Five reasons to be optimistic as Oklahoma’s 2022 football season approaches

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Here are five reasons to be optimistic about Oklahoma football as the 2022 season draws ever closer, with reasons to be pessimistic to follow later in the week.

Brent Venables

Venables’ effect on the program as a whole – even before he coached a game – was palpable. This was most evident when OU played its spring game in April with 75,000 Sooner fans in attendance, but can also be observed more subtly through player comments both in the press and on social media. Players seem excited to play for Venables, and that excitement started rubbing off on fans a long time ago. We can say that the night that Venables arrived in Norman.

Lots of toys

With the incoming freshman class (ranked No. 8 in the country), Venables gets a handful of players who can make an impact from day one. Gentry Williams, Gavin Sawchuk, Kobie McKinzie and Jaren Kanak, and maybe even a few others, could all play big roles this season as Venables’ first-class freshman.

Not only that, but Venables will have an underclass stable back, especially on the defensive end. Ethan Downs (seen above), Danny Stutsman and Clayton Smith highlight sophomore class that could fuel the Sooners’ passing rush for the next few seasons.

There’s no shortage of shiny new toys on this list for Venables to play with as he brings his solid defense reputation to the OU.

The Gabriel/Lebby reunification

Dillon Gabriel is the former UCF quarterback who transferred to OU after leading the nation in yards per game in 2020. Jeff Lebby is the former Ole Miss offensive coordinator who led the 10 first offenses in each of the last two seasons. The last time the two were together, Gabriel’s freshman year at UCF, he threw for over 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Gabriel said hiring Lebby was a big reason he decided to transfer to Oklahoma, and the two already have a rapport and Gabriel’s sense of what to do in complex offensive plans. by Lebby is already generating positive discussions at spring camp. It looks like OU got their “guy” with Lebby and Gabriel.

A healthy Theo Wease

Wease is tied for the team lead in receptions (37) and was second in receiving yards (530) in 2020 as a sophomore, a potential that raised high expectations in 2021 with Wease on one side and Marvin Mims on the other.

But Wease missed the entire season with a foot injury, and the Sooners’ passing game sputtered all season.

Wease is healthy heading into spring camp 2022, and the fact that he and Mims along with a few promising young players will make it much easier to reinvigorate the passing game sooner than it could have.

The last time Wease was on the court, he was torching Florida’s defense in the 2021 Cotton Bowl.

Immaculate atmosphere

It’s pretty clear that Oklahoma football is in the midst of a culture shift. Even without the departure of Lincoln Riley, last season left a bad taste in the mouths of Sooner fans. It just never clicked in Riley’s final year with the program.

Venables and company seem like a fresh start, and so far they’re doing and saying all the right things to make Oklahoma’s football team look completely different than last year. Venables has been adamant about bringing toughness and discipline back to football earlier, and his words have reflected that so far throughout spring camp.

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Oklahoma coach Brent Venables hosts a group photo with former players and their families...

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