With heinous weather bearing down on Norman this weekend, the Oklahoma Sooners have pushed the 2019 Red-White Game up from Saturday afternoon to Friday night. The new start time probably won’t make OU coach Lincoln Riley any more willing to do anything interesting in this year’s edition of the annual spring scrimmage. Count on a steady dose of vanilla schemes on both sides of the ball in the public’s last look at the Sooners until the start of the season in late August.
OU’s yearly celebration of disinformation still offers plenty of reasons to watch, though. For starters, there’s a changing of the guard going down at quarterback. Meanwhile, the Sooners are working on implementing a brand new defense under first-year coordinator Alex Grinch. Finally, folks have been wanting to see these freshman wide receivers compete in person.
Here are just a few of the biggest stories to follow for OU’s offense when the Sooners hit the field on Friday night.
Jalen Hurts’ command of the offense
Frankly, I don’t know how much more can be written about Hurts’ fit with the Sooners. I’d just like to see how Hurts runs the show.
Is he frazzled pre-snap? How well does he communicate with the rest of the offense? Does he seem sure of himself when he’s making decisions?
I doubt we’ll get a great look at the design of the offense or any new wrinkles with Hurts at the wheel. An idea of his demeanor might be the best we can hope for. Hurts’ leadership and steadying presence in the huddle have garnered praise from people inside the program.
Is Tanner Mordecai for real?
Mordecai only appeared in two games in 2018 and threw four passes, so he’s still an unknown quantity to most fans. The word on the street around Norman is that Mordecai is giving a good account of himself this spring. Not so overwhelmingly good that he’s going to supplant Hurts – more like good enough to hold things down if he’s pressed into service this year.
We’ll find out more about his development on Friday. Equally important, we can compare how the rest of the offense responds to Mordecai and Hurts. It shouldn’t come as a shock if the O runs more smoothly right now with the redshirt freshman behind center.
Another thing to consider: How would Riley need to tailor the offense to match Mordecai’s skills versus those of Hurts?
Brayden Willis’ role
Willis officially moved from tight end to H-back this spring, which positions him to play a much larger part in the offense this fall. No sense in keeping Willis locked up behind Grant Calcaterra at tight end.
Keep an eye on how well Willis works out as a lead blocker in the running game when given the chance. If there’s one concern with how well-suited Willis and his wiry frame are to his new position, that’s it.
We’ll also get a little bit of an idea about how Jeremiah Hall is responding to the competition.
What does the rotation look like on the offensive line?
With center Creed Humphrey out for the spring, the Sooners will have five new faces up front on Friday. That could make for some ugly ball, but it should still offer a pretty good idea of what the line personnel will look like in the fall.
Importantly, what’s up with Brey Walker and Darrell Simpson? If they’re both permanent fixtures at guard, that creates some uncertainty at left tackle.
Unfortunately, we probably won’t learn much about the chemistry among the unit until the games actually count.
Are the freshman receivers pushing for snaps?
Five-star wideout Jadon Haselwood may sit out with a minor injury, but his blue-chip classmates, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges, will likely make their unofficial debuts in the Crimson and Cream in the Red-White Game.
Where Wease and Bridges line up may turn out to be the most interesting pieces of information to be gleaned on Friday night. Although both measure up more like outside receivers, Bridges will more than likely see work in the slot. On the flip side, the news that Nick Basquine has received a sixth year of eligibility may free up Bridges to work more at the X or Z positions if need be.