Oklahoma Sooners: 2013 OU spring game

Big 12 spring game review: Oklahoma

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
10:30
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For most of these games, we'll do a "What happened" section in addition to "What we learned," but we had SoonerNation on the case, so you can see more about the raw facts here and here.

A few of my observations on what we learned:
  • Unseating Blake Bell looks mighty, mighty difficult. Given how he'd looked as a passer in limited opportunities thus far in his career, there was plenty of reason to doubt how well Bell would handle running the Sooners' entire offense. Still, when you consider how he played and threw in high school, there was equal reason to believe he'd handle it fine. Belief in the latter looks to have paid off. Oklahoma will want his completion percentage to be a lot higher, but he made a whole bunch of plays down the field and over the middle that show plenty of potential. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he didn't have a turnover. If that means a lower completion percentage, Oklahoma's staff will take that trade all day. On Saturday, though, Bell was what he needed to be: A step ahead of competition Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. There's no guarantees yet, and Bob Stoops has never placed a high premium on naming a starter in the spring as opposed to fall camp, but by now, I'd be shocked if Bell doesn't mature into "The Guy" for the Sooners over the summer and leave little doubt in fall camp about whose team it is.
  • The defense has a few interesting new faces. Trey Franks was suspended all last season, but turned a few heads by making seven tackles and breaking up two passes. The former receiver looked solid on the other side of the ball. We'll see how he fits into the rotation at safety for the Sooners. That's a huge position of need, and you'd have a hard time convincing me he couldn't challenge for a starting job in fall camp. D.J. Ward, a hyped, home-grown defensive end recruit, finally got on the field after being cleared by the NCAA, but he didn't record any stats and Saturday was his first practice in pads.
  • Bob Stoops clarified his pay-for-play comments. I wrote about Stoops' controversial comments here, but he added another clarification after Saturday's game, according to The Oklahoman. "I was just asked about paying players to play football, and of course I went off on what they already are paid,” Stoops said. “And I probably was a little -- I didn't mean to be insensitive when I talked about when the dining halls close and we've all been in that situation. We've all been a little bit hungry on a Sunday here and there. … That doesn't mean I'm not concerned about my players and want to best for them." I don't disagree with Stoops there, but what he said doesn't change my point about the possible repercussion on the recruiting trail. It won't be hard for folks to make the case that other coaches are more sympathetic to their players' current situation, whether it's true or not. I agree with Stoops in that introducing how much he makes is irrelevant to the discussion (he argued that in Saturday's clarification), but I'm betting if Stoops had it to do over again, he'd take a pass at the question. No one's asking Stoops to change his answer or his belief. He's entitled to his opinion, and suggesting it's not a valid opinion is silly, but I fail to see the positives for him in speaking out on the issue.
  • Start up the Trey Metoyer hype train one more time. Every now and then, guys make big noise during the spring and don't show up in the fall. That happened to Metoyer last season, but he sounds like a more mature player this spring, and showed up in a big way again on Saturday. Six catches for 122 yards will definitely get people fired up for him to break out in the fall. He's got everything you could ask for physically, he's just got to turn it into production. I sense we'll be hearing "Bell to Metoyer" quite a few times this fall, but only a few less times than "Bell to Shepard." Sterling Shepard had a quiet day with just two grabs for 22 yards, but I loved what he showed last season. The Ryan Broyles comparisons are premature, but he's definitely got flashes of the FBS all-time leader in receptions.

Sooners gain momentum over weekend 

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
8:00
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma fans were nervous Friday afternoon upon learning that ESPN Watch List quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) left school early for the day.

The logic was Hansen was leaving early so he could drive to Texas A&M and commit to the Aggies on Saturday. Hansen had previously said he was going to commit to either OU or A&M in person at the spring game.

It was a different feeling this time around for North Richland Hills (Texas) Birdville running back Xavier Turner at Oklahoma.

Turner made his first trip to OU last year for the spring game as a virtual unknown who hoped to earn some recognition. Turner made another trip to Norman, Okla., this weekend and felt a lot more comfortable.

His goal was to leave OU’s spring game with an offer. That didn’t happen, but it was key for Turner and OU running backs coach Cale Gundy to reconnect and Turner said he feels good about his situation going forward.

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OT Barrett gets to know new OU coach 

April, 14, 2013
4/14/13
11:13
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Oklahoma has never been in a bad spot with ESPN Watch List offensive tackle Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline).

Former offensive line coach James Patton was the first coach to start pursuing him. Barrett visited OU last season, and he was offered at OU’s junior day in February.

Patton and former offensive line coach Bruce Kittle, who was also recruiting Barrett and made the offer to him, are gone, and first-year O-line coach Bill Bedenbaugh is the man in charge. Barrett and Bedenbaugh are in constant communication, but Saturday marked the first time Barrett got to meet his potential future coach.


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NORMAN, Okla. -- With nothing open from his initial reads, quarterback Blake Bell abandoned the pocket. But instead of attempting to truck his way into the end zone, the artist formerly known as the "Belldozer" rolled right.

Near the sidelines, he waited, and waited. And then when he couldn’t wait any longer, Bell stuck a pass into the chest of receiver Durron Neal for a three-yard touchdown.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJunior Blake Bell, considered the front-runner to start for the Sooners before the spring, had the best day of all the QBs in OU's spring game.
Bell said after Oklahoma’s Red-White spring game that he wanted to show he could "sling it around a little bit, too."

And sling it he did, demonstrating that the power running that made him a fan-favorite the past two seasons is just one facet of his arsenal.

Bell completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns -- with no turnovers -- Saturday. He also showed the most poise and precision among the quarterbacks to seize momentum in the QB competition heading into the summer.

"I missed a couple throws," Bell said, "But overall, I thought I made some good plays, and was pretty accurate with the ball."

Bell displayed that accuracy from the opening possession, quickly moving the offense down the field with three completions to Jalen Saunders. The drive ultimately ended in a touchdown, when wide receiver Lacoltan Bester scooped up a Damien Williams fumble and raced 35 yards for the score.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Defensive end Geneo Grissom wants the Oklahoma defensive line to ignite emotions from within opponents this fall.

“I want to make sure, when we step on the field, O-linemen are scared,” Grissom said. “I want our D-line to invoke fear in opposing O-lines.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Phillips
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSophomore Jordan Phillips is entrenched as a starter at defensive tackle for the Sooners. Can he become a star in 2013?
The Sooners' defensive line took some positive steps in that direction during the Red-White spring game at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Defensive linemen accounted for four of the five sacks in the game, including two from defensive tackle Rashod Favors and one apiece from Grissom and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

“I thought the D-line overall did a really good job,” coach Bob Stoops said. “I thought they got good pressure, and for the most part, playing the run, I thought they did a pretty good job.”

The Sooners' quarterbacks spent a good part of the scrimmage on the run evading pressure, a sign the defensive line is improving.

And in a game that featured 112 total offensive plays, OU’s defensive front limited the big run, with Brennan Clay’s 35-yard scamper ranking as the longest ground gain.

“We did what we had to do,” Grissom said. “You always feel you can get better and do better, but we were completing our assignments and doing what we’re being taught to do.”

The Sooners' defensive line isn’t quite there yet. While OU’s front was disruptive at times, it struggled to get pressure at times and got off to a slow start in the first quarter.

“We still need to develop playmakers up front,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “But I thought they got better as the game went along.”

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Oklahoma State scored 17 unanswered points and stunned No. 20 Oklahoma 38-35 in overtime.
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