Oklahoma Sooners Football: 5 Key Position Battles in Spring Practice
The Oklahoma Sooners' 2012 depth chart is beginning to take shape, as the whistles blew on the practice fields for the first time this year.
There are several areas that are locked up already, including the interior of the offensive line, both linebackers, quarterback and the three-man rotation at defensive tackle.
After that, things get interesting.
Transfers, graduates and inconsistent performers have all combined to produce one of the more tumultuous offseasons in the Stoops era. Combine that with a drastic change in the coaching staff, and things in Norman are looking down right rocky.
Position battles are usually a good thing, though, adding a little extra motivation for the players as they fight for playing time.
Let's have a look at five very important battles to be waged this spring.
An early look at #17 Trey Metoyer.
It seems that everyone has Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds penned in as the top two wide receivers for next season. Depth charts, however, are always written in pencil.
Stills and Reynolds are both big, strong, talented receivers, but we all saw what happened last year when they were asked to carry the load after Ryan Broyles was lost for the season. In the four games after Broyles went down, the offense produced only one passing touchdown and the team went 2-2.
Luckily, the Sooners brought in a slew of wideouts on national signing day, and one is already beginning to make some noise.
Trey Metoyer has quickly impressed his teammates and coaches with his size and ability. "He’s a little bit stronger, a more physical guy than we’ve had here lately," said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel of the 6'2", 200-pound Metoyer.
Metoyer made quite an impact with offensive guard Gabe Ikard, who gushed, "Oh man, that kid can play. One-handed catches, two-handed catches, behind-the-back catches, jumping-in-the-air catches, diving catches. Great hands, great speed. He’s going to be all right.”
Don't forget about JUCO transfer Courtney Gardner, who will join the team this summer. Gardner was one of the highest-ranked players to come out of the junior college ranks this year after racking up 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Stills and Reynolds have their work cut out for them if they want to continue as Landry Jones' top targets.
DB Tony Jefferson is ready to lead the D.
This is going to be an interesting storyline leading up to opening day. Everything depends on where new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops decides to play the defenses' most talented player, Tony Jefferson.
Last year, he spent the majority of his time at nickelback, where he has the ability to influence the game the most. His role as a hybrid linebacker/defensive back allows him to make plays in the open field or at the line of scrimmage.
But towards the end of the season, he was forced to play some safety to plug up the inconsistent play of Javon Harris, while Joseph Ibiloye filled in at nickelback.
This is an effective lineup, especially with Jefferson and Aaron Colvin forming one of the best safety duos under Bob Stoops' tenure. But it does not take full advantage of Jefferson's abilities.
So, the real battle lies at safety, where the Sooners need someone to step up and allow Jefferson to move back to nickelback. Javon Harris is not damaged goods and can still play, but he will be pushed hard by a group of talented youngsters led by redshirt freshmen Bennett Okotcha.
OT Daryl Williams
The inside positions of the offensive line are as strong and deep as they have ever been under Stoops. Ben Habern, Gabe Ikard, Tyler Evans and Adam Shead form a dominant rotation at center and guard.
Offensive tackle, by contrast, is as wide open as it has ever been under Stoops.
Lane Johnson is expected to get the job protecting Landry Jones' blindside at left tackle. His experience and athletic ability (former tight end and defensive end) make him well-suited for the task.
Right tackle looks to be a four-horse race. If JUCO transfer Will Latu can get his grades cleared, he would be my bet to start. Sophomores Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams will be hot on his tails, eager to make their mark in Norman.
Lane Johnson had good things to say about redshirt freshman Derek Farniok, a 6'9", 325-pound behemoth from South Dakota: "He comes to work every day with a positive attitude and really works hard. I know he has a desire to get better and it’s showing."
Keep a close eye on this important battle this spring.
CB Gabe Lynn
Senior Demontre Hurst will lead the squad at cornerback, but after him things get a little blurry. The battle for the No. 2 spot will likely come down to junior Gabe Lynn and new recruit Kass Everette.
Lynn is extremely gifted physically and stands out so far this spring, looking smooth and composed in all of his drills. The true test for him is whether he can regain his confidence after a rough sophomore year in which much of the blame for the Texas Tech loss got lumped on his back.
Everette is a JUCO transfer that is noted for his physical, in-your-face style of play, which will go over well with the Stoops brothers.
This fight will likely last through the beginning of the season. Cornerback is one of those high-pressure positions where final judgment usually doesn't come until you have some game film to look over.
RB Roy Finch
Dominique Whaley's fairytale of a season came to a tragic end when he fractured the ever-living daylights out of his ankle against Kansas State last year. He was something special for those six games, though, as he took what was supposed to be a committee-style backfield and made it his own.
You'll be happy to know that Dom is back on the field this spring. Just light running so far—no hard running or contact—but it is a good sign nonetheless.
As much as I would love to see Whaley get every touch next year, he will have to come out every once in a while, and the race is on to back him up. Roy Finch is a fan favorite, but his size will keep him from getting too high of a load. He will get his touches, mostly running outside or catching balls out of the backfield.
The real battle will be between junior Brennan Clay and JUCO transfer Damien Williams. Clay came to Norman amid high expectations, but he has yet to deliver. This offseason is his last chance to earn an influential role in the offense.
That is because Williams, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards last season at Arizona Western C.C., will be fighting to earn his spot on the team as well.
Watch for redshirt freshman Danzel Williams to also make his presence known. He has been getting a lot of work so far this spring and has yet to disappoint.