Opponents to Watch: Oklahoma


Courtesy of Trey Young/OU Daily

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler during the game against Kansas State in Manhattan on Oct. 2.

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 8 Double Coverage flipbook.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas, along with fellow defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey, provides the Sooners with a stout defensive front. Both Thomas and Winfrey lead the Oklahoma defense with 3.5 sacks each and form the foundation for the Sooners’ early lead in rush defense among Big 12 teams.

Pro Football Focus  graded the redshirt senior as the No. 74 overall player in the country last season. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch uses Thomas and his fellow linemans’ athleticism to create movement along the line that penetrates unsuspecting opponents. Texas has struggled against similar schemes so far this season, so the battle up front will be a key storyline come Saturday.

Marvin Mims

The sophomore wideout from Frisco, Texas, represents Oklahoma’s biggest threat in the receiving core. Coming off a freshman campaign that saw him earn Big 12 second-team honors, Mims again leads the Sooners in receiving yards through Week 5.

While Rattler’s struggles have contributed to less gaudy numbers for Mims so far this season, the 5-foot-11-inches receiver represents a speedy threat to a Longhorns defense that has been prone to getting beat over the top. Four of his nine touchdowns last year were for at least 45 yards.

Gabe Brkic

While kickers don’t often make these lists, Texas fans should know that if the Red River Showdown comes down to an Oklahoma field goal, the Sooners have one of the best kickers in the country with Gabe Brkic. The junior has made 48 of 56 attempted kicks in his college career and is perfect from inside 30 yards.

Brkic’s career-long is a 56-yarder he put between the uprights against Western Carolina and he sports the clutch gene as well, nailing a 30-yard field goal as time expired to lift Oklahoma to a 16-13 victory over West Virginia in Week 4.

Spencer Rattler

The Sooners’ star quarterback has been somewhat of an enigma this season. The highly touted recruit possesses all the skills of an elite quarterback but has struggled with turning the ball over. Against FBS-level competition this year, Rattler sports a 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, he enters the Cotton Bowl off a solid showing against Kansas State, so banking on his struggles to continue will not be a viable option.

“When he gets hot like he did Saturday, it feels like 7-on-7,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We have to do a good job containing him.”

Nik Bonitto 

As the leader of the Sooner defense, the redshirt junior outside linebacker has epitomized the turnaround of the Oklahoma defense since Grinch’s hiring in 2019. The 6-foot-3-inch force on the outside has already recorded 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries on the year.

Last season, Bonitto was credited by PFF with the highest pressure rate in the country at 25.7% and was placed on the Bednarik Award watch list for 2021 – an award that goes to the most outstanding defensive player in the country at the conclusion of the season.

The Sooners’ front seven on defense make their living by finding a way into the backfield and creating tackles for loss, forcing the offense to work from behind the sticks on second and third downs. Bonitto is perhaps the biggest engine behind the Sooners’ disruptive force on defense and will be a key player to watch out for come Saturday.