Of course this is all meaningless, aimed to create posts exactly like this one where we rant and rave about the selections and create buzz around the upcoming season. I’m happy to be a part of that, the Big 12 is fun and so is arguing about meaningless and fairly subjective rankings. So here we go.
Let’s start with my big quibble, DPOY Kenneth Murray.
Presumed media rationale: Murray had 155 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks last year for the Sooner defense and now returns in a new scheme with an adjusted role (moving from MLB to WLB) as an upperclassman after starting as true freshman and sophomore. Additionally, there weren’t many consensus candidates to oppose him save perhaps for Texas’ Caden Sterns whom I didn’t even put on my first team ballot.
My issue: Kenneth Murray wasn’t very good last year. The man made 60 tackles, two TFL, and 1.5 of those sacks in three games. Against Army (28 tackles), Baylor (17 tackles), and Alabama (15 tackles).
You’ll recall that Army is the team that ran for 339 yards on the Sooners and nearly choked them out on their own field in Norman because OU couldn’t stop the option. Baylor had 33 points on the Sooners and here’s some samplings of his play in that game.
As a plugger inside…
Coming free to the football when the DL keeps him clean. This is what a good chunk of his numerous tackles looked like, dragging someone down after a successful gain once he chased them down clear of the action.
He could be better this coming year playing as a will and having someone else do more of the dirty work while he’s freed up to read the play and close but he’s not really exceptional at anything. There’s a lot of guys that can make a lot of tackles playing 75 snaps a game and waiting for the RB to commit to a track before closing to make the tackle.
Then of course the Alabama game, where the Sooners couldn’t stop the run to save their lives. Here he is against motion, the perpetual bane of the Sooner D:
“Oh counter run, shoot. Well…maybe it’ll cut back to me? Y’all got this one, okay.”
And check him out on the play that ended Robert Barnes:
Nice championship effort there. You can tell he had the Alabama playbook down cold.
Kenneth Murray was a capable tackler who played back despite serving in a plugging role for a defense that afforded him the opportunity to make a ton of tackles as a hang back player due to their inability to get off the field on third down. He was the middle and the heart of a defense that wasn’t any good. Maybe he’ll have a good year if the underclassman (Dashaun White) that they’re throwing to the wolves at MLB is an impact player that can help him keep clean and run things down, or if puts more effort into film study on opposing playbooks.
Preseason DPOY is nonsense and indicative of a ton of voters that looked at the stat sheets.
The rest of the ballot doesn’t have a ton of big differences from my own or many selections or omissions that are egregious.
Reggie Walker, Kenneth Murray, and Colton McKivitz have played a fair amount of football to this point. They’re well known around the league.
Wyatt Hubert, Garrett Wallow, and Sam Cosmi are less well known but they flashed a ton of potential in 2018 and have the talent and opportunity to be dominant performers in 2019. If you watch Garrett Wallow’s snaps in 2018 there’s no question who’s better between him and Kenneth Murray, ditto Hubert vs Walker or McKivitz vs Cosmi. These are the sorts of things that will get sorted out after we see the season though.
Oops on Kennedy Brooks
I really only left him out because I figured his ownership of a timeshare in the Sooner backfield would leave him less opportunity to make an impact than Pooka Williams or Chuba Hubbard, of course now there’s the story out that he’s missing summer workouts and is questionable for the fall.
That’s yet one more issue for Oklahoma that they can overcome if things go right or which could be another piece from a jenga tower that was much more stable a year ago.
Order of finish
We haven’t seen how the media voted but just a reminder, last year I had four big differences with how everyone else saw things.
First, I thought OU would slip, perhaps even hard, which was wrong.
Second and third, I thought OSU and TCU were more likely to have down cycles than they were to contend for the league crown. Voters often vacillate with these teams a year behind, not realizing both programs are prone to upswings and downswings due to inconsistent roster depth and reliance on veteran QB playmaking.
Fourth, I had Texas much higher than the vast majority of voters, which along with my insistence on both that point and the weakness inherent in Oklahoma’s defense, exposed me to a great deal of scorn early in the year. I still catch a lot of flak from OU fans about doubting Kyler Murray before the season, which is fair, but they seem to have forgotten their own arguments about the rebound of the Sooner D and the disappointing season forthcoming from Texas.
Now that Texas is “back” it’ll be interesting to see what people do with them in the preseason poll. I imagine they’ll still finish second behind the four-time defending champs, and then we’ll see how people handle the Baylor, TCU, OSU, Iowa State debate.
There’s a chance Iowa State actually ends up third simply because OSU and TCU lack known commodities at QB and Baylor lacks a proven defense.