Spring games are designed to be boring. Paranoid head football coaches worried about revealing even the tiniest of details develop the most vanilla of game plans with the avoidance of injury being by far and away the primary goal. It is a glorified practice and as such forming any kind of long lasting opinion based on what may or may not take place in such a setting would be foolish.
All that said, the Spring Game is the lone opportunity we as Oklahoma fans have to form any kind of impression regarding the team and specific players. So we have little choice but to take advantage of the opportunity while doing so with the caveat that plenty could change between now and September. It's overkill at this point, and we get that, but don't take a negative comment here to mean the Sooners are screwed at Position X. Likewise, you'll probably want to hold off on engraving a certain receivers name on that 2012 Biletnikoff Award.
Now that we're clear on that, here are some impressions from the Sooners Spring Game.
As most of you probably know, Matt was at the game so he'll be able to provide an in-person perspective on plenty of things he witnessed. I know he plans on addressing the quarterbacks and wide receivers specifically, among other things, so I'll keep my comments on those respective positions somewhat brief. I can share my thoughts, of which I have several (especially on the WRs) on both either here in the comments or once Matt posts his thoughts.
* I know a lot of OU fans were excited about what they saw/heard from Blake Bell and his improved passing, but he took some chances on several throws and was probably lucky not to have an interception or two. How different would the positive impression some many came away with yesterday if he did throw those INTs?
* Trey Metoyer is the real frickin' deal. I'll let Matt expand on that brilliant insight from yours truly, but all the hype appears to be well justified.
* Dominique Whaley returning from injury and Damien Williams arriving on campus will have an impact on it, but as we told you prior to Saturday RB Brennan Clay will get carries in this offense. He had the most rushing yards Saturday and broke off a couple nice long-ish runs. Cale Gundy trusts him to be where he needs to be when he needs to be there and clearly does not care that Clay does not appear to have that break away ability. Heard from multiple people that Clay appeared to be noticeably bigger this year. Maybe his role in this offense is getting those short yardage carries with his added size?
* Danzel Williams is a good little running back. He could still be at least a year away in my opinion because he and Roy Finch are basically the same size and I'm just not sure you really need two 5'8" running backs. From the little we've seen of Williams, I don't believe he has the same burst or elusiveness that Finch does but if he can stay healthy he'd have a big advantage given that Finch has failed to do so thus far.
* Came away from the game with a very favorable impression of the two deep offensive line, which should be great news to the ears of OU fans. The o-line's inability to consistently open up running lanes has been the real issue with this team abandoning the run early in games for several years as far as this fan is concerned, so to hear reports of their success this spring is welcome news.
I'd be lying if I said Lane Johnson not starting at left tackle was part of that positive news. Tyrus Thompson instead opened the game on the left side and played well. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues this summer as we know just how highly the coaches think of Johnson and his athleticism at that left tackle position.
Other players we heard reports on: Nila Kasitati saw most of his time at center on the second team unit and performed quite well. Massive tackle Derek Farniok had some up and down moments. Dylan Dismuke appeared to struggle at times. Daryl Williams has really taken to right tackle and the coaches love what he's done there.
* The tight ends did not play a huge role in the offense on Saturday, but there were several instances where true freshman Taylor McNamara impressed with his ability to get open and find those holes in the defense. He showed good hands on more than one occasion pulling down the ball in traffic. I believe the expectations are fairly low, and they should be in my opinion, as to how much they'll be used in the offense this coming season.
* I've already read multiple stories from Saturday's game about the defensive line have a ways to go before being ready for this season. Not sure how fair I'd that is given they were without three starters and still pretty much held their own. DE R.J. Washington and DTs Stacy McGee & Casey Walker were all held out of the scrimmage, so forming any kind of opinion on this Oklahoma defensive line would be premature.
Of the guys along the d-line who did play, the clear winner was redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. If you read any report from the Spring Game elsewhere, I'd be stunned if Phillips' name wasn't mentioned as a player who stood out. He wasn't necessarily dominant throughout, but he blew up multiple plays with his penetration up the middle and collapsed the pocket a couple times on pass plays as well. It was clear that even after McGee and Walker return that Phillips will have a role in this defense during the coming season.
Another player who took advantage of the injuries along the d-line was DE Chuka Ndulue. He's a guy we've heard about for awhile now and he showed Saturday why the coaches have spoken so highly of him. Ndulue broke up multiple passes and provided good pressure on the quarterback off the edge. At this point, it's hard not to envision him as that fourth member of the defensive end rotation.
* Matt might be able to speak better to this, but I wasn't a huge fan of what we saw from the Sooners did at linebacker on Saturday. Didn't really get the impression that any of the group stood out. I know Corey Nelson led the team in tackles, but he played mainly on the second team unit reportedly due to Mike Stoops' unhappiness with his performance this spring. Still not entire sure what M.Stoops is looking to accomplish with his linebackers. He went primarily with a two LB set on Saturday and I kind of feel in that set the defense would be most successful with Jaydan Bird at MLB and Tom Wort at WLB. Just feel like Bird's size in the middle would hold up better against teams who would try to run on the undersized OU linebackers.
I'm also confused by Mike Stoops' proclamation that they're not going to have linebackers out there covering wide receivers and then playing Joseph Ibiloye? For all the things Ibiloye can do, covering receivers or even tight ends one-on-one in space simply isn't one of them.
* The two guys I really like at that nickel/Roy-back spot in this OU defense - Gabe Lynn (I know) and Julian Wilson. Thought Wilson really played well on Saturday and have heard more of the same about him all spring. As for Lynn, I know a lot of OU fans kind of wrote him off after his glaring struggles at times last year but I just really think he could excel in that Roy-back spot. He's definitely more of a safety than corner in my mind and we saw last year he loves to deliver the big hit.
* Coming into Saturday, that second corner spot opposite Demontre Hurst was a position of focus. By all accounts, fifth year senior Lamar Harris accounted himself quite well. It remains to be seen if once Aaron Colvin comes back he isn't moved to that corner spot, but for now Harris appears to have a pretty clear leg up on that starting spot.
JUCO signee Kass Everett, who has reportedly struggled this spring, played well for the most part though was beaten on consecutive plays matched up on Trey Metoyer in the second half. Not saying anyone has done so (other than bitter Texas Tech fans that is), but it's way too early to be writing off Everett as a non-contributor.
* Despite strong winds for most of the game, the kicking game looked strong as expected. Michael Hunnicutt hit three of his four field goal attempts, though he did uncharacteristically miss an extra point. Both punters, Tress Way and walk-on Dylan Seibert, performed well despite the unfavorable conditions.
* Another aspect of Saturday's game I can all but guarantee you'll read elsewhere is whether fans need to be worried about OU's punt return game. Kenny Stills, Roy Finch, and Brennan Clay were all used at times and none of them looked particularly comfortable back there. We've seen Stills in the past be just fine and while he's never really looked like a threat to break a big return, he's also never really had issues fielding the punts. So if this is the one thing the media wants to latch onto as something for the fans to freak out about, then I think things could be a lot worse off.
If there is anything you saw/heard that you'd like to add your comments are always welcome. Of if there was anything I might have missed that you'd like to discuss, post a comment and we'll be happy to share our thoughts. It is still April, but as far as OU fans are concerned it's summer. Which means no football of any kind. Which means today is the first day of a long, long, long offseason.