November 24, 2008

Sooner Hot 11: Stars All Over the Field

The Sooner Hot 11 is a ranking of the previous Saturday's top performers and in Oklahoma's 65-21 victory over Texas Tech there were several stars worthy of recognition and a familiar face has found his way for the Hot 11's top spot yet another time in 2008, however it might not be who you think. Have a look at the player-by-player breakdown of Oklahoma's most high profile win of the season where the Sooners offense soared and put the game out of reach before the Red Raiders knew what had hit them.

11. Nic Harris, Safety - Stats: Five tackles (three solo), one half tackle for loss (one yard), one forced fumble, one pass break-up.
Analysis: It's hard to believe but this is Harris' first inclusion in the Hot 11, a fitting end to his career on Owen field. Not only did Harris play well but seemed to be leading the defense both with some high-emotion football and an air of confidence that seemed to have the Red Raider receivers, in particularly Eric Morris, more interested in talking trash than catching passes. Honestly he'd probably be higher on this list if it weren't for a few silly penalties that kept drives alive, however the 'defenseless receiver' call was, and is still, bogus.Last Week: N/A

10. Austin Box, Linebacker - Stats: Nine tackles (four solo), three tackles for loss (four yards).
Analysis: Box finally looks like a guy just playing football rather than thinking and trying to avoid a mistake at all times. Some had wondered how Oklahoma could replace former MIKE linebacker Ryan Reynolds and while I'm not sure that Box is the run-stuffer that Reynolds had become in the middle but just the same I'm not sure Reynolds could have covered the same kind of space that Box did on Saturday night against Tech's offense that spreads the field horizontally. If not for allowing one touchdown on a pass that got behind him he'd probably be higher.Last Week: No. 6

9. Chris Brown, Running Back - Stats: 21 carries for 108-yards and three touchdowns. One catch for six yards.
Analysis: I sometimes wonder that even for myself; someone who is ingratiated into the inner workings of Sooner football that I fail to appreciate what an important piece of the puzzle Brown is. Now that Demarco Murray has his legs back it's easy to overlook a solid back that just never seems to make mistakes and always runs hard. The talented back is one of the more underrated players not just in the Big 12, but in the nation.Last Week: No. 4

8. Dominique Franks, Cornerback - Stats: Four tackles (two solo), two pass break-ups.
Analysis: Speaking of underrated there was no one who played a bigger game on Saturday without gaining some notoriety for it than the talented sophomore from Tulsa Union. Franks on a couple of occasions nearly had picks, one of which just might have been a touchdown if the play is made. The most notable play was his break on the same pass that made Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree legitimate Heisman candidates. Where Curtis Brown failed to come over in time, Franks broke to the outside and broke up a pass. Last Week: No. 7

7. Sam Bradford, Quarterback - Stats: 14-for-19 for 304-yards and four touchdowns.
Analysis: This is going to seem low, and honestly I would have a hard time arguing against those who see it that way. However, with so many linemen on each side of the ball having great game and at least 18-players worthy of Hot 11 notoriety Bradford couldn't help but slip down the list a bit. Bradford, while aided by a potent running game, did all that he could to not only help his Heisman candidacy but help his receivers find open running lanes and put them in position to make plays. Last Week: No. 2

6. Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle - Stats: Three tackles, half a sack (four yards), one pass break-up, one quarterback hurry.
Analysis: The big defensive lineman played a monstrous game but his play was as much of a facilitator for those around him as his own stat line. McCoy worked well on stunts as well as helping to enable the Sooners opportunities to do a lot of different things with their front four as well as the coinciding blitz packages. Simply put McCoy is the nation's best defensive tackle.Last Week: N/A

5. Trent Williams, Offensive Tackle - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: Williams may not have the flash, based somewhat on size, of teammates Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt but there isn't a more consistent Sooner lineman than Williams. Be it pass-blocking or run-blocking Williams dominated his Texas Tech opponent. Look at several of Oklahoma's touchdown runs and you can see Williams isolating himself on a nearly helpless linebacker. As I've said before if Williams doesn't stop playing like this Oklahoma may have to replace all five of it's starters along the offensive line.Last Week: No. 5

4. Jeremy Beal. Defensive End - Stats: Two tackles, two sacks (19 yards), one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry.
Analysis: There were a slew of players worthy of Hot 11 mentions but few players I felt were worthy of the top spot. However Beal was almost certainly one of them putting the constant pressure on Harrell that folks in Lubbock said all week was an impossibility. Beal was used in multiple roles and on both sides of the defensive line to create multiple disruptions for the Red Raider offense. It was a performance reminiscent of the Big 12 championship game last year.Last Week: No. 3

3. Duke Robinson, Offensive Guard - Stats: N/A
Analysis: I've been hard on Robinson but for the last month he's been playing the best football of his Sooner career. Following the Texas game Robinson made some comments about the team lacking the attitude towards the running game it once had and he's done wonders to back up his words by finding the nasty attitude the team had in 2007 when it followed his dominant play all the way to a Big 12 title.Last Week: No. 10

2. Demarco Murray, Running Back - Stats: 18 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Four catches for 71 yards.
Analysis: His performance in the first half on Saturday night was one for the books. Not only did Murray continue to show off his regained confidence in his repaired knee by cutting and changing directions on multiple occasions but he also ran hard and broke through multiple Texas Tech tackles. The talented Las Vegas sophomore is having the kind of close to a season that will have people wondering about him as a Heisman candidate next year if he can continue his impressive run next weekend at Oklahoma State.Last Week: No. 1

1. Travis Lewis, Linebacker - Stats: 13 tackles (six solo), one tackle for loss (one yard), one forced fumble, one interception (47-yard return), one pass break-up.
Analysis: I've watched some of the nation's elite linebackers over the past few weeks and tried to find one that is clearly better than Lewis. While there are a few I might pick based on size or experience there just isn't a player that is playing any better than Lewis. Once upon a time Lewis was having to be directed where to line up but when the Red Raiders tried to put Michael Crabtree in a direct-snap situation it was Lewis who noticed it and helped the defense make a pre-snap adjustment. Last Week: No. 9

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