This weekend, it's actual OU football (kind of)! More than a little excited as I'll be taking in my first ever Spring Game and yeah I know it's a glorified practice, but it's still OU football! My only wish is that the entire 2012 class was on campus already as there are so many guys I'm expecting to play a role in this year's team I wish I could watch them all take part.
However as much as I may want it this is not the case, but that does not change the fact there are still plenty of players/position battles that will draw our attention this weekend. To that point, we wanted to put the spotlight on some of those players/position battles as well as get your feedback on what exactly is is you're looking for coming out of this weekend.
S Tony Jefferson- While my confidence level in his position switch and the ease with which I expect him to make it is about as high as one could have, we'd be naive if we didn't at least acknowledge that it will be a new(er) position and there is a chance for that feeling out period. He played there late in the year last season, but moving there full time this season will be a transition and one we expect to go very well.
FB Aaron Ripkowski- Not a name many may be looking for on Saturday, but you should be because Ripkowski played a big role in the success of the Bell-dozer package last year as a devastating lead blocker. He suffered, last year, what was believed to be a potentially career threatening back injury, but he's back now and could again be a valuable asset for this offense in 2012.
LB/DBs Joseph Ibiloye/Gabe Lynn/Julian Wilson- The 'Roy-back' that Oklahoma defenses have become so well known for will continue under
oldnew DC Mike Stoops considering he was the one who originally installed the position. Throughout the spring, it's been a three man rotation and that battle is expected to continue through the summer as well. 'Ibby', as he's known within Sooner Nation, is the odds on favorite as a senior with the most experience to win the starting gig, but Lynn and Wilson are both very athletic players who could excel in this position if given the chance. We don't expect any starting job to be won this weekend, but a strong performance could give one of the three a leg up on the competition.
CBs Lamar Harris/Kass Everett- The second cornerback spot kind of the glaring weakness on this defense at the moment. Harris and Everett are currently battling it out with Harris reportedly having the edge based on the limited practice reports. Everett, who was one of the six JUCO players OU signed in their 2012 class, has apparently struggled some with his transition to the game at this level.
Now I am of the opinion that Aaron Colvin is going to be moved to corner once he comes back this summer (which would be a great move IMO and one we can discuss in the comments if you'd like), but that's more of a gut feel at the moment so we'll have to wait and see how exactly this plays out.
DT Jordan Phillips- No disrespect to either fellow DTs Jordan Wade or Marquis Anderson, but the massive (6'6" 330 lbs) Phillips has been a player many an OU fan has talked about ever since he arrived on campus. The term 'physical freak' has been thrown around quite frequently especially after the standing back flip (in pads mind you) he did in front of the team at his first practice last year. He has the ability to be the next great OU defensive tackle and after redshirting last year may be too good to keep of the field in 2012. With Stacy McGee and Casey Walker both dealing with injuries this spring, Phillips (and Wade & Anderson as well) will have plenty of opportunities this weekend to try and show the coaches they deserve a chance at playing time this season.
LB Corey Nelson- While his predecessor (Travis Lewis) may not have left on the best of terms with some among Sooner Nation, that does not change the fact that Nelson will be asked to fill Lewis' considerably sized shoes at the weak side linebacker spot. There is no questioning Nelson's talent to make all the necessary plays, but how well he can learn Mike Stoops' defense will play just as large a role in his success in replacing one of the Sooners all-time leading tacklers in Lewis. Discipline will need to be the thing to look for with Nelson in my opinion as he needs to avoid overrunning plays and taking himself out of position.
OG Adam Shead- This could fall in that 'no duh' category of players to watch, but I simply could not help myself. The guy is just so much fun to watch, he just destroys people on his blocks. Plus, he's coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss the Sooners final two games last year. No reason to consider him to be anything less than 100%, but it will be good to see him back out there pancaking defenders again.
OT Lane Johnson- I'm still hopeful this little experiment with Johnson at left tackle, protecting Landry's blindside, ends before the season starts but at least for this coming weekend we can get a feel for how he's taken to the position. Maybe I'll be wrong, which I'd gladly welcome, and he will excel on the left side but this is a major concern for me heading into this season if he stays at left tackle. I know the coaches love his athleticism and I do think from a black and white perspective he's a better fit on the left side than the right, but in my opinion Daryl Williams could be special there and Johnson just does not have that kind of upside as far as I'm concerned.
TEs Brannon Green/Taylor McNamara- One can't help but keep an eye on this position because at this point OU fans really have no clue as to what they have at tight end this year. McNamara should really still be in high school right now, so you really have to temper your expectations for him both this weekend and for the upcoming season. Green is another JUCO guy who certainly looks the part physically, but much like Everett will have to adjust to the speed of the game at a much higher level. We've already heard talk of FB Trey Millard spending some time at tight end and I'd expect that to continue for the foreseeable future.
RB Brennan Clay- The guy is going to continue to play. It's just that simple. I know more than my fair share of OU fans that don't really like that fact, but I just don't see it changing. The coaches trust him with the ball and while there will be a number of options later this year once Dom Whaley comes back and Damien Williams makes it to campus, Cale Gundy is still going to give Clay carries. So personally, what I'd like to see this weekend is some explosiveness from Clay which is something we haven't ever really seen during his career thus far.
QB Kendal Thompson- The quarterback battle everyone will primarily be focusing on is the one between Bell and Drew Allen, but I'm also curious to see what kind of progress Thompson has made as he enters his second year. I'd expect him to get plenty of snaps in the second half of the Spring Game and I'm anxious to see what the OU legacy can do with them.
As I'm sure you can understand, talking actual OU football got me a kind of excited so I might have gone a little overboard. But I did my best to keep it under 5,000 words, great success!