What better time to welcome the real beginning of the 2011 season than after a March Madness weekend? It’s like going from kissing your hot girlfriend goodbye after she made you an amazing batch of XXX Ribs to spending the next eight hours at Riverwind raking in huge no-limit pots. I’m glad to be aboard Blatant Homerism from the beginning of what is supposed to be an elite season.
Which brings me to my point.
What’s already started to wear on me are the proclamations that the Sooners are No. 1 in 2011. It makes for good print, but as someone who believes preseason polls are as meaningful as Lou Holtz predictions, “way too early” proclamations are even worse.
There’s absolutely no upside to it. It’s just another potential detriment among the numerous potential detriments that are already present for every other team during any given season. So, since we are stuck with all the hypemongers, what can the Sooners do to prevent hubris from taking hold?
For one, the players need to disabuse themselves of the mindset that having a preseason ranking actually represents some sort of achievement.
Using imaginary trophies to measure your worth as a team are exactly that – imaginary. Even earned achievement can lead to complacency. Look no further than our neighbors south of the Red River for an example of what ensues with that mentality.
Remember how electric the Sooners were at the beginning of last decade? It wasn’t the plethora of NFL talent – there was little. It was hunger.
Last season, that hunger arose from living the BCS losing streak and a tough 2009 season. Assuming last season’s success didn’t stamp that out, everyone blowing sunshine where it doesn’t belong could.
Which leads me to the key to applying a Bones Jones beat down to complacency: leadership.
The keys to the success of the early aughts can be attributed to the leaders between the hash marks. The coaches can do what they can to set an example, but if there aren’t guys who will take control of team, all the screaming and yelling will just be noise.
Back in the day, Josh Heupel was rock steady, and there was no way Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman were letting their defense become sloppy and undisciplined. So, look for the veterans to take OU to any promised land.
Linebacker Travis Lewis is primed to take on this role. He’ll be the barometer on the state of the defense.
For the offense, iit has to start with quarterback Landry Jones. The jury’s still out on him stepping in this role, but the end of last season looked promising. The panic witnessed in Jones’ first year became more rare as his second season went on. That promise of a steely-eyed missile man became most visible during the Big XII championship game, when Jones showed nary a hint of panic after falling behind the Nebraska Cornhuskers by 17.
All-Everything receiver Ryan Broyles can also play a role along with Jones and Lewis in keeping the hellfire of OU’s super sophomores reined in.
We’re still five long months away from a season that can’t start soon enough. Rarely does anything live up to the hype, but I’ll be strapped in for every twist and turn. I’m all in baby, and my aces never looked sweeter.