Sooners answer questions during spring game
The weather and splitting up the team during the White team’s 23-0 victory in the Red-White game did not help people see how the football team has improved during spring practices, but it gave people a chance to evaluate some of the pressing issues OU had going into the offseason.
Here’s a look at some of the big questions the Sooners addressed during the Red-White game.
1. Has the offensive line improved?
Last season was a nightmare for the offensive line that head coach Bob Stoops and Sooner Nation would like to forget, but the way the line played in the Red-White game was a sign of improvement since the Sun Bowl in December.
It is hard to get a complete grasp on the offensive line’s performance Saturday because the starting linemen were divided between the two squads, but this much is certain.
It gave both quarterbacks a decent pocket to throw from and looked disciplined at a unit even though there were a couple of penalties.
Sophomore quarterback Landry Jones looked comfortable behind the line and found receivers without being hurried too often.
“The pocket was so much better than it was last year,” Jones said. “You could step up into the pocket. I feel like from guard-to-guard we’ve gotten so much better, and our offensive tackles have been great all year.”
There were some times linebackers and defensive linemen forced Jones out of the pocket and recorded sacks, most of which came on situations Jones would have avoided the sack if the tap-sack rule was not in play.
The important thing to take from this year’s spring game concerning the offensive line was that the linemen are working well together, even though none of them seem like potential first round draft picks.
“The line is encouraging and you just like the overall group,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “Even though it was mixed, you’re going to see several guys playing.”
2. Is Jones the quarterback of the future?
Jones did not look overly impressive Saturday, but he did not get much help from the weather or his receivers, either. He completed 17 of 34 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns for the White team, but had a number of passes dropped.
Even though the statistics do not point to a good afternoon, Jones did have a good day and would have had more completions and yards if the tap-sack rule did not end a couple plays early.
Jones moved the ball without the use of his favorite target, junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who had a productive game for the Red team. But he found another weapon in freshman wide receiver Kenny Stills.
Jones and Stills connected six times for 84 yards, including one for a 31-yard touchdown. Stills showed he has the potential to be the Sooners’ third or fourth receiver in the fall and an even bigger weapon in 2011.
Once the regular season starts, Jones should have improved volumes since the end of last year where he had a career day against the Stanford Cardinal in the Sun Bowl.
“Landry is gaining maturity, and you can see that he’s more sure of himself,” Stoops said. “He made some nice throws and kept moving his team down the field.”
3. Are any of the kickers emerging as the front runner for the field goal position?
The simple answer is no.
Junior kickers Jimmy Stevens and Patrick O’Hara were the only kickers to attempt field goals in the spring game.
Stevens made all three of his field goal attempts, from 39, 31 and 27 yards out, but O’Hara struggled. He attempted two field goals, but only one of which counted.
O’Hara had his first field goal attempt, a 43 yarder, blocked by sophomore defensive end R.J. Washington, but the kicker got another attempt because Washington was not supposed to try to block the kick, Stoops said. O’Hara could not capitalize on the second chance by missing the field goal wide right.
So does the fact that Stevens was the only kicker to make a field goal Saturday seal him as the starting kicker? Certainly not, and the kicking competition is still wide open, Stoops said.
The starting kicker will not be decided until after summer practices, but Stevens did put a good foot forward for the White team.