Oklahoma will head into their fall camp, in August, loaded with returning talent on both sides of the ball. Fresh off their Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, the Sooners rode their wave of momentum through National Signing Day, where they signed the Big Twelve's top class, and spring ball. Now they are hoping to ride it through the summer and into the fall...but they'll have to settle a few position battles first.
The few departures that Oklahoma suffered, following the 2013 season, have made up the story lines this spring, and with the injury to Blake Bell, and the limited action that other stars will most likely see, here are some of the guys that fans will want to keep an eye on in the Red/White game.
Quarterbacks Justice Hansen and Cody Thomas - Coach Stoops said that because of his inability to play next season Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield will see limited action in the spring game. This puts all of the attention squarely on the two guys competing to back up Trevor Knight. Cody Thomas has been splitting duties between the baseball and football programs but Stoops said that hasn't impeded his progress at all. Justice Hansen is an early enrollee from Oklahoma's 2014 signing class and, by all accounts has gone toe-to-toe with Thomas in the position battle. If neither quarterback is able to put some separation between himself and the other then I would fully expect to see this battle go into the fall.
Running Backs Alex Ross and Dimitri Flowers - Both have gigantic shoes to fill but it isn't guaranteed that they'll both see the field this fall. Today's game could play a huge role in setting their 2014 playing time as Ross may be on his final chance to make an impression before a star-studded class of freshmen arrive this summer and Flowers has been drawing high praise from the coaches. If he really can be the next Trey Millard at Oklahoma then fans are going to absolutely love this kid.
Wide Receivers Jordan Smallwood, Derrick Woods, Dannon Cavil - With Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal sitting the game out with minor injuries, this trio of receivers need to capitalize on the opportunity. Smallwood and Cavil are big targets and Oklahoma needs a suitable replacement for Lacolton Bester. Woods showed off his play making ability in one of the most overlooked plays of the Sugar Bowl. It just wet Sooner fans appetite to see more of him. That desire will should be quenched today.
Center Ty Darlington - The most probable person to replace departed All-American center Gabe Ikard, Darlington will need to show that he can take over the leadership role on Oklahoma's offensive line. Straight up blocking is one thing, but calling out protection signals is another.
Tight End Isaac Ijalana - Blake Bell had been drawing all of attention this spring but his knee sprain will lead Oklahoma fans to their first glimpse of Ijalana. A JUCO transfer, Ijalana very well could have been the story of the spring, at the tight end position, had Bell not switched over.
Cornerbacks Dakota Austin, Stanvon Taylor and Cortez Johnson - One of the most crucial battles this spring is the one to replace Aaron Colvin. Johnson, the senior, should have the inside track on the race but the two sophomores haven't given up any ground in the competition and Mike Stoops proved with Zack Sanchez last year that he isn't afraid to put youth on the field.
Safeties Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas - The other main battle on the defense is to replace Gabe Lynn at free safety. Both Byrd and Thomas are loaded with talent and one of them will win out the battle. With nickel back Julian Wilson sitting out the game with a shoulder injury it wouldn't be unexpected to see both Byrd and Thomas fill that role at times as well.