October 29, 2007

Plenty of surprises in mid-season Hot 11

There are few things that can be frowned out in a season with a top five ranking and a 7-1 record but with so much left to go it seems time for the Sooner Hot 11 to take inventory of the season to date. There are several faces on this mid-season list that people could have predicted prior to the kick-off of the season opening victory over North Texas. However, there are few that no one could have picked. Take a look at this week's version of the Hot 11.

11. Demarco Murray, Running Back - Stats: 80 carries for 505 yards, and nine touchdowns (long of 92 yards). 10 catches for 43 yards. 8 returns for 234 yards and one touchdown (81 yards).
Analysis: It's debatable that no freshman in the country has had a bigger single-game performance than Murray against the hated Longhorns. Considering several runs were called back on penalties it's hard to imagine what kind of yardage he could have put up.Marquee Game: Texas


10. Juaquin Iglesias, Wide Receiver - Stats: 43 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns. Eight carries for 87 yards and one touchdown. 13 returns for 369 yards.
Analysis: Iglesias had a costly game against Missouri, but many have forgotten that he was a big part in waking the Sooners up against Tulsa as well as keeping things moving against Texas.Marquee Game: Tulsa


9. Reggie Smith, Cornerback - Stats: 49 tackles (40 solo), four and a half tackles for loss (21 yards), one sack (eight yards), two interceptions (returned for 48 yards), seven pass break-ups, one fumble recovery (61-yard touchdown).
Analysis: Smith is another player that has been somewhat mired in the memory of one poor game, but overall has made numerous big plays for the Sooners including perhaps the play of the year on a 61-yard fumble recovery.Marquee Game: Missouri


8. Phil Loadholt, Offensive Tackle - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: While the offensive line has been somewhat belittled in the past few weeks that's not to suggest that things have been all bad and there is no denying that Loadholt has lived up to his recruiting hype, and then…a lot. Loadholt came in as a somewhat unappreciated tackle and has become quite possibly the best lineman in the Big 12, surpassing even his own teammate, Duke Robinson. While some are talking about Loadholt leaving this year, the difference in waiting a year could be being a first day pick instead of a first round pick.Marquee Game: Miami


7. Nic Harris, Safety - Stats: 55 tackles (31 solo), six and a half tackles for loss (37 yards), two and a half tackles for loss (21 yards), two interceptions (21 return yards), five pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles.
Analysis: I've said from day one that I felt Harris was Oklahoma's best defender, he has done little to make me doubt that assertion this season. While Oklahoma may have better run or pass defenders, no one plays as big a role in both as Harris.Marquee Game: Miami


6. Demarcus Granger, Defensive Tackle - Stats: 21 tackles (nine solo), eight tackles for loss (38 yards), three and a half sacks (27 yards), one pass break-up, four quarterback hurries.
Analysis: Man, if Granger keeps up his pace since the Colorado game he stands a very good chance of pushing the top three on this list at the end of the season, Granger has been unblockable through Big 12 play and I see no signs of that stopping.Marquee Game: Iowa State


5. Jermaine Gresham, Tight End - Stats: 23 catches for 286 yards and six touchdowns.
Analysis: Gresham being this high on the list may surprise some people but I think his emergence near the hashmark has had a big role in opening up passing lanes for Sam Bradford and his ability on swing plays is something that has to strike fear into every secondary player in the Big 12. If he continues at this pace it will be no time at all before he is being mentioned as the school's next tight end to head to the NFL after a lengthy hiatus.Marquee Game: Texas



4. Malcolm Kelly, Wide Receiver - Stats: 31 catches for 553 yards and eight touchdowns.
Analysis: Kelly has had his ups and downs this season but there is no question that he has cemented his mark as one of the nation's top receivers and possibly the best to play the position in the crimson and cream. The Sooners statuesque receiver won't lead the Sooners in receptions this year and might not even lead them in yardage but his talent and production allows others to play a much bigger role in the offense than they would without him.Marquee Game: Miami


3. Auston English , Defensive End - Stats: 31 tackles (18 solo), 12 tackles for loss (74 yards), eight and a half sacks (55 yards), three pass break-ups, and four quarterback hurries.
Analysis: There is no player on Oklahoma's roster who has had a bigger 'coming out' party than the sophomore from Canadian, Texas. English has dominated each and every comer that he has faced so far this season. Included among them are some of the Big 12's most talented pass blockers. Throw in that several of the Sooners early season opponents focus on short, controlled passes and his sack total that figures to climb to double digits is even more impressive.Marquee Game: Texas


2. Sam Bradford, Quarterback - Stats: 144-of-209 for 1,872 yards and 20 touchdowns, and a pass efficiency rating of 170.93.
Analysis: OK, so maybe there is one player on this roster who has been a bigger surprise than English, and that's the quarterback he spent the spring and fall taking aim at. Bradford has been accurate and intelligent throughout his first year as the Sooner starter. Many have underestimated the talents of Oklahoma's native son and have been made to pay for it. Look for him to set the NCAA record for touchdown passes in a season before this year is done, in fact if he'd like to follow in Jason White's footsteps, he might make a run at it this weekend.Marquee Game: Texas


1. Curtis Lofton, Linebacker - Stats: 93 tackles (52 solo), three and a half tackles for loss (10 yards), one interceptions (45 yard touchdown return), two pass break-ups, two forced fumbles.
Analysis: So we all know I don't mind patting myself on my back when the occasion calls for it, but I can't claim for a second that I saw Lofton becoming the player he has been. I've watched Dan Connor, I've watched James Laurinaitisp and there simply isn't any linebacker in the country that clearly exceeds the junior from Kingfisher, Okla. Lofton isn't the prototypical middle linebacker but may end his career as another Butkus winner for the Sooners.Marquee Game: Missouri


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