Friday, September 2, 2011

OU Sooners Can Alter Football Greatness With Landry Jones


It wasn't so long ago that Landry Jones became engaged to Sooners women's basketball player Whitney Hand in an environment of athletic stars and a legacy of football greatness. It's just common to think of Jones as a popular star on campus and not a typical college student, but an Oklahoma personality quietly inheriting a celebrity status.

It's not a problem because he perpetuates tradition and Sooner Pride, the notions that gives a strong description for one of the storied programs in collegiate football, for winning seven national, 43 conference titles, amassing 44 bowl appearances and 152 All-Americans. There isn't another program as admirable as OU, given its mystique and greatness in previous history. And there isn't another Jones at Oklahoma, either -- the standout quarterback of this generation in program history.

He is the cornerstone for a demanding program, a school where the expectations are largely ballooned and meaningful, verified as the nation's top gunslinger and predicted to polish in the colors of a crimson and cream uniform. But while he's battled through adversity and hardships no one ever imagined, Jones has stepped into the spotlight and is now an asset for the Sooners.

He is as an advocate for the avid fans who love their Sooners, madly imbued by Oklahoma in a state where college sports is glorified heavily as a lone pro franchise hails in Oklahoma City. Jones, though, has practiced his faith and football almost simultaneously and balanced each trait, humbled even more so after his teammate Austin Box, a 22-year-old linebacker, was found dead from an accident caused by a toxic mix of prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drug.

He felt the pain, though he knew his role for the Sooners as a leader and quarterback, which he is respected highly. The face of universally an outstanding school is Jones, the devout Christian and NFL-ready quarterback to some. It's also another reason to like the Sooners as Jones is a Heisman contender fortunate to have a reliable wide receiver, Ryan Broyles.

It is a privilege to play alongside a receiver with the platoons of a skilled wideout, ever so polished and could become the NCAA career leader in receiving yards. Much of which Jones will connect with Broyles on Saturdays, and use the speedy wideout to his advantage. The truly nice thing about the Sooners is that OU evidently has the best defense in a high-powered offensive conference.

It would be right to acknowledge that Bob Stoops is one of the coaching greats in college football in the company of Joe Paterno and Mack Brown among active coaches at their schools for more than 10 years with a national championship. But in another season of unpredictability, nothing would be more right than to believe that the Sooners will once again falter under Stoops, who'd failed to win the big games that either had bowl game implications or a national title at stake.

There is much to like about the Sooners and it truly can be the year OU shimmers and revels in triumph if the school qualifies for a noteworthy bowl game and, more importantly, win it all to erase the dreadful memories of collapsing in the meaningful games of one's lifetime. Jones is in conversations for the Heisman and precisely the best quarterback in the Big 12, laded with a repertoire of weapons.

Of course, when he arrived at Oklahoma with the idea of prospering as a prospect from high school to suit up for the most coveted program in the Big 12, if not in Oklahoma, he took the No. 12 jersey in which it was the jersey he'd normally worn. The buzz as of recently, which would end the debate whether or not freshman Blake Bell would be named the starter, faded quickly when Stoops alluded to last season and said it was the first time Jones really was the starter, although he merely started 10 games while Sam Bradford was sidelined with a shoulder injury two years ago. He's not proven, all right, or more likely he's not an elite quarterback.

For those who've doubted Landry, he doesn't feel any trepidation or anxiety. It would be hard to replace someone better suited to heave passes and lead the Sooners into battle each weekend, the humbled, good-natured and fun-loving quarterback apt for the challenge. And now here he comes again, in position to have another wonderful season as the gunslinger when he led the nation in pass completions and ranked second nationally in passing yards and touchdown passes.

Almost everything has been right for Jones. The Sooners, who aren't atop the rankings for the first time in quite some time when it comes to prestige or respectively relevance, watched Jones tie the school record with 468 yards in a win over cross-town rivals Oklahoma State. And by beating the foes in the same state alone is perceived as a success.

The stage is certainly set for Jones. Here's to believe he'll be stronger and smarter than last season, capping off one of the greatest seasons by an OU quarterback with a MVP performance in a 48-20 demolition over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl to end the Sooners' bowl losing streak.

He does, however, struggle a bit on the road and dislike the taste of room service food with a 4-5 record as a starter in road games. He has the ability to attain success away from Norman and he's capable of making players around him efficient and useful, a couple of difference-makers in the Sooners' offense. It's a perspective that radically shows his maturity and physicality.

By now, he knows the program, he is familiar with the playbook and he is surrounded by a deeper supporting cast. He is ready for this moment and the spotlight as his emotions are running high, excited to stand as the tallest one of the core. There is James Hanna, too, the OU tight end capping a lifetime memory by hauling in game-winning, 76-yard touchdown pass at Oklahoma State to silence everybody glancing onto the field from the stands last season in Stillwater.

This could be the season Jones has a breakout game and disclose to America that he is the best quarterback after all.

As early favorites to win the trophy at the end of the season, it's fair to believe Jones can hold the Heisman, too. Just how Jones is engaged to be married, the folks within the Sooners' community are engaged by his athleticism.