In anticipation of last week’s spring game, we offered some key points of emphasis for the Oklahoma Sooners. Let’s review what we saw through that prism over the weekend from a scaled-down OU squad.
Question: How would the offensive line operate with Andrew Raym and Chris Murray competing at center?
Answer: The competition is effectively over.
Raym started the game at center for the first-string offense, while his primary competition for the spot, Murray, started at right guard. You could argue Tyrese Robinson’s absence precipitated the lineup, but offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh could just have easily flipped Raym and Murray with the first team.
In fact, Murray didn’t see any time at center. Ian McIver rolled with the second team, followed by Nate Anderson with the third unit. Ergo, we can assume Raym is now the odds-on favorite.
As for how Raym and Murray played, neither seemed to have any issues – that’s a win this time of year. Murray should have a chance to unseat Robinson in the starting lineup this fall.
Question: Would OU’s five-star freshmen Caleb Williams and Mario Williams live up to the hype?
Lauded freshman quarterback Caleb Williams was probably the story of the day. Running with the second team, he connected on 10 of his 11 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He added 61 rushing yards on six carries for good measure.
OU has had some fantastic QBs roll through the program in the last two decades. None impressed in his debut before a live audience the way Caleb did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mario Williams started the game at receiver, and coach Lincoln Riley clearly made a point of targeting the Florida speedster early and often. His five catches included a 50-yard bomb from Rattler.
If OU’s coaching staff wants to see more explosive plays in the passing game, Mario showed why he could contribute immediately as a rookie.
Question: Can Tennessee transfer Eric Gray become OU’s top option at running back?
Another newcomer who did not disappoint. Riley sent his offense out in a five-wide set with Gray lining up at receiver on the first play of the day, which seems like an indicator of where OU’s offense may be heading. (Gray caught a hitch route and turned upfield for a 14-yard gain on the play, for the record.) Gray only had four carries in the game, but he showed plenty of wiggle on a 19-yard touchdown run that left freshman safety Jordan Mukes looking for his jock after attempting an open-field stop.
That versatility sets up Gray to get a plurality of snaps at RB this year. Don’t be surprised if the split-back look with Gray and Kennedy Brooks in the backfield is a staple, either.
Question: How would the players coming back from absences fare?
We didn’t see enough of Austin Stogner, Kennedy Brooks and Jalen Redmond to know how they’re progressing in their returns to action. Stogner and Brooks each played a handful of snaps, but neither had an impact. Redmond was out due to a family matter.
It’s worth noting that Marcus Hicks flashed at times after missing last season due to injury. The depth of the defensive line will probably limit opportunities for him in 2021, though.
Question: Has anyone locked up the nickel spot?
Answer: Not an answer, but Billy Bowman impressed.
Jeremiah Criddell sat out of the spring game, so no new information about the presumed starter at nickel. True freshman Billy Bowman made his presence felt, however, which was a good sign about the competition at the spot. Bowman’s athleticism and knack for finding the football mean he can be an asset at multiple positions, but his play on Saturday suggested defensive coordinator may be able to rotate him with Criddell in the near future.
Tennessee transfer Key Lawrence started at free safety in place of Pat Fields, signaling that he will more than likely play there in the fall. Kendall Dennis saw action with the second team and showed decent range throughout the course of the scrimmage.
Perhaps the most notable development regarding the nickel: Justin Harrington appears to be settling far down the depth chart at cornerback. He may decide to cut that experiment short and accept his fate.