Football: Defense looks promising, wins red-white game
James Cornwell, The Oklahoma Daily
The right arm of Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford must have been tired after Saturday’s Red-White spring game — not from throwing passes, but from signing autographs.
After completing 11 of 13 passes for 97 yards in three series, Bradford handed the ball over to the backup quarterbacks to throw in front of the 28,592 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Eli Hull, The Oklahoma Daily
“Obviously you’d want to play a little bit more,” said Bradford, a redshirt sophomore. “But they’re trying to get the young guys some work, and I can understand that.”
And although Bradford will return this fall as OU’s prominent star, the defense stole the show Saturday, 63-36.
“I think [the defense] did pretty good,” sophomore linebacker Travis Lewis said. “There were a lot of players flying around and [offense] only scored twice. Pretty good day.”
Along with Bradford, junior defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and junior defensive back Dominique Franks stayed on the sideline for more than 30 minutes to sign autographs for fans.
“I love our fans,” McCoy said. “I think they’re only going to get better. We have a lot of good guys coming back they can’t wait to see on the field. I can’t wait to get back in here, this stadium, this field with people to play in front of.”
Franks intercepted two passes, one of which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown. Senior linebacker J.R. Bryant scored the second defensive touchdown of the day.
“Dom’s really come along great,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s a guy that has a great feel and a knack in the secondary and I thought he played really well.”
The defense tallied six sacks, including three by defensive end sophomore Frank Alexander and two by junior defensive end Jeremy Beal.
“Those guys up front are really good defensively,” Stoops said.
Even though sophomore safety Desmond Jackson’s statistics rounded out to one tackle on the day, his coverage on the field was one of the best surprises for the head coach.
“Desmond Jackson played so well,” Stoops said. “He played as well as anybody out there and that was exciting to see.”
Jackson, who was playing out of position at cornerback due to player injuries, also impressed defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Jackson was on top of his game and really competed well, Venables said. He commented on Jackson’s quick instincts and athleticism and ultimately his ability to contribute as a safety and in nickelback situations.
Venables praised Lewis’ leadership on the field.
“Very special players understand their weaknesses, are their own worst critic and they come to work every day,” Venables said. “Those are your best players and Travis has those qualities. He’s not about him. He doesn’t have an ego. He lets me coach him hard. He’s saying ‘I’m not any good,’ and that’s the humility he shows.”
Lewis, who had four tackles Saturday, nevertheless critiqued his own play by saying he needs to be a better leader.
“We have big expectations for this team and I have big expectations for myself,” Lewis said. “I just want to come out there and, not only make myself better, but make the players around me better. That’s my biggest goal.”
Supposedly a good defense is a good offense, but it’s up to the unit to prove that this fall.
“We just got to play like us,” McCoy said. “We’ve got to play Sooner football. We got to be selfish, can’t give up nothing. Just got to be ready to go.”
-Claire Brandon/The Daily
Defensive line shines in game
While the defensive line was wreaking havoc up front, the Sooners’ secondary was benefitting from rushed quarterbacks and errant passes during Saturday’s Red-White Spring Football Game.
Following a three-interception performance in the 2008 spring game and a four-interception regular season, junior defensive back Dominique Franks stepped up and took control of the scrimmage as he interfered with many passes and intercepted two. Neither of his interceptions came against returning quarterback Sam Bradford.
Franks’ first interception during the first quarter off redshirt freshman quarterback Landry Jones was returned 42 yards for a touchdown.
“[Franks] has really come along great,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s a guy that has a great feel and knack in the secondary.”
Franks recorded two tackles, half a sack and a second interception late in the contest.
Stoops said he was also impressed with the play of freshman defensive back Desmond Jackson.
“I thought one of the best surprises out there was Desmond Jackson,” Stoops said. “He played as well as anybody out there today, and that was exciting to see.”
Jackson had one tackle and deflected three passes.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Jackson has been impressive throughout spring practice.
“He really competed for the ball today and really showed up well in the run game,” Venables said. “He’s a guy who’s definitely in the mix at safety and situations.”
Despite playing well, the defense can learn from Saturday’s game that it still has work to do before becoming a dominant force in September.
“We did a lot of great things, but at the same time we did a lot of negative,” Franks said. “For us now it’s just [to] go back to the film and correct whatever we did and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward.”
—Jono Greco/The Daily