makers, and Rocky Calmus and Torrance Marshall aren’t walking through that door. Danny Stutsman, Dasan McCullough and Co. must step up.
Is OSU’s offensive line going to block anybody? The Cowboy front needs to be much better than it was last year. Too many quarterbacks running for their lives. Too many running backs getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
Is Dillon Gabriel going to avoid bad stretches that can become costly?
Is a receiver like Andrel Anthony or LV Bunkley-Shelton going to fill Marvin Mims’ shoes?
Is the Sooner secondary going to be solidified by newbies Reggie Pearson and Peyton Bowen?
Is an OSU receiving corps hit hard by transfers going to find stars in Jaden Bray and De’Zhaun Stribling?
Is Collin Oliver going to excel at his new position in Bryan Nardo’s new 3-3-5 defense?
Is Kendal Daniels going to be a consistent force in the secondary?
So many questions.
This time of year, I’m always optimistic. See the positives. Expect the best. Take the over.
Even though it feels as difficult as ever to predict how things will go for the Sooners and Cowboys, I’m choosing to channel a little Reggie Grimes — I’m going to have high hopes for these teams.
OU will win 10 games during the regular season, OSU nine.
I believe they can ball.
We’re about to find out.