FINALLY!!!!!!! Spring football is finally here and I can only assume you all are just as excited and ready for it as I am! It's become a tradition here at CCM (you can call something a tradition you just started right?) to examine the roster position by position as we head into spring practices. So with the first practice scheduled to take place today, Monday Mar. 21, it only makes sense that we start our preview as well.
Landry Jones - For the second consecutive season,
Mr. Whitney HandLandry heads into the season as the established starter and looking to build on success from the year before. He holds a unique spot amongst those of us in Sooner Nation in the fact that he put up video game like numbers, but was still subject to a considerable amount of criticism. Some of it fair (all the pick sixes), some of it not (his facial hair preference). In all seriousness, Jones will find himself at least near the top of many a Heisman watch list and for good reason. He is the quarterback of what is expect to be one of the best teams in the country and the leader of an offense that projects to be ridiculously loaded. We'll get into the rest of the offense in the coming days, but for now let us delve into the expectations of Sooner fans for Mr. Jones.
While there is little question as to the lack of pressure Landry faces in securing his starting spot this spring, there will be considerable pressure for him to improve upon the mistakes he made at times in 2010. Repeated pick sixes, at times poor footwork, locking in on his receiver, and an uneasiness in the pocket are all things he can improve upon this spring/summer. As CC says in his defense quite often, he is still a relatively young guy in terms of his experience but I have to think this year is the year that excuse goes away. He will have essentially two years of starting experience and more than enough reps to have shown significant improvement in the previously mentioned aspects of his game.
For whatever it's worth, I do expect to see improvement if for no other reason than he now has his mentor and a pretty decent former QB running his offense. That's not meant to be a slight against Kevin Wilson (I swear, I swear), just that a guy familiar with the position may have a slightly better feel for how the QB reacts to certain situations. Personally I'm not a fan of Heupel being up in the booth and not down on the field to be there when Landry comes to the sideline, but I'm also pretty sure that they know what they're doing and it's something that has been discussed.
Drew Allen- Given the certainty of the QB1 spot, the "drama" surrounding the QB position will take place within the competition to be Landry's primary backup. Allen is believed to have somewhat of an upper hand given his time in the program/system, but fan favorite Blake Bell is looking to surpass him on the depth chart. We saw Allen VERY briefly in 2010, since we all know how much Stoops loves to play his backups, and almost as infrequently throughout his entire time in Norman. So we don't really know what we have in the guy should it become necessary for him, or any backup QB, to play significant snaps. From the little we have seen, he seems to be a guy that can move around pretty well, has an above average arm, and can throw a nice deep ball.
Blake Bell- Bell comes with no shortage of fanfare and when you see the guy you can understand why. The guy checks in at 6'6" 241, has a very good arm, and is also a guy that can make a play with his legs if need be (he also played WR in high school). He is widely believed to be the future at the QB position for OU, so Sooner fans want/expect/
demandthat he step up and secure the #2 spot. The kicker here for me is the kid has already used a redshirt year, so if he isn't able to win the backup spot then 2011 is a total wasted year of eligibility. Then depending on whether or not Landry comes back for 2012, it could be his junior year at the earliest before he ever sees the field. I'll never understand why Stoops doesn't play his backup QB more after what happened to Sam, but even before that it never made any sense. You can't develop a guy getting #2 snaps in practice and allowing him to play the last minute of a game where you're up 50 and tell him he can't do anything besides hand off.
Kendal Thompson- Son of former Sooner Charles Thompson, Kendal has enrolled early and will be on campus to take part in all the spring practices. This can only help his development as I choose to avoid using the phrase "chances at playing time" as I just don't see any way he takes a snap this year. Thompson is easily the most athletic QB on the roster, so in that respect I suppose the coaches could try to take advantage of that. The only feasible possibility I could see is Stoops and Heupel developing some kind of Wildcat package for him given his mobility, but nothing Stoops has done in his 12+ years leads me to believe we'll see something like that. I think it would be incredibly cool if we did, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it. Thompson has some developing to do as a passer, he has kind of a funky delivery which I'm quite certain is something he and Heupel have already been working on. It will be interesting to see how he develops and how much of an opportunity he gets this spring to show the coaches what he can do.
So we've officially kicked things off here at CCM and are looking forward to bringing you more spring coverage throughout the coming weeks. If there is any particular player/question/issue you'd like us to discuss, just let us know in the comments. For instance, if you want us to focus on a particular running back in our breakdown tomorrow just let us know here in the comments below and we'll do our best to focus on that the following day/s.
Up next on Tuesday - Running Backs