Just wanted to add a little more analysis to follow up on CC's earlier post regarding the spring game that took place this past Saturday. For anyone unaware, the conditions were unfortunately pretty poor at least for the fans anyway. The temperature was in the fifties It was raining pretty hard around the start time of the game. The attendance was reported at 16k+, but judging from the highlights I saw I'd say that is an inflated number. Regardless, those in attendance OU football (even if it is just practice) for the last time until this fall and if they're anything like myself, they came away with some things to be very excited about and some things that are still a concern.
Keep reading after the jump to see just what those things are
First, let's start with some brief highlights and analysis from NewsOK since I know there's a lot of you out there who weren't able to attend. We've got several different options for you Here, 4/17 - OU Spring Game Highlights and video below.
Here's some more highlights from Rivals
There were two offensive players who clearly stood out during the scrimmage, redshirt freshman RB Marshall Musil and true freshman WR Kenny Stills. Musil is expected to play fullback this year, but was the featured RB on Saturday due to Jermie Calhoun being held out of the scrimmage because of an ankle issue. Musil ran the ball very well and appears to be quite a load to bring down. He clearly showed the ability to run the ball effectively should he be asked to do so. I think he was already the favorite for the starting FB position heading into the scrimmage and this performance only ensured that fact. He will bring a versatility similar to what Matt Clapp brought last year, but Musil will need to continue to improve on his pass catching abilities. He struggled to catch the ball a couple times and seemed to be a little uncomfortable attempting to catch the swing pass.
Not meaning to take anything away from Musil, but Kenny Stills has to be considered the "star" of this scrimmage. What I mean by that is the chances of Stills playing a significant role in this offense are much greater than Musil doing the same while playing the FB position. So the performance of Stills is much more important towards the potential success of this offense. Stills lead all receivers with six receptions for 84 yards and a TD. He had the best catch of the day on his first reception coming back to haul in an under thrown Landry Jones pass just before it hit the turf. He also made a great play on the ball for his TD catch, going up over DB Lamar Harris to snag the 31 yard TD pass. He seems to have quickly developed a chemistry with Landry after just a short time on campus, which can only bode well for his chances of playing time this year.
Q: What sticks out to you about the game now that it's over?
Jones: Kenny Stills. He went up and made some plays. We threw some deep balls at him and I remember one being short, but he went up and made the plays. I was really excited to see him do that.
Q: It looked as if your receivers have made improvements over the past four months.
Jones: Yeah, Kenny Stills had a great game catching a couple of deep balls for us. Dejuan Miller played a great game as did Cameron Kinney. And I thought the offensive line held up protections. Overall I would say we had a pretty good day.
OU QB Landry Jones
I think with his performance today and the assumption that he continues to improve this summer/fall, Stills has absolutely worked his way into the WR rotation for 2010. In fact, I'd say he has likely moved passed Brandon Caleb and Cameron Kenney for a spot in the top four WRs. My only hesitation in saying that is that both Caleb and Kenney are seniors and Stoops tends to favor seniors in these types of situations. That said, I just think Stills is too talented to keep off the field and for reasons we'll discuss below I think he has and/or will move past Caleb/Kenney on the depth chart and he'll stay there.
Check out what Kenny had to say about his spring game performance. Warning: I dare you to not like this kid after watching the video below.
Now we'll get into the scrimmage as a whole with some good/bad quick hitters.
Good - Landry seemed pretty sharp despite the wet conditions making several nice deep throws and avoiding the INT. Not the greatest completion percentage (just 50%), but he spread the ball around and looked a lot more like the Landry vs. Stanford QB than the Landry vs. Nebraska QB.
Bad - Jermie Calhoun being held out because of a minor ankle injury. Calhoun had performed well in OU's prior two scrimmages and as we've discussed here on CC Machine this spring is very important for Calhoun to establish himself in the Sooner backfield. This was his last real opportunity to do so this spring before he gets even more competition this fall. Jonathan Miler (recovering from knee surgery) will return to practice as well as incoming and highly regarded freshman Brennan Clay and Roy Finch. He's likely behind Mossis Madu already, so missing this scrimmage didn't eliminate his chances for playing time in 2010 but it sure didn't help his chances either.
Good - Sooner fans getting to see Drew Allen actually play QB. He will be Landry's backup this year so it was important for Sooner fans to see what we'd be working with should he be required to get on the field. Allen has a big time arm and is much more mobile that you might expect for QB his size (6'5" 224). He did struggle at times, throwing 2 INTs, but both came on fourth downs where he tried to force making a play.
Good - The OL seemed to play well for the most part despite being mixed and matched due to the draft format Stoops chose to employ this year. They didn't have a lot of penalties and protected well in pass coverage for a majority of the day. C Ben Habern, who earlier in the week wasn't expected to really play, wound up playing almost the entire scrimmage and looked dominant at times. He's added almost 20 lbs. since the end of last season and it appears to have made him much stronger.
Bad - Stephen Good was carted off (just precautionary) after rolling his ankle early in the scrimmage. Despite the injury not being very serious, I include this hear because after all the injury issues along the OL last year we definitely do not need to see this start again. Along with Eric Mensik, who injured his knee earlier this spring, he and Good are fully expected to be ready for the start of summer/fall practice.
Good - Kenny Stills performance as discussed above. This kid has all the makings of a future star at WR for OU.
Bad - Dejuan Miller was virtually nonexistent throughout the scrimmage. He only had one catch for 38 yards and it came on a play that wouldn't have counted in a real game. The play started with an OU defender jumping offsides and making contact with the OL, but the coaches let the play go which resulted in Miller's only catch on the day. Now he made a nice leaping grab, but this is a guy our offense is counting on so this performance can't really be taken as anything but negative. Miller stepped up at several times last year, but still needs to be more consistent to be relied upon as every down threat.
Bad - Cameron Kenney came in as a JUCO kid last year with a decent amount of hype at a position OU needed a lot of help at. Fairly or unfairly, he was expected to come in and significantly improve the WR position and instead he struggled to catch the ball for a majority of the year. Unfortunately, at least based on this individual scrimmage, he appears to still have the same problem holding on to the ball. He had multiple drops, including an easy TD catch, and could struggle to contribute significantly this year if he doesn't prove to the coaches that he can be counted on to actually catch the ball.
Good - Former walk-on Trent Ratterree was the stand out at TE during the scrimmage. He had a short TD catch from Landry and was able to get open on several occasions.
Bad - The other TEs, James Hanna and Lane Johnson, were essentially nonexistent. Also falling in the bad category, we have a former walk-on as the clear cut starter at TE heading into 2010. Believe me when I say I don't mean that as a personal insult to Trent Ratterree, but at a program the caliber of OU I expect more than that. We were clearly spoiled with Gresham no doubt, but we need a down field threat at TE to get the most out of our offense and I just don't believe Ratterree provides that.
Good - Jeremy Beal was virtually unblockable for most of the day. He recorded five sacks and was absolutely dominant. This is going to be a huge year for Beal and he is the unquestioned leader of this D-line.
Bad - This team really needs Adrian Taylor back ASAP. Jamarkus McFarland is a stud, but he can't do it on his own. Stacey McGee and Casey Walker have the potential to be good players, but they still have a lot of things to work on before they can be relied upon on a consistent basis. Justin Chiasson, who has moved inside from DE this spring, still looks like he needs to add more weight before he can really be a legitimate force inside at DT.
Good - Aside from Beal, both Frank Alexander and Pryce Macon had a good day at the DE spot. Macon is a guy who's at OU for several years and struggled to get on the field. However, he stood out during the scrimmage and even drew praise from Stoops for his performance.
Bad - Also at the DE spot, names OU fans might be more familiar with than a Pryce Macon, David King did not participate because of a yet to be disclosed leg injury and R.J. Washington did nothing to really stand out. Given the performance of Macon and already being behind King on the depth chart, Washington could be in jeopardy of riding the bench again this year.
Good - A solid, but not spectacular performance by the OU LBs during the scrimmage. I think most OU fans were eager to see Tom Wort in action after coming off an ACL tear during last spring's practices. He played well showing no ill effects of his injury and at this point is the leader to start at MLB heading into the season. I suppose I should be thankful that The Hammer, Ronnell Lewis, didn't have any kill shots considering he was playing against his teammates. This is a kid that you will be forced to watch next year whenever he is on the field.
Good or bad? I'll leave this one for you guys to decide. Travis Lewis was doing a lot of talking leading up to the spring game and give him credit because he and the rest of the white team backed it up.
"I told my offense, score seven, and we’ll call it a game," said Lewis. "I asked coach Stoops, what time the training room would be open Sunday, because the red team is going to need it.
"I feel pretty confident," Travis Lewis said. "Give us a field goal, and that should be it, because they’re not going to cross our side of the field."
OU WLB Travis Lewis
Well after backing up all the trash he was talking, Travis certainly enjoyed himself in the post practice interview.
Good - Pretty much everyone in the secondary played well, which sounds like a cop out by me but there really wasn't anyone who played poorly enough to single out. Demontre Hurst played fairly well and Gabe Lynn also played well and picked off Drew Allen early in the scrimmage. True freshman Tony Jefferson also played well and is almost assured to get some playing time in 2010. He is playing a role similar to the one Keenan Clayton played last year and is currently backing up Joseph Ibiloye at they hybrid LB/S spot Coach Venables likes to use.
Bad - OU special teams. The kickoffs were pathetic, rarely reaching the 15 yard line. As bad as that was, the return attempts (and I stress the word attempts) were even worse. There were multiple fumbles on both kick and punt returns and this is something that needs to be shored up before this season starts. Whether that means DeMarco Murray goes back on kickoff returns isn't something I'm necessarily ready to declare, but I am ready to declare that Mossis Madu is not the answer. Another aspect of special teams we don't appear to have the answer for yet is place kicker. Patrick O'Hara missed his only FG attempt (twice) and while Jimmy Stevens made all three of his, he banked one in off the upright on his first attempt and the other two were at or under 30 yards. Given the struggles this team has at times finishing inside the red zone, kicker will play an important role for this offense in 2010 (unfortunately). P Tress Way had a good day and showed why he is likely to be the best punter in the Big 12 next year.
So as with most spring games, the positives were a couple stand out performances and no serious injuries. OU has 20+ kids coming in this summer who could also contribute at positions like TE (Austin Haywood and Trey Millard), DT (Eric Humphrey, Daniel Noble, and Damon Williams), OL (Adam Shead and Daryl Williams) and WR (Justin McCay). Plenty to be excited about heading into 2010 as OU has a ton of young talent who expect to contribute not only next year, but also in the years to come.
Anything I missed? Anything else you want to discuss? It's going to be a long summer with no more football after Monday's final practice, so the comments here and CC Machine are here to help you get through it.