Previous Spring Preview Issues
All of the previews on the different units and players are complete, and you can see those by clicking on any of the links above. We'll start previewing the schedule soon, and also start putting forth some special spring preview pieces that you should enjoy. But before that happens, we're going to do a final wrap-up of the spring game, because it's the only actual football game we can use to project what might happen this year.
First we'll give a shout-out to Tim Bond who had a nice piece wrapping up the spring game on BleacherReport.com. It's a good read.
Obviously, the Spring Game needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The offense was pretty plain vanilla, and it seemed like they only ran about 10 different plays over and over again. The guys on defense aren't dumb and one might expect that they knew what was coming. Still, there are some important points to draw out of the performances, and so this will be more like a scouting report than an actual performance critique.
All of the good stuff after the jump...(click the link below)
The Passing Game
Sam Bradford was his usual self, completing 11 of 13 passes for 97 yards and a TD, without throwing an interception. What was more impressive about this performance than anything was that the TD came on an 11 play, 71 yard scoring drive into the wind. Add to that Brent Venables' frequent blitzing and Sam was under some heat a lot.
Still, it was hard not to notice that the receivers weren't getting a whole lot of separation. Ryan Broyles was Bradford's favorite target, and he finished with 4 catches for 59 yards. Broyles will probably start with Adron Tennell whose only catch was the 23 yard TD from Bradford. Broyles and Tennell definitely seem to be the most polished receivers - they ran the best routes and got the most separation.
Mossis Madu operated out of the slot for most of the game. To tell you how that went, he finished with no receptions. He just didn't seem to be all that effective. Madu went into the backfield in the latter portion of the 3rd quarter and did better there.
Other than Broyles and Tennell, the only other receivers with somewhat impressive statistics would be Jameel Owens and Brandon Caleb. Caleb didn't work with Bradford all that much but finished with 2 catches for 43 yards. He looks like he would be a good option in the slot and may ultimately split time there with Madu. He seems to be a decent mid-range threat (10-25 yards down field) and is decent at finding holes in the coverage. It looks like they used Jameel Owens in all sorts of fashions. He finished with 3 catches for 41 yards and a TD. His touchdown was more of a possession touchdown, but they tried to hit him downfield a fair amount. He seems to be fairly versatile and is my favorite to see the field beyond just Broyles, Tennell, Madu, and Caleb.
Rounding out the receivers, a couple of observations. First, Gresham and Eldridge did not play, which has a big impact on the passing game. Second, DeJuan Miller is the other "young guy" with a lot of talent but didn't really show up in the stat line. I don't know if he can really stretch the field. At 6'5" with some decent size, he seems like he'll be a within-20-yards possession type guy. Third, James Hanna is listed as a TE but looks like a wideout. If he adds some bulk we could have the next Gresham.
The young quarterbacks did not post great stats. Landry Jones went 5 of 12 for 73 yards and 1 TD versus 1 INT. Drew Allen went 4 of 14 for 58 yards and 1 INT. Landry looked to be comfortable in the offense, and had a decent zip on his pass. He had a couple of incompletions that were just miscommunication and another couple that were the fault of stumbles by the receiver or drops. His touchdown was a nice solid bullet to Jameel Owens in between coverage. He seems like a solid backup who should be good to go in the fall with a few months of polishing. Drew, on the other hand, seems like he needs to pick up the offense a little more (not surprising for a guy who was in high school a couple of months ago). He was throwing all over the place which was a product of two things: (1) Miscommunication on routes (2) having a really live arm. Allen has a cannon, no doubt. He threw some absolute lasers. If he can harness his talent and learn the offense, he will be good.
The biggest surprise was John Nimmo, who got some playing time in the fourth quarter. He was a perfect 3 for 3 for 35 yards on a nice scoring drive that culminated in a nice touchdown pass between the coverage. Maybe he'll get a shot at third string and they'll redshirt Allen?
The Running Game
Boy, where do I start?: It wasn't pretty. Jermie Calhoun had 19 rushes for 19 yards and Justin Johnson had 14 rushes for 4 yards in extensive action in place of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, who were inactive. Together they combined for about 0.7 yards per carry. Part of the problem was definitely the offensive line, who simply got steamrolled at times by the defensive line. They simply got pushed back. Johnson and Calhoun on about a third of their carries were hit within 2 seconds of receiving the ball - not a recipe for success. A lot of that came with the second unit offensive line. The better runs and push by the offensive line came with the first unit.
The other part of the problem was that Calhoun and Johnson didn't hit the holes with an explosion like Murray, Brown and Madu all do. That should come with time.
The best flashes in the running game came from Mossis Madu who ran 9 times for 44 yards, good for 4.88 yards per carry. Mossis certainly seems more at home running the ball. Perhaps they can run some interesting "wrinkle plays" with him in the slot.
The Offensive Line
Just a quick note on the offensive line. If everything stays the same over the summer, the starting offensive line from left to right will be Trent Williams, Brian Lepak, Ben Habern, Brian Simmons and Cory Brandon. They definitely seemed to have the best chemistry. They gave Sam Bradford the most amount of time to throw and opened up the biggest holes. The second unit offensive line simply got dominated.
Also, Stephen Good and Jarvis Jones didn't play. I haven't heard any reason why not yet.
There were a lot of standouts here. First, some general impressions:
- The incoming class of linebackers are extremely good. Tom Wort, Ronnell Lewis and Jaydan Bird all made plays. We will be extremely deep at this position.
- Auston English was MIA. Not a bad idea, since he has a history of injuries in his career. No worries, he's not injured right now, at least not to my knowledge.
- Quinton Carter and Keenan Clayton both came out quickly from the first unit defense. No worries there, only minor injuries.
- Gerald McCoy absolutely dominated a few offensive linemen. Maybe embarrassed would be the right word.
- The defensive backs got away with some pass interference penalties, but it's good to see they will be aggressive.
Mike Balogun and J.R. Bryant (both reserve linebackers) both led the unit with 6 tackles. J.R. Bryant also had a pass broken up and a fumble recovery for a TD. J.R. Bryant is a guy who hasn't seen the field a lot in his time at OU but he has great speed (kind of like Keenan Clayton). He strung out a few running plays about as perfectly as you could, and laid some big hits on people. He really impressed me.
Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander looked really strong at defensive end. While wreaking havoc they combined for 10 tackles, 5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. They got around the edges well, contained all of the running plays to the outside and had relentless pursuit. Add English in there, and this is a scary good defensive end rotation. Speaking of that rotation, David King and R.J. Washington, redshirted last year, both looked solid. They combined for 5.5 tackles and did a solid job on the second unit.
Rounding out the line, Adrian Taylor and Gerald McCoy looked immovable up the middle. Nobody could run the ball up the gut (even Madu), and on passing downs they got a great push up the middle. The problem they create for offenses is that McCoy probably needs a double team, but if Taylor gets left isolated, you could be in for big problems. When McCoy stunts with Beal on passing downs, especially when there's a blitz, I think he probably gets in the backfield about 100% of the time. Amazing.
All of the linebackers that played had at least 2 tackles, and many of them showed up in the stat line in other ways. The front seven of this defense is about as solid as they come and is a major reason why this team is a contender right off the bat.
In the defensive backfield, Dominique Franks was his usual self with 2 tackles, 2 interceptions (including one that he ran back for a touchdown), and a half of a sack. To be honest, I think the quarterbacks threw to Franks' side maybe 5 or 6 times total and he played for most of the game. Just goes to show you that he does something positive most of the time the ball comes his way.
On the other corner, Brian Jackson also looked pretty solid, and he was tested more than Franks. Jackson seems to be a bit better in run support. He had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a pass broken up. Rotating behind these two guys was Desmond Jackson, who was originally projected to be a backup safety. Is Jonathan Nelson injured because I didn't see him anywhere? Anyways, Desmond Jackson also looked solid with 3 passes broken up and a tackle. Expect Gabe Lynn to challenge once he arrives in the summer.
Finally, it was hard to notice the safeties much at all because the ball didn't get that deep very often. Sam Proctor started aside Quinton Carter. After Carter got yanked quickly, Emmanuel Jones was working with the first unit (surprising). Neither of them gave up huge plays, although Jones was a little late arriving in support of the Tennell touchdown. Joseph Ibiloye finished with 5 tackles showing off his speed and range (very long strides). He could be hard to keep off the field.