For the first time in three years, there will be uncertainty when the Oklahoma Sooners trot out the placekicker for a field goal in 2022.
Gabe Brkic is headed off to the NFL Draft, and he departs Norman as one of the most decorated kickers in Sooner history.
A Lou Groza Award finalist last year, Brkic converted 20-of-26 field goal attempts last year, including knocking through an impressive 5-of-7 kicks from 50 yards or more.
Waiting in the wings behind Brkic is redshirt sophomore Zach Schmit, who was called into action on just one occasion in 2021.
The Oklahoma City native drilled the 46-yard attempt against Western Carolina, while also finishing a perfect 4-of-4 on extra points.
While the Sooners break in a new placekicker, they’ll rest easy knowing that Michael Turk returns to punt in 2022.
Boasting one of the biggest legs in the country, Turk is always a threat to flip the field when called upon.
Last year, the Arizona State transfer averaged 51.2 yards per punt, the fifth-best mark in all of college football.
Turks’ skillset will allow Brent Venables to trust his new-look defense in Year 1, or it will allow Jeff Lebby to be ultra-aggressive on fourth downs, an aspect of Venables’ in-game coaching philosophy that will reveal itself over the course of the season.
Another area where Venables could differ greatly from the previous staff will be in the return game.
In 2021, Lincoln Riley leaned on analytics over the chance to produce game-changing plays from kick returns.
Eric Gray and Marvin Mims were held in check, as they were often instructed to simply take the touchback on most kickoffs.
Both players are dynamic in the open field, and could swing the momentum at any given moment for the Sooners if afforded the opportunity.
The Sooners will also have a host of speedsters, headlined by wide receiver Jalil Farooq and true freshman running back Gavin Sawchuk, who could return kickoffs as well if Venables opts to be more aggressive in the return game.
Mims could also get more touches in the punt return game in 2022.
In 2020, Mims returned 13 punts, averaging 12.5 yards per return with a season-long of 38 yards.
Last year, Mims only returned 10 punts, and his average dropped to 6.9 yards per return.
The star wide receiver is sure-handed should Venables trust him on punt returns.
Venables will have plenty of decisions to make as he takes over his own program for the first time, and how aggressive he decides to be when making decisions in the kicking game won’t be apparent in spring practice. But this time of year will afford him to assess his personnel as the team moves toward the 2022 season.
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