Oklahoma Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker
Despite winning at least 10 games for the third consecutive season, the Oklahoma Sooners believe they can accomplish more. With the coaching staff in place and talent on the roster, this is a team that should be competing for national championships every year.
As the Sooners head into spring practice with only 11 starters returning from last season, it will be an uphill battle if a trip to the big game is going to take place in 2013. Oklahoma really has a lot of work to do this spring but shouldn't be counted out just yet as one of the sleeper teams to make a run.
The spring game this year will be played in Gaylord Family OK Mem. Stadium on April 13 at 2:00 p.m. CT.
While the guys are hard at work, let's take a look at the 2013 spring review for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.
Update: April 15
Oklahoma held its spring game last weekend and the highlight appeared to be quarterback Blake Bell. The projected starting quarterback completed 14 of 23 passes, threw for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns. He also didn't turn the ball over.
According to Jake Trotter of ESPN, Bell was satisfied with his performance.
"I missed a couple throws," Bell said, "But overall, I thought I made some good plays, and was pretty accurate with the ball."
As for head coach Bob Stoops, he was also pleased with the overall performance of the spring game according to James Hale of 247Sports.
“I was just pleased overall with the overall play of everybody, and most of all I was pleased that nobody got hurt,” said OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops following the game. “You saw guys early at every position, and on either side of the ball making some good plays. I didn’t see many foolish or really bad plays other than the one turnover (that led to a defensive touchdown).
“Anyway I was pleased with it and I guess from here we will evaluate this with the players, and we have one more non-padded practice on Tuesday. We will kind of go back and look at some of the mistakes here and some of the things that we need to correct and work on. Then will have our last practice heading into our coaches getting out recruiting, and our players finishing up with lifting and finals, and then they will get a little bit of a break. Overall I was really pleased with the overall play.”
Update: March 18
In one of the more surprising moves during the offseason, fullback Trey Millard decided he was going to return for his senior year. Recently asked if he regrets the decision, the playmaker told Jason Kersey of NewsOk that he is happy to remain a Sooner for one more year.
“No, not at all,” Millard said. “Whenever I made my decision, it was stuck right then. You've gotta live with the decisions you make. That was my choice, and I did it by myself, so I'm confident with it.”
As for the wide receiver position that took a hit due to players leaving early and transfers, the team is now looking to Sterling Shepard to become that big play threat. Shepard told Mike DellaVecchio of 247Sports that he will line up all over the field this season, and he believes that the team still has some valuable pieces to fill in the void.
Yea, I have been told that I will be playing both inside and outside this year so I am just going to prepare hard and work hard this summer to get ready for that challenge. We have so many guys that can play anywhere and then you have the new guys coming in and Dannon (Cavil) is already here and he is a big, physical guy (6-5, 205) so we definitely have some playmakers out there.
Oklahoma will need all of the help it can get with a new quarterback stepping in.
Update: March 15
This offseason is looking very similar to last years. With the injuries piling up, the Sooners are once again undermanned on the offensive line. This time the bug has hit senior guard Tyler Evans, who according to ESPN, has once again torn his ACL, which will not only end the upcoming season, but likely his football career.
Evans was one of the more experienced linemen on the roster and was expected to rejoin the team later in the spring as he was already recovering from an injury he suffered last year.
Update: March 11
Last season the Oklahoma Sooners could not avoid the injury bug for anything. With spring practice just underway, the offensive line still can't shake it, as it appears starting center Gabe Ikard has injured his hand.
Sources have told Jake Trotter of ESPN that the team believes the hand may be broken, but would like to confirm the details with an X-ray. If the hand is in fact broken Ikard will miss the remainder of spring practice and backup Ty Darlington will earn the remainder of the reps with the first team.
Update: March 8
Along with seeing a bunch of new faces on the defensive side of the ball, Bob Stoops and his coaching staff will play with different looks as well. One of the experiments will be with the defensive line, as there will be plenty of looks in a 50 defense, according to Eric Bailey of Tulsa World.
There’s been a lot talked about going to a 50 front. Stoops said. That’s something we have done in the past and it’s something we’ll do some in the spring, but we won’t do it solely. We’ll still be in our four-man front as well and we’ll work some different guys in the rotation there inside.
With essentially five defensive linemen and two linebackers, this should really help fix a run defense that ranked ninth in the Big 12 a year ago. While this won't be the Sooners base defense, the idea to play with this new look came when seeing many of the defensive players add on a few pounds during the offseason.
We’ve got some of those other defensive ends that have beefed up now and some are 260, 265 and we have some other bigger guys we can rotate in there. Stoops said. That’s something we’re going to experiment with when we start practicing.
Also, if you are looking for a brief injury update before practice officially beings, Bailey of Tulsa World has provided that as well.
OL Tyler Evans (ACL) has been cleared for the spring; OL Nila Kasitati (ACL) is out; TE Taylor McNamara (shoulder) will miss week one, but should be back after spring break; Aaron Ripkowski (wrist) will miss spring; OL Adam Shead (back) and Bronson Irwin (back) will practice.
In other news, according to KJRH, this season's matchup against the Baylor Bears will in fact be televised nationally either on ESPN or FOX.
Key Offensive Battles to Watch
The talk of the offseason will surround the quarterback position. A school that has produced oodles of productive signal-callers now has a true quarterback controversy on its hands. Before, head coach Bob Stoops was able to replace one great quarterback with another and there was no problem.
Not the case this time around.
Blake Bell will enter as the front-runner because he was the backup the last two seasons and should have the playbook down to a science. But he is capable of making plays with his arm, or is he just that physical running quarterback that would much rather use his legs instead?
If Bell proves he isn't that next great passer for the Sooners, there is a left-handed quarterback in Kendal Thompson, as well as a redshirt freshman in Trevor Knight. This is a battle that will likely carry on leading up to fall camp, but we should be a lot closer to a decision once spring is over.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Blake Bell
Actual Winners: TBD
The tight end position was a disappointment last year for Oklahoma. In fact, the leading receiver last year at the position was Brannon Green, who finished with only three receptions for 45 yards and a score.
Even with Kenny Stills leaving for the NFL draft, there are plenty of guys who could step up in that department, it is the tight end position that desperately needs somebody to emerge. Green could be that guy considering he was the most productive player a year ago, but Taylor McNamara has recovered from last season’s injury and provides far more upside at the position.
If this offense is going to take that next step and really help out whoever wins the quarterback job, a tight end must step up to provide another offensive weapon.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Taylor McNamara
Actual Winners: TBD
Key Defensive Battles to Watch
Oklahoma struggled to get pressure on the opposing quarterback last season, so the unit up front must do a better job next season. What makes things a little more difficult for this group is that only one starter is returning, which means there will be many fresh faces in the lineup.
One of the few solid players on this line last year was Chuka Ndulue, and he should be safe to remain at the defensive end spot. As far as the rest of the positions, well, this is what spring practice is for, right?
True-freshman D.J. Ward could make a name for himself in the spring if he gets cleared to participate. Geneo Grissom actually earned a start at defensive end last year after moving from the tight end position.
As for defensive tackle, close your eyes and pick somebody out of Jordan Phillips, Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson. Unfortunately, there are only three defensive tackles available this spring. Freshmen Quincy Russell and Kerrick Huggins will push for playing time as well, but they won't be on the field until the fall.
As you can see, this unit has a lot of holes and a lot of work to get accomplished.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Chuka Ndulue, Jordan Phillips, Jordan Wade and Geneo Grissom
Actual Winners: TBD
If there was one bright spot on this Oklahoma defense last season, it was the play that Aaron Colvin provided at the cornerback position. Finishing the year with 61 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions, he is pretty much guaranteed another year as a starter.
The other spot is what the coaching staff must figure out.
Somebody like a Kass Everett didn't really see much action after transferring from junior college, but he is a physical corner that could add some toughness to this defense. Gary Simon got his feet wet a little bit last year and has the size and quick feet to be a valuable option as well. Zach Sanchez didn't see any playing time last year, but is a solid tackler in the open field and has above-average ball skills.
There is talent in the secondary; it is now just a question of which one of these inexperienced corners is going to step up to hold down the other side of the field.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Kass Everett
Actual Winners: TBD
Early Enrolees Report Card
D.J. Ward, 4-Star DE - According to Tulsa World, Ward has yet to be cleared to participate, as the coaching staff is still waiting for clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse. When and if he is ready to go, this kid should see the field rather quickly due to his athleticism and versatility.
Post Spring Practice Grade: N/A (Ward was cleared less than a week ago to practice with the team. Fall camp is when Oklahoma fans will get the best chance to see this talented recruit play.)
Ahmad Thomas, 3-Star S - Thomas is a physical player with good build at 6'0", 195 pounds. He has great instincts that make him effective in run support and he usually drops the hammer on the ball carrier when given a chance. Still somewhat of a project in pass coverage, but could see playing time at least on special teams early on.
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Thomas has turned head all offseason and will continue to do so as we enter fall practice.)
Dannon Cavil, 3-Star WR - Cavil is listed as a wide receiver, but could eventually switch to the tight end spot with his size at 6'5". He is a physical player who has great hands, runs excellent routes and he doesn't mind going across the middle to make those tough receptions. He has solid upside coming out of high school.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Cavil didn't play in the spring game due to injury, but he is another recruit that has made a name for himself in practice.)
Jed Barnett, 2-Star P - Barnett has a good shot of becoming the starting punter for the Sooners and brings along some valuable JUCO experience. Last season he averaged 41.3 yards a punt and did a solid job of pinning the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Barnett remains the front-runner for the starting punting job.)
Sleepers to Watch
Trey Metoyer, WR - Remember him? A first-year player last season, Metoyer got off to a fast start by hauling in 10 passes in the first three games. He then began to fall off the map a little bit and eventually became a forgotten man within the offense. He finished the year with only 17 receptions and only got inside the end zone once. However, the kid still has great hands, great size and can help stretch the field with his quickness. Don't give up on this receiver, especially with the Sooners looking for guys to step up this offseason.
Eric Striker, LB - Striker saw significant playing time last season as a true-freshman. He didn't pick up any starts, but he did participate in 12 games, giving himself much needed experience to compete for a middle linebacker spot that is currently open. Striker is somebody who covers a lot of ground and plays the game with high energy. Recruited mostly as a safety coming out of high school, he has the speed and the length to be effective against both the pass and the run. He will have to continue to prove himself in practice, but he has the tools to add a spark to this Oklahoma defense.