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Monday, April 22, 2013
OU spring takeaways: Winners and losers

By Brandon Chatmon

NORMAN, Okla. -- Spring is the time when young players can serve notice that they are ready to take on a bigger role on the team at the University of Oklahoma. It’s also a time when players lack of progression leaves an opening for them to be passed on the depth chart.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers of spring for the Sooners:

Winners

• Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips

Sam Grant
After redshirting last season, freshman tight end Sam Grant could help the Sooners right away in 2013.
The Sooners needed Phillips to step up and look like he was ready to step in as a starter in his sophomore season. And he did. He was solid and disruptive in the spring game, finishing with three tackles and one sack. His work is far from done however as the Sooners coaching staff is counting on him to continue to develop and become a anchor of OU’s defense this fall. As important as the spring was for Phillips, the summer could be even more important.

• Tight end Sam Grant

After a redshirt season in 2012, Grant had a solid spring and has emerged as a valuable asset at tight end. His combination of intelligence, toughness and aggression should secure himself a role in short yardage plays and a complementary role in the regular offense as the Sooners turn to the ground game more with a run-pass threat at quarterback. When the Sooners turn to the tight end position for a blocking presence, expect Grant to get the call.

• Cornerback Cortez Johnson

With Aaron Colvin returning at one cornerback position finding a starter opposite the All-Big 12 cornerback was one of the priorities of the spring. Johnson appears to have secured the spot, or at the very least, is the clear favorite heading into the fall. His size, length and ball skills will make it difficult for any newcomer to come in and take his starting spot. Regardless, Johnson’s spring performance should make defensive coordinator Mike Stoops feel a lot better about the cornerback position.

Losers

• Guard Tyler Evans

The Sooners didn’t even make it into padded practices before Evans, who was returning from an ACL injury, went down again. The senior would have provided depth and competition at the guard position but now it appears a very limited role in 2013 could his best-case scenario as he battles his second ACL injury in less than nine months.

• Running back Alex Ross

When he’s on the field, he’s dynamic. But staying on the field has been a problem for the redshirt freshman. After impressing during his redshirt season, Ross missed the spring game with an head injury. It’s not a good sign for Ross, who also had an injury-riddled senior season at Jenks (Okla.) High School in 2011.

• Center Gabe Ikard

While Ikard, a two-time All-Big 12 performer who has started 37 games at OU, didn’t need spring football, it would have been the ideal scenario to have him fully participating in drills. The senior, who missed the majority of spring due to a broken hand, could have used the time to become more familiar with new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and develop further chemistry with his linemates up front.