The 15 practices and two intrasquad scrimmages that made up spring practice signaled the beginning of the Oklahoma Sooners‘ journey toward the 2012 season with.
All those are in the books, and Saturday afternoon, the Sooners will show the progress they’ve made throughout spring practice, when they take the field for the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Owen Field.
The 2012 edition of the Red-White game will be slightly different from past years due to a large number of small injuries throughout the roster. Normally, the seniors on the team are split up and then choose teams from the pool of remaining players.
Instead, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said the scrimmage with consist of the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense, and the same with the No. 2 units.
There are a lot of things the Sooners have been focusing on, some things more than others. Here are a couple things to keep your eyes on during Saturday’s game.
1. Development of wide receivers
Ryan Broyles is gone (and performed well in his pro day, Thursday), and so it’s up to the remaining wide receivers to provide senior quarterback Landry Jones targets to throw to. Junior receiver Kenny Stills needs to step and be the leader of the group after failing to do so once Broyles went down with an ACL injury last season. Juniors Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks, along with sophomore Kameel Jackson have emerged with Stills as the leading group of receivers for the Sooners. However, the spotlight has shone brightest on true freshman Trey Metoyer. Metoyer, an original member of the Sooners’ 2011 signing class who spent the fall semester at Hargrave Military Academy, has captivated the attention of his coaches and his teammates. All eyes will be on Metoyer, much like they were on Stills in 2010.
2. Improvement in the secondary
The biggest factor in the Sooners’ three losses last season was breakdowns in coverage. New defensive coordinator and secondary coach Mike Stoops has returned to Norman after eight seasons as the head coach at Arizona to revamp a Sooner defense that has fallen on hard times of late. The problem for OU isn’t talent – there’s plenty of that. The biggest issue seems to be putting the right players in the spots that will allow OU to be most successful. 2011 starting strong safety Aaron Colvin has missed all of spring practice with an injury, and could move back to cornerback this year opposite senior Demontre Hurst. That would put junior Tony Jefferson and senior Javon Harris at the safety positions.
3. Ability of defensive line to rush the passer
Last season, defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis terrorized quarterbacks in every game the Sooners played. Both are gone now, and it’s important for the Sooners to be able to establish a pass rush with the players that remain. Replacing Alexander and Lewis will be seniors David King and RJ Washington, both of whom have been in the defensive rotation for several seasons. Junior college transfer Chaz Nelson also figures to be in the mix. In the middle, seniors Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker, and Stacy McGee form the core of the defensive tackles. Behind them are a cluster of freshmen and sophomores, including Jordan Phillips, who has made a name for himself for being able to do a standing back flip at over 300 pounds.
The spring game is never the end-all, be-all for determining how a team will perform during the season, but it is a nice window into how the team is progressing.
For the Sooners, all eyes will be on the defense on Saturday, and if the quarterbacks are able to throw the ball down the field as easily as opponents were last season, there are going to be a lot of worried fans in Norman.
However, if the performances on both sides of the ball are good, the hype will begin once again, as the Sooners pursue that elusive eighth national championship.