Oklahoma lost key players to the NFL and beyond following the Sooners’ 2018 campaign. Most notably was Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray and All-American wide receiver Marquise Brown. Yet, in 2019, Oklahoma has filled these offensive holes, strengthened its defense and remained the favorite to win the Big 12. When Texas matches up against the Sooners at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, the Longhorns will be challenged with containing strong defensive starters, an emerging wide receiver and a talented transfer quarterback from that school down in Tuscaloosa.
Here are four Oklahoma players to watch Saturday against Texas:
No. 1 Jalen Hurts — Quarterback
There was Baker Mayfield, there was Murray and then there was Jalen Hurts. Oklahoma has another Heisman contender on its hands in its new QB1. As a starter in 2016 and 2017, Hurts led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a 26–2 record. By 2018, Hurts was permanately replaced as the starter by Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa. However, the now-senior quarterback still saw action in 13 games, completing 79.2% of his passes and throwing eight touchdowns. Coming in for an injured Tagovailoa in a game where the Georgia Bulldogs led 28-21 in the fourth quarter, Hurts led the Tide to victory in the SEC Championship game.
However, following the season, Hurts entered the transfer portal and landed at Oklahoma. As a Sooner, Hurts has stunned, garnering a stellar 250.2 rating, completing 80.2% of his passes, throwing for nine touchdowns with no interceptions and scoring on the ground. The Texas defense is young and ravaged by injuries. On Saturday, Hurts and his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback might be the Longhorns’ toughest test this season.
No. 7 Ronnie Perkins — Defensive lineman
The opinion that the Big 12 doesn’t play defense is a popular one. Oklahoma’s defensive play last season reinforced this idea as the Sooners allowed their opponents to score an average 33.3 points per game. But, as a freshman last season, Ronnie Perkins was a diamond in the rough, earning All-American honors. The defensive lineman led the Sooners last season with five sacks, including one against Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the Big 12 Championship game. In 2019, the St. Louis native has continued to do some damage, recording a sack and six solo tackles.The Texas offensive line will have to key in on Perkins to give Ehlinger enough time to throw the ball and avoid a sack Saturday.
No. 2 CeeDee Lamb — Wide receiver
As a sophomore last season, CeeDee Lamb recorded 1,158 yards with a team-high 11 touchdowns. The second-team All-Big 12 selection registered five 100-yard receiving games, one of which was against Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. Lamb is on pace to have an even better 2019. Through four games, the star receiver has recorded 100 yards twice and has caught six touchdown passes on 14 receptions. The Texas secondary has given up huge plays in games against LSU and Oklahoma State, which means all eyes must be on Lamb this weekend to stop Oklahoma’s scoring attack.
No. 90 Neville Gallimore — Defensive lineman
Oklahoma’s defense is much improved this season, ranking 35th in points allowed. Redshirt senior Neville Gallimore, who made five tackles in the Sooners’ Big 12 Championship win over Texas last December, has been a key piece of Oklahoma’s defensive effort. Last season, the Canadian national recorded three sacks and two forced fumbles. This year, Gallimore continues to be a force on defense with four solo tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in the Sooners’ last four games. In recent weeks, Texas has had issues with ball control. Maintaining control of the ball throughout the entirety of each play should be a point of emphasis for Texas’ offense Saturday, especially with Gallimore on the field.