Spring practice begins on Thursday for the Oklahoma Sooners, and Lincoln Riley was at the podium to discuss some of the season’s most intriguing topics. He went into a decent amount of detail about new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s expectations, the QB room, injuries and more. You can watch the full presser here.
Lincoln Riley mentioned Creed Humphrey, Robert Barnes, Jordan Parker, Jalen Redmond, Starrland Baldwin and walk-on Michael Anderson as guys that will miss spring practice for various health reasons. He did mention that many were “right on the edge” of being able to go, and he stated that all are expected to be ready to participate in fall camp.
Former four-star defensive tackle signee Michael Thompson is now an offensive lineman. According to Riley, Thompson was initially pursued as an offensive lineman but was later pitched to come to OU as a defensive tackle when the need arose. Riley mentioned that the recent move was made due to the increased depth along the defensive front.
Brayden Willis, who earned some snaps at the Y-receiver position as a true freshman, will move to the H-back position this spring. Allen has mentioned the potential for this move on a few occasions, and it certainly makes sense.
Wide receiver A.D. Miller had previously been announced as an offseason addition for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but his plans have apparently changed, as Riley announced that Miller is returning to return to the program. Since he never actually enrolled in school, he is able to return without any issue. According to Riley, he’s expected to rejoin the group in the coming days.
Oklahoma certainly doesn’t lack for talent on the outside, but this certainly helps the depth situation.
Riley mentioned that 11 of the visitors for last year’s game ended up signing with OU, and he made sure to stress the importance of this April’s event.
“This spring practice and this spring game is gonna be a bigger recruiting weekend than it was last year,” Riley stated. “We’ve already got more guys telling us they’re coming than we had last year. It’s gonna be bigger.”
“We’ve got some really, really great things that will be announced here in the coming days,” Riley added. “But it’s gonna be a big, big-time event for us. We had 52,000 last year and we need more than that this year — period. We’re gonna make sure we do our part to make it better for every single fan. We need our fans to be there to show our team, to show these recruits why this is the absolute best place to be in the country.”
Jalen Hurts & Tanner Mordecai
Riley continues to insist that there will be a QB battle between grad transfer Jalen Hurts and redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai, although one can obviously surmise that it has more to do with practice reps, the health of the QB room and other factors than a true competition for the starting job.
“Within our walls, Jalen’s just like any other player,” Riley explained. “He’s a guy that transferred in, he’s got a great skill set, he’s done a nice job acclimating to our players, to our staff, to Norman — he’s handled it all well. But he’s in a battle. He knows that. Our team knows that. That’s just part of how we’re always gonna do it here. He and Tanner I think are both doing a nice job.
“We’ll obviously get to see more once we get on the field tomorrow, but you feel them both stepping up. Just in the time that we’re able to meet with them now, you feel the sense of urgency in the meeting room. Both inexperienced guys within this system right now, you can feel them really pushing hard each and every day to get better. They’re spending a lot of time up there on their own right now, working hard. But both of these guys have great skill sets. They can both do everything you need to do to play the position well, and I think they’re gonna feed off of each other and I think they’ll be good for each other. The competition will be great. Jalen’s been through a lot, which will do nothing but help Tanner and the rest of the guys in our room. That’s been a big deal in our room. I know we’ve had big names and guys that’ve done a lot in the sport over the last few years, but we’ve always had a competitive room. It’s competitive, but they also support and help each other, and you need that in that room and I fully expect that we’ll have that again.”
Riley mentioned that new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch consistently emphasizes the need for speed — whether it be with personnel decisions, development or recruiting. Adding to that, Grinch’s new defense give priority to different body type. That will entail getting bigger at defensive back and a bit leaner and quicker along the defensive line.
There certainly has been (emphasis) in the front, with a couple of our guys, (on) being able to do everything that Coach Grinch expects in his system. There’s been couple of our guys like a Que Overton, like a Dillon Faamatau, like a Neville Gallimore, even some of the guys we’ve played on the edge, young guys like Ronnie Perkins, Jalen Redmond, some of those types of guys, we’ve had a few of them that we felt need to trim them down just a little bit. This is an active, very aggressive defense, and it’s based on aggression. A lot of aggression comes from the front and being able to be disruptive. You’ve got to have guys that have the quickness and the burst to get that done, and also the conditioning to do it for a long time, as we know (how) some of the games play out in this league.”
“We’re not talking about dropping 25 or 30 pounds off some of these guys,” Riley went on to add, “but for a few of them, certainly the goal has been trimming them down a little bit just to accommodate what we wanna do.”
When asked about Brendan Radley-Hiles, Riley made a point to mention that he was never ealthy following his injury against Kansas State. He went on to explain that the staff is keeping an extremely open mind as to where each of defensive backs will be placed throughout the secondary, which seems to indicate the a fresh start could be on the horizon for Bookie and others.