It’s hard to believe we’re already three months removed since Oklahoma’s 35-19 win over Auburn in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, two months since #SoonerSquad17 put ink to paper and a whole month since college basketball was getting set for March Madness. The state of Oklahoma and the basketball world have been on a hell of a ride the last few months watching Russell Westbrook’s historic season heading toward basketball immortality. But we’re all glad football (or at least this glorified springtime scrimmage) is back and on what looks to be a beautiful day in Norman.
Kickoff for the 2017 Spring Game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Fans not in attendance can catch the action live on FOX Sports Oklahoma and FOX College Sports Central beginning at noon with the "Sooner GameDay" pregame show, also on FS Oklahoma and FCSC. The game will also be available online at SoonerSports.tv and the Sooner Sports 2 Go apps, including Apple TV and Roku.
Here are a few things I’m looking forward to watching during tomorrow’s game.
The backup quarterback competition rolls on for another offseason in Norman, and dual-sport star Kyler Murray, whom I feel seems like the runaway favorite, is scheduled to take the field less than a day after baseball’s Red River rivalry in Austin on Friday night. Murray, the former five-star recruit and transfer from Texas A&M, has already garnered much praise so far this spring and with the coordinative efforts of his football and baseball coaches, has been given the platform to develop into one of OU’s most unique athletes in recent years. Coming off an injury and just recently back on the diamond, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s developed any early rapport with any of his numerous wide receivers and how much the coaches decide to show with his dynamic skill set in this game.
A Crowded Core of Pass Catchers
The entirety of Oklahoma football media has been bringing you early hype on Marquise Brown for months, and the time has finally come to see his golden feet take the field. The early returns have been described along the lines of spectacular by most eyes that have seen the JUCO transfer in action this spring, and we’re sure to see a few long balls thrown in Brown’s direction on Saturday. We’ll probably not see too much of Mark Andrews, Jeff Mead, Nick Basquine or Mykel Jones, but along with Brown I expect lots of snaps for A.D. Miller, Dahu Green, Zach Farrar and tight end Grant Calcaterra. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see Jeff Badet who won’t be in Norman until this summer, nor will we get a look at fab freshmen-to-be CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo. But I’m interested to see if Lincoln Riley lines up running back/athlete Marcelias Sutton all over the field and how many different looks he gives us of the 5-8 JUCO speedster.
The Lincoln Riley Running Back Committee
Speaking of Sutton, the running back competition is front and center on offense heading into the Spring Game and the 2017 season. While we won’t (or shouldn’t) see too much Rodney Anderson tomorrow — whom I feel is comfortably out in front of the rest of the field — there should be plenty of looks to go around for Abdul Adams, Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton. The sophomore Adams has been getting his share of praise this spring and could enjoy a nice afternoon showcasing his talent to separate from newcomers Sermon and Sutton in his second spring in Norman. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Lincoln Riley across the board on offense and could provide for a fun day of an array of formations with such a versatile group of skill players littering this roster.
The New Defensive Front
The news of the offseason on the defensive side of the ball has been the switch in scheme back to a 4-3 base for Mike Stoops. After hanging in there but missing out in the end for Marvin Wilson on National Signing Day, the defensive line is still a work in progress. Although the pass rush is established and will likely be a major strength next season with Obo leading the way, tomorrow could be a good chance to see how D.J. Ward and the rest of the roster comes together through the offseason. I don’t expect to see too much from this group between tomorrow and Columbus next September, but how much we see of the new scheme and who plays where will be something to keep an eye on.
Loaded At Linebacker
A thin unit a year ago, the Sooner linebacker core has undergone a drastic and exciting facelift this offseason. The competition and cohesion between Ricky DeBerry, who has been getting used to a positional switch from outside to inside this spring, and the rest of the guys such as Jon-Michael Terry, Curtis Bolton, Kapri Doucet, Emmanuel Beal and Mark Jackson, as well as newcomers Levi Draper, Addison Gumbs and Kenneth Murray will be fun to watch all through the offseason. I’m also interested to see how Caleb Kelly will be utilized in the new system and how much we’ll see of him and the first team tomorrow.
The Secondary Battles
With the unfortunate news of Jordan Parker’s ankle injury keeping him out of the spring game and a chunk of the offseason, sophomore Parnell Motley could have a great chance to make up ground to earn the starting spot opposite Jordan Thomas next fall. Motley is said to have impressed so far this spring, and it’ll be a fun look at his development along with touted freshman Justin Broiles. At safety, the spot vacated by Ahmad Thomas is up for grabs and with incoming studs Robert Barnes and Ryan Jones expected to challenge upperclassmen Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton, Will Johnson and Chanse Sylvie, the competition is on between this talented group with no clear-cut leader in the clubhouse. I expect Sunderland to eventually win the spot opposite Steven Parker, but if Barnes is as advertised, he has a great chance to be in the mix early.
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