As the Spring Game concluded with the White squad winning by a score of 14-13 over the Red side, a few players and plays stood out. While it should be no surprise that the playbook was vanilla and the game went as many of these scrimmages do, there may have been a sighting of the next starting corner and Baker’s next “go-to” guy on display yesterday afternoon in Norman.
So, here’s a quick rundown of how the different positional units fared.
Kyler Murray truly made his mark on the afternoon, going 9-of-13 for 144 yards and a touchdown to Jeff Mead in the first half. During a busy weekend of baseball, airplanes and spring football, his throws were sharper than some of us expected coming in, and he stole the show right away in this group. Connecting on numerous out-routes and showing his ability to evade, elude and glide right by would-be tacklers, I feel Murray has emerged as the clear backup to Mayfield.
Austin Kendall largely played as expected but did miss on a deep throw to an open Dahu Green, which stood out. Kendall didn’t really seem to distinguish himself from true freshman Chris Robison, either. Robison could still compete for the backup role and doesn’t seem to be a surefire redshirt just yet.
Baker was on and off most of the day, connecting on some good throws but throwing pick on his first drive to Parnell Motley (more on him later). But who cares? It’s April, and this is Baker the Touchdown Maker. Just a matter of time before he finds a rhythm with his new-look offensive group.
Marcelias Sutton definitely stood out the most out of this group, although Rodney Anderson’s kickoff return “touchdown” against a shell special teams unit could’ve constituted as a big play had it counted. But Sutton, the elusive JUCO transfer from Lackawanna C.C., whom I wrote about earlier in the week, was the most effective and electric.
Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon popped off a couple of impressive runs but were largely quiet on the afternoon. We did see freshman H-Back/TE Jeremiah Hall utilized out of the backfield too, which further points to a possible Dimitri-Lite role with him in the future. Still early but Sutton seems to have established a niche in this offense and should definitely be expected to see his share of touches next fall.
A very deep unit that looks to be among the conference’s best, Bill Bedenbaugh dug into his roster and had fun mixing and matching lineups, which included Cody Ford making his return to the first unit and freshman Creed Humphrey lining up at center later in the afternoon. If fans can take away one sure thing from the Spring Game it’s this unit’s depth and strength, which could truly ease the transition of this new batch of running backs as the offense replaces two of the program’s very best.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jeff Mead further established his claim to be the next no. 1 wide receiver for Baker Mayfield. The lanky, sure-handed Tulsa product glided into the open field for his touchdown, finishing with three receptions for 111 yards and the catch for six from Kyler Murray. He made a few other nice grabs including one on an overthrow, showing adjustment mid-route and his soft hands that seem capable of making some difficult, if not spectacular, catches in tight windows and in a variety of routes.
Mark Andrews and his slightly shorter freshman hybrid clone Grant Calcaterra also looked great, quickly building a rapport with Kyler/Baker and showing that the Sooners are finding solid replacements to next year’s upperclassmen who appear ready to play and made for this system. Still early, but I expect little drop-off in this group in 2017.
Announcer said Mayfield found Andrews there for the first down, but it was Calcaterra. Very similar build, which is a good thing.— C&C Machine (@CCMachine) April 8, 2017
Marquise Brown was quiet but did show his speed by breaking free of some good coverage from Motley and the secondary a few times on the day. This unit went deep on Saturday, with little-known targets Sam Iheke and Reggie Turner even catching a couple of passes.
Sam Iheke getting a lot of targets. You may not know him well, but he's obviously getting open a lot today.— C&C Machine (@CCMachine) April 8, 2017
Neville Gallimore anchored a strong unit that broke up passes, got into the backfield and for the most part stuffed the run on a very good offensive line. Mike Stoops and the defensive staff switched back and forth in formation on the day and seem to have the personnel to bring together a unit that must show real improvement next season.
Still the positional group with the most questions but did a good job of easing some concerns. Lots of guys got in and made plays, including Kenneth Mann, Amani Bledsoe and Marquise Overton, among others, a very good sign for Coach Thibodeaux’s group.
Again, no surprise, but in a good way, this unit stood out all day. Caleb Kelly, bigger, faster, stronger, in his second season, led the way along with redshirt freshman Jon-Michael Terry, Emmanuel Beal, as well as true frosh Addison Gumbs and Kenneth Murray. Lots of faces were on the field making plays in this active, athletic and seemingly instinctive group. With the switch to a 4-3 scheme, there could be real depth built at this position through next fall and beyond and with the emergence of young Kenneth Murray, the sky’s the limit for Obo and Kelly to wreak havoc on the edges.
The day of defense belonged to cornerback Parnell Motley, Jordan Parker’s replacement for this game and through the next few weeks this spring as the incumbent starter heals his ankle. And, oh, does his job seem in jeopardy. Motley was making plays everywhere from the start, whether sealing up coverage on speedy Marquise Brown or lanky Jeff Mead, breaking up passes or intercepting the incoming Heisman favorite, the sophomore showed he’s ready to step up and start opposite All-Big 12 Jordan Thomas next season.
Sooner fans have the green light to get pumped about Parnell Motley. He has the size, speed and what looks to be a true instinct for becoming a difference maker on a unit that was scorched repeatedly last season. OU’s wide receivers are fast, and a couple of them may have broken free in moments. But Motley was either in position to make the play or just flat out made it.
Fill-in entertainment on the afternoon. Abdul Adams and Marquise Brown seem to be one and two in line in the return game. But the coaches threw in Rodney Anderson to return a kickoff, much to the crowd, commentators and audience’s surprise, which he took to the house. It was nice seeing him in action, albeit the pretend kind. Must’ve been nice for him to get out in the open field, too. Little things go a long way, especially this time of year. Anderson likely won’t be be fielding many kicks next fall, as there seem to be a handful of guys ready to fill that role. But he looked good with the ball in his hands…a good sign for the next starting running back at Oklahoma.
Also, in fitting fashion, Austin Seibert missed a field goal as time expired.
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