Oklahoma Sooners: Landry Jones
On Tuesday, the Sooners will bring cornerback Aaron Colvin, center Gabe Ikard and fullback Trey Millard to Dallas for their Big 12 media day. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on:
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The last seven national champions, however, have been able to check off all three of those items.
And, as WolverineNation’s Mike Rothstein points out, those champs also ranked at least 23rd in scoring offense, 37th in passing efficiency and 40th in sacks. They also had a rusher or receiver total double-digit touchdowns, and didn’t lose a non-conference game.
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Dimon, who was ranked No. 284 in the ESPN 300, checked in with SoonerNation recently as he prepared to arrive in Norman for summer workouts:
Matt Dimon: 90. That’s what was available.
SN: Who is your roommate going to be?
Dimon: Christian Daimler. He lives just down the road here in Houston. So that worked out real well.
SN: Have the coaches talked with you about your potential role this fall?
Dimon: No, they just said they expect me to work my hardest. If I do that, everything will work out. I could get an opportunity; if not, I’ll just learn from the guys in front of me.
SN: There were discussions before the spring about OU possibly going to a 3-4 defense. Did the coaches talk to you at all about that?
Dimon: We did talk about the 3-4 before spring ball. I went over the defense with one of the coaches. Once spring ball started, the talk just disappeared. I don’t know what happened, I guess it didn’t work out. I’m comfortable with running any defense. It’s not like we had a bad defense. We had a really good first half, then the second half was not so good, but we also played some really good offenses. The 4-3 will work if we can just tweak it a bit.
SN: What are you most excited about coming to OU?
Dimon: I don’t really have one thing. It’s going to be a whole experience, a whole new lifestyle. Get to meet new friends, get to work my butt off for a great program. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to play in a great bowl or a national championship.
SN: What are you planning to get your degree in?
Dimon: Not sure yet. Maybe energy management or business or something.
SN: When did you know OU was the place for you?
Dimon: I went up there for the spring game (in 2012). I went to Baylor’s spring game before, and OU’s facilities were just -- this is personally my opinion, 20 times better than Baylor’s. Everything is just so prestigious at OU, I just really, really liked it. I told my dad I was going to commit soon after that spring game. And I did. I loved it up there.
SN: The game you’re most looking forward to playing in?
Dimon: Probably the Notre Dame game. My family is from Chicago, so I’ll get to see them and stuff. But the Texas game is always crazy. I’m really excited about every game.
SN: What OU player did you like watching most last season?
Dimon: I was a Landry Jones fan. I liked the way he threw the ball around. I thought he was a leader. Liked the way Tony Jefferson played. Thought his pursuit angles, his tackling ability were bar none.
SN: Were you surprised Jefferson didn’t get drafted?
Dimon: I was surprised. I felt for him. It’s a bummer to leave early and not get drafted. I’m sure he’s going to use that as motivation. I would. That should drive him.
SN: What goals do you have at OU?
Dimon: First and foremost want to get a degree. I want to go in there and win football games. I could really care less about personal stats or what happens to me. I just want to win. That’s why you play the game, to win. I hope that we can work hard as a unit, and accomplish what we set to accomplish.
Among other things, the ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback called Oklahoma’s offense “a joke” and its receivers “brutal.”
“I was talking in the context of developing a quarterback to be ready to play at next level -- and it was very hard for me to stomach,” Dilfer said. “That’s the context. The context of quarterback development, the context of a draftable quarterback and an evaluation of him. You can’t evaluate a quarterback without an understanding of what he’s asked he to do, and how that’s going to allow him to flourish or somewhat stunt his development.
“As I studied Landry Jones’ 2012 film, it was constant frustration with him being asked to do something that’s not realistic. It wasn’t conducive to quarterback development.”
While Dilfer was focused on evaluating Jones, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he also pointed out Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t conducive to scoring against tougher defenses, either.
“They can do whatever they want to do. I have no right to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. Bob Stoops makes a lot of money, he’s won a lot of games. However they justify it being successful, go for it,” Dilfer said. “I stand by what I said. And if the answer is, ‘We don’t care, we’re trying to score points, and we think that’s the best way to do it,’ keep doing it. But in games against good defenses, that formula did not work.”
Dilfer has a point.
With Jones at the helm last season, Oklahoma ranked 15th nationally in points and 12th in yards on the way to a 10-win season. But the Sooners sputtered offensively when facing the better defenses on their schedule. Against Kansas State, Notre Dame, TCU and Texas A&M, Oklahoma averaged just 17 points -- three touchdowns less than its season average.
“That’s all that matters. All that matters is how you play against good teams,” Dilfer said. “The same thing showed up against the poorer defenses, but you get away with it against those defenses.
“If they think it’s the best way of playing, they get to choose that. I’m simply coming from a quarterback developmental context. People get so sensitive when their paradigm is challenged. What were they, 10-2? 10-3 with the bowl game? That’s a really good record. A lot of teams wished they had that record. And I understand that. My job is to thoroughly evaluate the quarterbacks at every level. And I know you can’t possibly do it if they’re not asking them to do to things that translate to the next level of where they’re trying to get to.”
While evaluating Jones, Dilfer said three things stood out that he believes stemmed Jones’ growth: the lack of tight ends in the Oklahoma offense, the use of the “Belldozer” package in the red zone, and the Sooners’ skill players, whom Dilfer termed “incredibly undisciplined.”
“From a talent standpoint, they’re talented kids,” Dilfer said of the Oklahoma receivers. “The word I would use is 'unorganized.' They lacked the crispness, the discipline, the precision it takes to trust where they’re going to be and when a quarterback can cut it loose.”
The Sooners did have two receivers taken in last week’s draft in Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, who combined for 155 receptions and more than 1,800 yards last season. Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders also had a big year statistically with 62 catches and 829 yards receiving.
Dilfer, however, said those numbers masked several flaws.
“Statistics, that’s what we reduce everything to; because they put a lot of yards up and are productive, that they’re good,” Dilfer countered. “I talked to a couple of NFL personnel guys that I really trust to see if I was missing something with (Oklahoma’s) receivers, and they said, 'No.' "
Jones was also hurt, Dilfer said, by not having a tight end to work with.
“When you don’t have the presence of an inline tight end, your quarterback is not being developed,” Dilfer said. “Thirty-five percent of how NFL football is played is tight end-centric. Whether it’s working the middle of field, whether it’s play-action. You’re just not learning a type of football from a quarterback’s perspective that’s transferrable to the NFL.”
Dilfer believes Jones didn’t properly develop his skills in the red zone, either, a critical part of NFL quarterbacking.
“That was the biggest thing that me drove nuts, taking him out inside the 20-yard line,” Dilfer said. “Landry does all the work to get you to the 20, then you take him out -- you never develop the red-zone passing game. I can’t tolerate that. When you do that in the red zone to a quarterback, there are so many other things that you are limiting because you’re not developing your quarterback in the red zone.”
“In the red zone, everyone knows (the Belldozer package) is coming. It works against the bad teams. Against the good teams, they load up and blow it up.
“All that lowers the quarterback development to the lowest denominator. It’s really a glorified version of 7-on-7.”
Ultimately, Dilfer said, that negatively impacted where Jones went in the draft.
“If Landry had played at USC he would have been a first-round pick,” Dilfer said. “I know Matt Barkley was a fourth-round pick, that’s not what I’m saying. You develop a quarterback in college by running multi-dimensions of offense. That’s what you have to do in the NFL. When you have a pure passer in Landry who can move around for a big man, is smart, is tough, you have to give him all the dimensions in which to operate. What he did at Oklahoma was operate in just a few dimensions to the point you couldn’t really evaluate or project what he’d be in the NFL. You didn’t get to see him do it. That really hurt his stock.
“What I saw with Landry is now an NFL coach is going to have to teach him stuff, develop stuff, that should have been developed his junior-senior years.”
OU officials declined to comment.
2012 record: 10-3
2012 conference record: 8-1 (tied for first, Big 12)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 1
RB Damien Williams, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, WR Sterling Shepard, C Gabe Ikard, DE/DT Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson, CB Aaron Colvin
QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, WR Kenny Stills, OT Lane Johnson, DE David King, CB Demontre Hurst, FS Tony Jefferson, SS Javon Harris
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Damien Williams* (946 yards)
Passing: Landry Jones (4,267yards)
Receiving: Kenny Stills (959 yards)
Tackles: Tony Jefferson (119)
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue* (5)
Interceptions: Javon Harris (6)
1. Playmakers abound: The Sooners might have lost leading receivers Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, but there’s plenty of firepower back to support whoever wins the starting quarterback job. Jalen Saunders was actually Oklahoma’s most efficient receiver the second half of last season and seems primed to take over as the go-to target. The Sooners also have several talented up-and-coming receivers who had good springs, led by slot extraordinaire Sterling Shepard. The backfield is even deeper, with leading rushers Damien Williams and Brennan Clay back, to go along with Trey Millard, one of the top all-around fullbacks in the country.
2. Cortez will flank Colvin: The secondary was decimated by graduation and Tony Jefferson’s early entry into the NFL draft. One of those voids was cornerback, where Demontre Hurst had started the previous years. That void at least, however, appears to have been filled. Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson seized the job from the first day of spring drills, and has given the Sooners every indication to believe they’ll have a big, physical corner to pair with All-American candidate Aaron Colvin in the fall.
3. The linebackers will play: In a desperate move to slow down the high-powered passing attacks of the Big 12, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops pulled his linebackers off the field. The plan backfired, as opposing offenses ran at will over the linebacker-less Sooners. This spring, Stoops has renewed his commitment to the linebacker, which, ironically, could be the strength of the defense. Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin are all athletic and capable of generating negative plays, something Oklahoma’s defense sorely lacked last season.
1. Who the QB will be in October: Bob Stoops said he would wait until the fall before naming a starter, and so far, he’s made good on his word. Junior Blake Bell took a lead in the competition during the spring, as expected. But sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who both got equal reps as Bell, played well at times, too. It’s hard to see Bell not starting the first game. But if he struggles against a tough September schedule, it’s not unthinkable one of the younger QBs would be given a shot.
2. How the new offense will fare: Looking to utilize the skill sets of their mobile quarterbacks, the Sooners will be running a very different offense from the one Sam Bradford and Landry Jones both operated. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel kept most of these new plays - including loads of read option -- in his hip pocket during the spring game. But it will be interesting to see how the Sooners -- and just as important, opposing defenses -- adjust to this new era of offense in Norman.
3. Defensive line play: The Sooners went into spring ball with just three defensive tackles on the roster, and little experience at defensive end. The unit showed strides during the spring, with Chuka Ndulue making a smooth transition from end to tackle, and tackle Jordan Phillips coming up big in the spring game. But that was the spring. The defensive line will have to continue to grow rapidly in the fall for the Sooners to have any hope of improving from last year defensively.
His thoughts were a bit of a surprise, but he tried to explain some of Jones' issues later in his career.
Gruden says Jones got "bored" after peaking in his sophomore season, and Gruden says he saw complacency. The 2010 season, highlighted by a Big 12 title and BCS bowl victory over UConn, was definitely the peak of Jones' statistical accomplishments, throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He never equaled his quarterback rating of 146.3 that season.
Without Ryan Broyles for the second half of 2011 and without him in 2012, it's hard to compare what he did statistically, and I'm sure you'd hear from Oklahoma coaches that he was better in some areas in 2012 that didn't show up statistically without a playmaker like Broyles.
Gruden says when he broke down tape from the later seasons with Jones and went through some of his mistakes, the answer was far too often that Jones was trying to do too much. That sounds like a player trying to work outside of the system and getting himself in trouble for doing so. Jones has the physical ability to do things and make throws a lot of guys can't make, but that doesn't mean he should always try to make them. He didn't "always" do it, but he definitely developed a well-earned reputation over his career as a guy prone to a backbreaking mistake at inopportune times.
You can see that with interceptions early in his career, but he also had costly fumbles returned for touchdowns in games that ended up deciding the Big 12 title: Kansas State in 2012 and Oklahoma State in 2011.
Defenses decided to often rush just three players, and Jones wasn't content to take checkdown throws, Gruden writes. Gruden points to some shortcomings in the offensive schemes that didn't help Jones, including a lack of tight-end play that resulted in a loss of balance and putting too much on Jones' shoulders, which might have contributed to some of his regression.
Really interesting analysis from Gruden, who adds a perspective I hadn't heard.
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.
With a quarterback derby, three first-year assistants and several new starters on defense, this has been one of the most storyline-rich springs of the Bob Stoops era. Of them all, here the seven most compelling storylines to watch for Saturday:
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Do you believe the Sooners can reload and win the Big 12 yet again with several players who are far from household names this spring?
Oklahoma returns just four starters from the defense that got off to a strong start but struggled late last season, never more so than in the loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Landry Jones quarterbacked an offense that bailed out the defense in dramatic wins against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. Without an experienced quarterback, any defensive shortcomings might be more exposed this season. Even with the personnel losses, though, could those defensive shortcomings be fewer in Year 2 in Mike Stoops' defense? The defensive line needs a lot of work, and there is a lot of turnover there, but the offensive line will be a strength.
What do you think of the Sooners' chances? Do you buy that Oklahoma will be in the mix yet again, despite all the turnover? Or will Oklahoma come up short and settle for an average season that doesn't come with a Big 12 title trophy?
Vote in our poll.
Today's question: We know Lane Johnson will be the first Sooner taken in the 2013 NFL draft. Who will be the second Oklahoma player to come off the board?
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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.
Big shoes to fill: Oklahoma's receivers
If you want to know more about Oklahoma's quarterback spot and the big shoes to fill there, you can do that with the guys at SoonerNation. There's no reason to rehash the race to replace Landry Jones, but we'll look at the guys who Jones' heir will be throwing to today. Kenny Stills left early and Justin Brown had a solid performance in his one year as a Sooner after transferring from Penn State. Together, Oklahoma's got to replace their top two receivers who accounted for 155 catches, 1,843 yards and 16 touchdowns. That's no small task, but the Sooners have a lot of guys in place to make it happen.
Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders is at the top of that list after showing big potential in the second half of the season last year once he was ruled eligible. He had three games with at least nine catches (including 15 for 181 yards against Notre Dame) and topped 100 yards receiving in the Sooners' last three regular season games. He's well-suited to be the unit's best player next season, but look out for young guys, too. Oklahoma brought in an unbelievable haul of receivers in the 2012 recruiting class, and it may start paying off now. Sterling Shepard had a strong 2012 season with 45 grabs for 621 yards, but Durron Neal and Trey Metoyer should embrace bigger roles this season with a new quarterback.
The Sooners have had a strong receiving tradition for quite some time now with guys like Stills, Ryan Broyles, Juaquin Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Malcolm Kelly, and they look well suited to continue that tradition in 2013.
More big shoes to fill:
One of the first moves Bob Stoops made after signing day was firing Bruce Kittle and James Patton and replacing them with Bill Bedenbaugh, who was formerly at West Virginia.
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