Oklahoma Sooners: George Whitfield

NORMAN, Okla. -- When it comes to quarterbacking, George Whitfield Jr. has developed quite a reputation in NFL circles. The quarterback guru has personally tutored Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. So Whitfield knows what a first-round quarterback looks like. And he believes that Landry Jones will be a first-round selection.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesFormer Oklahoma signal-caller Landry Jones impressed scouts at the Sooners' pro day on Wednesday.
“That’s where I see him going,” Whitfield said Wednesday after Jones finished throwing during Oklahoma’s pro day. “He might not be the headliner or front line guy right now, but when they boil it all down and get down to what’s most important, Landry will figure his way into the first round.”

Jones gave scouts from all 32 teams in attendance one final look before the NFL draft in April, throwing 71 passes inside OU’s Everest Indoor Training Center. He got off to a rocky start, as the first pass sailed out of his hand into a duck that fell way short of the intended receiver downfield. But he quickly settled down and was crisp for the rest of the session.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

Today, Oklahoma will take the podium at Big 12 media days in Dallas, with Landry Jones, Ben Habern and Demontre Hurst representing the Sooners. Some quick takes on the three players pre-media days:

1. The big question with Landry Jones is, how has work in the offseason -- specifically his work with QB guru George Whitfield -- improved his game? Jones spent two weeks with Whitfield, who is sworn by other QBs like Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. Whitfield and Jones focused on Jones' footwork in the pocket, and playmaking outside the pocket -- two areas that hurt him last season.
The last two years, quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. has tutored both Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, who both went No. 1 in the NFL draft. Whitfield’s latest pupil has been Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, who flew to California to work with Whitfield over spring break, then spent another week working with Whitfield in Norman in May.

After retiring from arena league football in 2005, Whitfield scoured the country, sitting in on meetings and watching practices of the major programs in college football. Along the way, Whitfield picked up a tip here, a drill there. By 2010, Whitfield had taken on Ben Roethlisberger as a client, and Whitfield’s curriculum began to create a buzz among the NFL and college football.

As he prepared for this week’s Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach, Calif., Whitfield spoke to SoonerNation about his training with Jones:

Jake Trotter: How did you get hooked up with Landry Jones?

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AP Photo/Mike FuentesOklahoma's Landry Jones worked out for two weeks this summer with a popular quarterback coach.
George Whitfield Jr.: I’ve known of Landry for quite awhile. Once his season ended, his dad and I had talked. Landry was going through the decision of ‘Do I come out, do I stay in, do I come out?’ type of deal. He had a very big decision. Once he made that decision -- and I thought it was a great decision for him -- he had talked to his dad and said, ‘Hey, this is the route we’re going to do.’ He said, ‘I really like what coach (Whitfield) is saying, I like his philosophy.’ He didn’t want to wait until after his next season to begin working on some of the things he wanted to work on.

So he touched base about coming out to California for spring break. At the time we talked, I hadn’t even met with Andrew (Luck) yet, so I thought we’d be in San Diego. Obviously Andrew (Luck’s pro day) situation developed to where we would be working out at Stanford. I called Landry back and told him I was going to be with Andrew at Stanford. He said, ‘Can I work out before and after Andrew? I’d love to still come out there.’ I hadn’t even thought about that. He said, ‘My dad and I will be there.’

And they came, and it was a great experience, from minute one. The guy is humble, grounded, a grinder. He sent emails with things he wanted to work on, things he thought he could improve, a bunch of questions about the quarterback position. The guy is meticulous. I thought, ‘Man, if he has this approach before he hits the field, what’s it gonna be like when he gets on the field?’ It proved out right. We had two great camps.

Trotter: Where is Landry special as a quarterback, and where can he and has he improved this offseason?

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Landry Jones was watching ESPN the first time he'd heard of George Whitfield. The California-based quarterbacks coach helped Heisman Trophy winner -- and eventual top pick -- Cam Newton prepare for the NFL draft last year, and ESPN's cameras followed both Whitfield and Newton for much of the process.

After Whitfield contacted Jones' father earlier this offseason, the Oklahoma quarterback decided he wanted a closer look.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesTo his coaches' surprise, Landry Jones visited a quarterback guru in California over spring break.
Jones left last Friday for Stanford's campus to work with Whitfield for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon for nearly a week, returning home the following Wednesday.

"I heard he was a good fundamentals coach, so I decided instead of spending all my time at the beach or something like that, I’d go out there and get some work in," said Jones, set to embark on his senior season in the fall.

The visit focused on those physical fundamentals, and Jones didn't get much coaching on the mental side of the game. For one, he was looking to shorten his release by holding the ball higher in the pocket, but doing so in a manner that remained comfortable.

Despite traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area, Jones didn't get any time on Northern California's scenic coast.

"I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day," he said.

Oklahoma's coaches, however, said they were unaware of Jones' jaunt to the West Coast during his time off. Coach Bob Stoops didn't know about it, and neither did co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. Norvell added that fellow offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, the Sooners' quarterbacks' coach, likely did not know. Heupel was not made available for interviews on Tuesday.

"I think it’s always good to get any pointer from anybody you can. You can assess it all you want and how much you use of it," Stoops said. "If you think I’m at all sensitive about our quarterback lineage here and how they’ve been schooled, I think you’re mistaken. I think ours is maybe as good as anyone’s in the country, so I’m not real insecure about what we’ve been doing."

Said Jones: "Heupel’s a great coach, I’m just getting a little different perspective on things and seeing if he could help me out. It was just one of those deals where I wanted to get some extra work in."

Norvell, who had met Whitfield but didn't have an opinion on the coach, also supported Jones' decision.

"They work hard and help kids out there," Norvell said. "I think it’s good that he goes and talks to people and learns, I know he’s been to camps in the summer."

Jones was joined by Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd, who Jones noted "likes" new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who spend the past 12 seasons at Oklahoma before taking the Clemson coordinator job.

Presumed No. 1 pick Andrew Luck also worked with Whitfield on Stanford's campus while Jones was in California. Luck would work out after Jones, and the two got time to talk between sessions.

As for results, Jones says it still may be time before he sees them.

"I think it’s an over time type deal," he said. "It’s pretty soon after spring break, I’m still trying to work on stuff, trying to button some stuff up."

And Stoops says he's not worried about any coaching advice from Whitfield or Heupel clashing, or the almost-four-year starter getting overwhelmed.

"I didn’t notice any clashing out there today," Stoops said. "He seems to be good ol’ Landry like he usually is."
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is spending his spring break in Palo Alto, Calif., working out with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who is also training Clemson signal-caller Tahj Boyd.

Whitfield sent out several photos of Jones and Boyd stretching and going through drills on his Twitter page on Tuesday. You can view them here.

Whitfield is also training Stanford's Andrew Luck, who is expected to be the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and trained the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Auburn's Cam Newton.

What do you think of Jones working out with Whitfield during spring break?

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