“Loss Impact” analyzes each outgoing starter or rotation player to assess how much his departure will impact Oklahoma next season.
Over the last two seasons, no player made a bigger overall impact on the OU defense than Jamell Fleming. His combination of size and speed allowed him to matchup with the big-play wide receivers of the Big 12. Fleming was also a superb tackler against the run for a boundary cornerback.
What Oklahoma loses: The game against Texas Tech says it all. The OU defensive backfield basically collapsed without Fleming in the lineup. Seth Doege was hammered the boundary side of the field and finished with 441 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 41-38 victory. When Fleming was on the field, the boundary side was rarely a worry for the Sooners. OU was blown out by Oklahoma State, but Fleming did a relatively decent job limiting Justin Blackmon, who was held to under 100 yards receiving. Then in the Insight Bowl, Fleming shut down Big Ten Receiver of the Year, Marvin McNutt, who had just four catches for 46 yards.
Who replaces him: Maybe the biggest question of the entire spring. Gabe Lynn has the most experience at boundary corner, but he hardly evoked confidence in the loss to Tech, and was eventually benched that game. Junior-college transfer Kass Everett will be given every opportunity to win the job. The Sooners could also flip Demontre Hurst to the boundary side, and insert somebody else at field cornerback. Mike Stoops is very high on incoming freshmen Gary Simon and Zack Sanchez, but it’s difficult to see either winning a starting job right away.
Loss impact: Huge. The Sooners were mediocre against the pass when Fleming was not in the lineup. For OU to win a Big 12 championship and contend for anything beyond that, someone has to step up here. If that doesn’t happen, the Sooners will have problems.