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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Josh Heupel's spitballs

Once thought to be a sure first-round NFL draft pick, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones passed on the money for an extra year in school. The gamble didn’t pay off. After an up-and-down season in 2012, Jones waited until the fourth round to hear his name called.

In the analysis surrounding the quarterback’s draft status, the focus actually seemed to move away from Jones’ play to his coaches. It started with his appearance on ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s annual televised skull sessions, when the Super Bowl-winning ex-coach pinned Jones’ struggles on “boredom” and poor scheming ($).

Saturday afternoon, pro football’s most notable game manager, Trent Dilfer, was far more blunt in his criticism. It was a variation on the same theme as Gruden, though: The Sooners pass-heavy offensive is gimmicky; all sizzle, no steak.

Personally, I don’t think the situation with OU’s offense has been so cut-and-dry, but ESPN doesn’t pay their guys for nuance. (This is the same network that beams Skip Bayless to your cable box every day, after all.) Oklahoma still managed to win 10 games last year with one of the worst defenses in program history against a challenging schedule. The team had to be doing something right on the offensive side of the ball.

Trent DilferJohn Hoover of the Tulsa World already put together a deconstruction that rebuts the particulars of Dilfer’s critique about as well as can be done.

Yet, in the grander scheme of things, Gruden and Dilfer aren’t entirely wrong about the flaws in OU’s offense.

As Hoover points out, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel would no doubt love to have a reliable tight end on the field all the time. If you don’t have one who can get the job done, though, better to have another reliable wideout in the game.

Likewise, something tells me that if Heupel could have left Jones in the game in short-yardage situations, he would have. OU’s nagging inability to pound the ball on the ground made developing a package like the Belldozer a necessity. Equally important, it worked – the Sooners saw their conversion percentage on third down increase from 42 percent in 2011 to 52 percent in '12; they scored touchdowns on 67 percent of trips to the red zone, up from 59 percent in '11.

Heupel spent the entire 2012 season plugging holes in the dam. I’m far from Heupel’s biggest cheerleader, but he did exceedingly well making due with what he had.

Of greater concern to Bob Stoops should be why Heupel had to get so creative last fall. Until the coaching staff addresses the Sooners’ root problems on offense – OU hasn’t run the ball consistently for four or five years, to name one – expect to hear more of Dilfer dogging Heupel’s “spitballing” every April.

The 'Stache Effect?

Landry Jones

I recently came across a post from our buddy Dave Bartoo at cfbmatrix.com about drafting quarterbacks that might raise the interest of Sooner fans.

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, Bartoo found an intriguing relationship between his "Coaching Effect" statistic and quarterback play in the NFL. (A team’s Coaching Effect reflects the difference between the number of games it wins and the numbers of games that it should win based on talent and schedule – positive means the team won more games than it should, negative means fewer.)

Essentially, using data dating back to 2004, he found that quarterbacks who played for programs with a negative Coaching Effect tend to crap out in the pros at a disproportionately high rate (80 percent versus an average miss rate of 66 percent, based on Bartoo's subjective analysis of QB busts). To illustrate the relationship, consider Charlie Weis, owner of a decidedly negative Coaching Effect score. Despite learning at the hand of the man who purportedly molded Tom Brady into one of the best NFL QBs ever, Weis' two college protégés, Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen, have flamed out in the big leagues.

In this year’s crop of matriculating college quarterbacks, Bartoo’s “formula,” for lack of a better word, indicates that NFL teams should avoid selecting guys like Matt Barkley and Geno Smith. On the other hand, Ryan Nassib and Matt Scott make better bets.

Clearly, this is far from some kind of failsafe approach to drafting quarterbacks. If QBs start with a two-in-three chance of washing out, it goes to show just how much of a crapshoot drafting a QB is.

For our purposes, though, does this tell us anything about quarterbacking at the collegiate level?

Given this trend, I asked Bartoo if it’s possible that what he terms Coaching Effect is actually a “Quarterback Effect.” In other words, when a team outperforms its talent, is that more likely a product of having a plus QB than a great coach? He told me that the body of evidence suggests that some coaches remain elite no matter who is taking snaps – Bill Snyder is an example. In other cases, it’s the elite quarterbacks who have shown the ability to elevate mediocre coaches, such as Aaron Rodgers and Jeff Tedford at California.

(I realize that the idea that a good quarterback can make a bad coach look better sounds intuitive, but it’s interesting to me to test out these assumptions.)

So, what about Landry Jones, Oklahoma’s four-year starter? OU had a negative Coaching Effect score (-1) in both 2011 and 2012. That led Bartoo to conclude that the ‘Stache is in the group that has a four-in-five chance of busting.

Best of luck to Jones in the NFL. This raises an interesting possibility to me, though. Prior to Jones taking over at quarterback, Oklahoma’s Coaching Effect under Bob Stoops fell on the positive side of the ledger. At the very least, his teams performed up to expectations relative to their levels of talent.

Personally, I think the weaknesses in OU’s program at the moment go beyond the quarterback position. I'm also not in any way trying to bag on Jones, who shouldered more than his fair share of the blame for the perceived shortcomings of the program during the last four years. However, seeing as someone new will trot out as the Sooners’ starting QB for the first time in four years, this at least adds a little more intrigue to the upcoming season for me.

Mike Gundy, man of indecision

Mike Gundy

Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind.

Those are the lyrics to a Lovin’ Spoonful classic song released in 1966. It reminds me of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.

A couple of weeks ago, Gundy declared that Clint Chelf would be his starting quarterback this season.

“Chelf is our starter,” he proclaimed. “He takes all the reps with the (first team) right now. Those guys (J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt) compete out there, but I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a battle out there to start the game.”

Then, last week Gundy said that “we haven’t necessarily said anything about the first game of the season.

Did you ever have to finally decide? Say yes to one and let the other one ride.

Gundy mentioned that Chelf is the front-runner for now “I don’t see any reason to not mention that. But we haven’t established who would be the starter for any particular reason.”

Keep Gundy away from “Let’s Make A Deal."

Wayne Brady: “OK, Mr. Gundy. You get to pick from three curtains for the grand prize. Which curtain is your choice?”

Gundy: “Curtain one… no wait, curtain two. Hold it… curtain three. No, wait! Definitely curtain number two.”

God forbid that the Big 12 Championship would be behind that curtain.

Better go home, son, and make up your mind. Then you bet you'd better finally decide!

Sooners Recruiting Update: OU lands its QB

Oklahoma had a big recruiting weekend around the annual spring game, with over a dozen visitors from 2014/2015 prospects and nearly a dozen 2013 signees. Add in a crowd of around 29,000 and a QB battle being aired for the first time this spring, and the event had a lot buzz.

Hours before OU’s current trio of QBs went to battle for the starting spot, Justice Hansen verbaled to the Sooners, becoming the key QB recruit in the 2014 class. Hansen was the only QB offer and had decided that he would verbal at the spring game of either OU or Texas A&M, which were going on at the same time last weekend.

Hansen is a big-time pickup for the Sooners. He’s been to OU summer camps the last two summers. As a quarterback, he has excellent mobility to go with a great arm and accuracy. He put up over 3,000 yards passing and 700 yards rushing last year. Hansen is playing in the Under Armour All-American Game and will be a top 150-type prospect.

Hansen also is now going to be recruiting for OU with other prospects, too, which helped lead to the newest addition to the class, talented wide receiver Dallis Todd. Todd (6-5, 210) is an elite prospect with ideal size, but what really separates him from other big WR prospects is his speed and acceleration. He plays almost like a smaller slot – he has that kind of agility and quickness.

Todd had a huge junior year with more than 70 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards. I expect that he could blow up in the recruiting rankings.

On the disappointing side, wandering WR verbal Armanti Foreman went ahead and decommitted from OU. Armanti is looking for an opportunity to play with his twin brother, D'onta. Right now, D'onta projects at positions where OU has higher rated kids, and I don’t see Armanti re-committing to OU.

2014 Verbal Commitments: 4
(Class size: 22-24)

Dallis Todd, WR
(6-5, 210, 4.5)

Vontre McQuinnie, DB
(6-1, 200, 4.6)

Samaje Perine, RB
(5-11, 225. 4.45)

Justice Hansen, QB
(6-4, 200, 4.6)

While the verbal commitments from Hansen and Todd highlighted the spring game, OU had a number of big-time visitors in town, including:

*Ty Barrett – 2014 OT target.

*Corey Holmes – 2014 WR target who flew in from Florida, and according to Twitter had a great weekend visiting OU, even meeting Barry Switzer.

*Steven Parker – 2014 DB target from Jenks.

*Jalin Barnett – 2015 OL target from Lawton who just received an OU offer.

*Samaje Perrine – 2014 RB verbal. (Instagram photo of Perrine with 2013 RB signee Keith Ford.)

*Vontre McQuinnie – 2014 DB verbal. (Photo of McQuinnie with 2013 DB signees L.J. Moore and Dakota Austin.)

*Zach Rogers – 2015 OL target who allegedly has an OU offer.

Before the spring game, OU also received a visit from 2015 TE Jordan Davis (6-4, 245, 4.6), who is verbaled to Florida State but seems very high on OU after visiting and officially receiving an offer. Davis could be an elite TE prospect for 2015.

As you can see, the 2015 offers continue to go out in a more aggressive manner than before; “Total Recruiting” is on.

With spring football over on Tuesday, expect the coaches to hit the road and make even more offers, especially at defensive tackle. Also, Tim Kish should be fine tuning and extending his LB offer list, moving on from some national prospects who have not shown interest in OU.

Recruiting Baker’s Dozen

1. Nathan Starks – Top RB target.

2. Solomon Thomas – Top DL target.

3. Michiah Quick – Best cornerback target for OU.

4. Tyler Whiley – Mike Stoops' top big CB target.

5. Ty Barrett – Big offensive tackle whose rankings are about to explode.

6. Jovan Pruitt – Other big Dallas-area OT.

7. Orlando Brown – Is the Atlanta native Bill Bedenbaugh’s top national target at OT?

8. Steven Parker – Elite defensive back out of Jenks.

9.   Tyler Latua – Todd’s teammate and an awesome TE prospect. This is a stretch, because his interest in OU is unknown.

10. Dwight Williams – Arguably the best LB on the board for OU.

11. Natrell Curtis – Might be a top five national guard, and OU needs OLs in the worst way.

12. Jamal Adams – Best safety on the board for OU.

13. James David – Recovering from a knee injury or he would be on a lot of national lists. His brother Derek was an awesome prospect before off the field issues derailed his career.

Class Breakdown

Quarterback: 1

Done with the pledge from Hansen.

Running Back: 2

OU has one RB in the fold and will likely take the next big-time RB and call it a day. Starks or Mixon in addition to Perine would give OU probably the top RB class in the country.

Nathan Starks (6-0, 210, 4.45) – It’s about time that OU signed a great RB from Bishop Gorman again. Starks is that RB. He has been very clear that OU is one of his favorites and that Murray is one of his favorite RBs. A very possible five-star RB.

Joe Mixon (6-1, 190, 4.45) – Any RB who wears 28 and wants folks to call him "the next Adrian Peterson" is probably interested in hearing from OU. Mixon has an OU offer and is excellent RB with home run speed. Like Starks, he has a number of big-time offers.

Wide Receiver: 3?

One outside WR has verbaled. One slot WR spot is open with the loss of Foreman. That leaves one more slot for a WR.

Does OU take Andrews and worry about his position later? Todd could be the WR that plays inside or outside. Mead is a pure outside receiver. There are a lot of directions that OU could go with these last two scholarships. Basically, Norvell has WR recruiting rolling again.

Jeffrey Mead (6-7, 170, 4.6) – Is Mead a basketball player or a football player? His junior year showed a tall WR with great hands and excellent speed who was a consistent mismatch against smaller DBs. Seems like Mead is more interested in basketball, but offers from OU and OSU for football might make this more of a choice.

Nick Alexander (6-3, 195, 4.5) – A superstar at the OU summer camp of 2012, Alexander had an uneven junior year from all reports.

K.D. Cannon (6-0, 170, 4.4) – Best WR in Texas? Cannon is a legit contender for that crown. Extremely fast and elusive, Cannon would make an awesome slot WR for the Sooners. Can OU sign both Armanti and KD with such similar receiving games?

Keenen Brown (6-3, 185, 4.5) – Right behind Cannon/Foreman in terms of Texas WR rankings. He has the flexibility to play inside or outside for OU. A very polished looking WR prospect.

Dorian Leonard (6-5, 190, 4.5) – Malcolm Kelly redux? Leonard looks great on film. He's a big, fluid athlete making those big down field catches that Kelly did so well in 2006/2007. Has an OU offer.

Mark Andrews (6-7, 226, 4.6) – Huge WR/TE who has been very public about his interest in OU. Andrews on film looks like an excellent big WR, but you have to wonder if a natural move to TE is in his future.

Corey Holmes (6-3, 180, 4.4) - This Florida receiver just received his OU offer and again seems very interested in OU. Montgomery looks like the coach who pushed the OU offer to Holmes. Holmes has a nice blend of agility, top-end speed and height.

Offensive Line: 5 (at least)

Bedenbaugh is hitting the ground running big time, including scholarship offers in Texas and nationally. Offers have gone out to top JUCO OTs, indicating how high a priority OU is making OL this year. JUCO offers in February provide yet another example of “Total Recruiting.”

Bedenbaugh is aggressively recruiting OL at a pace not seen in Norman in a long time. OU badly needs linemen, so the usual first-year break-in period for new assistants cannot be afforded.

Ty Barrett (6-5, 295, 5.2) – Athletic tackle prospect from Dallas Skyline. OU has numerous players from Skyline. Just visited for junior day and has an OU offer. His profile is on the rise and Bedenbaugh has made him a priority.

Braden Smith (6-6, 275, 5.0) – Nationally ranked OL prospect who starred last summer at the OU summer camp where he was probably the top prospect. OU will be in the hunt, but all the big powers have offered Smith. His recruiting is dead quiet.

Jovan Pruitt (6-6, 290, 5.2) – Recently offered by OU and Notre Dame. Huge-framed kid looks a little stiff in his stance, but he shows some power on film.

Alex Dalton (6-4, 285, 5.0) – OG prospect who Bedenbaugh was recruiting at West Virginia. Excellent interior OL prospect. He visited OU already, and the Sooners are in his top three.

Blake Blackmar (6-5, 300) – Blackmar has some flexibility by playing center in HS, so he could play anywhere on the OL. Blake has expressed interest in OU previously.

Jacob Bragg (6-3, 290,5.2) – If OU wants to recruit a pure center, Bragg would be a great target. Bragg has previously expressed interest in OU and looks like an excellent center prospect.

Orlando Brown (6-7, 340, 5.4) – Might be a top five national OT after his camp performances. Huge frame and now that he has lost some bad weight his mobility is impressive. Bedenbaugh has OU in the top seven, and a visit is very likely.

Denzel Ward (6-9, 290, 5.2) – Has already committed to visiting Norman this fall. Huge frame with incredible agility. Has a sky high ceiiing.

Natrell Curtis (6-3, 285) – Teammate of UCLA signee Kenny Lacy. OU has offered along with host of Pac 12 schools. Just excelled at a recent all star camp. Might be the best OG prospect on the board.

Roderick Johnson (6-7, 300, 5.2) – If not for Andy Bauer (Ole Miss commit), Johnson would be getting more publicity as the best OL in Missouri.

Dontavius Blair (6-8, 300, 5.2) – Kansas JUCO already visited OU during a spring tour of schools. OU has already offered, and he looks like he will graduate by December.

Jermaine Eluemenor (6-5, 300, 5.1) – Penn JUCO might be the best JUCO OT prospect for 2014. Very athletic and powerful frame. Originally from England and is still learning football. OU has offered along with Ohio State and Florida State.

Tight End: 2

OU struck out at TE in 2013, so two tight ends would make a lot of sense for 2014. OU really needs to use the TE more in their offense. Hopefully, Taylor McNamara and Sam Grant return the TE position to relevance this fall.

New TE coach Jay Boulware is starting to get revved up with new offers going out last week to Milan Richard/Ian Bunting. I’m listing Tyler Lautua more out of hope than some info that OU is in a final five. He’s a perfect fit for the OU offense. Ideally, OU grabs Martin and one pure receiving TE prospect.

Koda Martin (6-6, 250, 4.8) – Looking for a big prototype blocking TE? Martin is it. Last year he started showing some receiving skills as well. The only question is: Like Eric Winston, does he grow into an elite mobile OT or stay at TE?

Tyler Luatua (6-4, 230, 4.6) – Lautua could be used as an H-back in the OU scheme. Physical blocker, but also an excellent pass receiver. The entire nation is after Luatua, but maybe OU’s new verbal and teammate of Lautua can help OU get a visit.

Ian Bunting (6-6, 215, 4.6) –  Former WR who has accepted the move to TE for his senior year and college career. His highlight reel is all as a flexed out WR. OU offer, and he seems pretty interested in OU.

Milan Richard (6-5, 230, 4.6) – Another big WR who will be a TE in college. An impact elite receiver on film.

Mavin Saunders (6-5, 225. 4.6) – Big WR who projects at TE in college. Huge frame and excellent speed. Very underrated based on his footage. Only started playing football last year.

Defensive Tackle: 2

The Sooners are not quite in the desperate place for DTs that they were in with the 2013 class. Still, you’d like to see OU sign a top DT every year. No prospects in Oklahoma right now, and Texas does not look to have a deep pool of candidates.

OU lost out on Jaycoven Henderson to TCU with the DT coaching position change, as well as Trey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett.

The DT list is short, but expect major action from Jerry Montgomery now that spring is over. Maybe OU really goes after Valentine now that Florida has lost DT coach Bryant Young. I kind of expect a JUCO DT name to surface soon.

Peyton Newell (6-3, 275, 4.7) – Like Solomon Thomas, another big body that could be a 3-4 DE or bulk up to be a 4-3 DT. He’s received his OU offer, and OU visit is very likely.

Khairi Clark (6-3, 310, 5.0) – The entire world is recruiting Clark. His film is elite – massive frame, explosive burst, playmaking ability on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Travonte Valentine (6-3, 285, 4.9) – Valentine has verbaled to Louisville and now Florida, but he has an OU offer as well.

Defensive End: 2

OU signed an excellent three-player DE class in 2013, but I’m guessing Montgomery still has the green light to add two top-flight DEs if he can find them. OU has offers out to national targets like DaShawn Hand, but I don’t see it going anywhere.

Solomon Thomas (6-3, 260, 4.8) – Probably the top overall DL prospect in Texas. Thomas could be a 3-4 DE or possibly grow into a DT. OU has offered, and he just visited for junior day. Very impressive film.

Josh Malin (6-5, 260, 4.75) – Probably the top big DE after Solomon Thomas. Like Thomas, Malin could grow into an athletic DT.

Sione Teuhema (6-5, 215, 4.6) – Recent OU offer, and he looks great at DE. Very physical with great speed and range. In addition, Tehauna’s younger brother (Maea 6-5, 330) is a top-rated OT for 2015.

Myles Garrett (6-4, 230, 4.7) – After Thomas, Garrett is getting a lot of attention as the next best DE.

Deondre Clark (6-4, 240, 4.8) – After Justice Hansen, Clark is probably the top prospect in OK. Unfortunately, he has a brother at OSU playing basketball and seems very interested in LSU. OU is recruiting him and has offered, but he seems focused elsewhere.

Andrew Williams (6-4, 245, 4.6) – Your usual elite SEC type DE prospect. Williams has made a real connection with Montgomery. OU looks likely to receive a visit.

Linebacker: At least 3

Last year it was DTs. This year’s desperate recruiting position that has the message boards worried a year before signing day is LB. Tim Kish has already been labeled by some as a disaster.

Right now, LB recruiting really needs to get going. Otaro Alaka was lost to Texas. I’d feel a lot better if James David or Akem were in the OU camp right now.

James David (6-3, 226, 4.6)  – Might be the best MLB in Texas. David tore his ACL last year, so there’s some question about when he will be back on the field. His junior year film is great. James is the younger brother of Derek David, whose career has been derailed by off-the-field legal issues.

Gyasi Akem (6-2, 215, 4.6) – Best-looking OLB prospect in state of OK. Very physical and excellent speed. Probably is leaning to OSU and will join his Broken Arrow teammate Devon Thomas.

Cameron Hampton (6-2, 210, 4.6) – Another great-looking OLB prospect.

Josh Mabin (6-2, 225) – With David hurt, Mabin might be the best MLB prospect in Texas. Very physical, does a great job in coverage and stopping the run with some power inside.

Niles Morgan (6-2, 215 4.5) – OU has already offered this speedy physical OLB. OU has a connection back to David Smith, so a visit is not out of the question. Has a lot of big-time offers.

Christian Sam (6-2, 205, 4.5) – Just visited for OU’s first junior day. No offer yet, but his film is excellent.

Clifton Garrett (6-2, 225, 4.6) – If Morgan is the speed LB from Illinois, then Garrett is the power LB. The entire Big Ten has offered him. OU has offered, and a visit would not be a surprise.

Dwight Williams (6-3, 215, 4.55) – Might be the best OLB in California. Shows excellent power, burst, and pursuit. Seems interested in his OU offer.

Tay Evans (6-3, 210, 4.55) – Teammate of Sam and son of former OU hoops player Bobby Joe Evans. Evans is recovering from an shoulder injury but on film with his frame might have a higher upside than Sam.

Defensive Back: 5-6

This might be the best and deepest talent pool of DBs from Texas in forever. There are legitimately 15 or 16 four-star-type DBs in the state. It’s going to be nearly impossible to really rank the guys – the talent level is that high. The top 50 in Texas could easily be populated with 20 DBs.

Still, despite the Texas talent, Mike Stoops' top three targets at DB are Parker, Quick and Whiley, so OU just really needs two or three more DBs from Texas.

Darrion Johnson (5-10, 185, 4.5) – OU offer. Visited for the junior day. Very physical CB with excellent cover and open-field tackling skills.

Arrion Spring (5-11, 190, 4.5) – OU offer. Visited for junior day. Safety prospect who is excellent in coverage and very physical in run support. Excellent tackler.

Edwin Freeman (6-2, 190, 4.5) – OU offer at safety. Huge frame with excellent speed and range.

Nick Watkins (6-1, 185, 4.5) – Best big CB in Texas? His offer list (OU included) sure lends credence to that statement.

Nick Harvey (5-11, 180, 4.5) – Might be the best CB in Texas. Verbaled to Texas A&M. OU will try to get him on campus for a junior day.

Tony Brown (6-1, 180, 4.5) – Okay, Brown might be the best DB in Texas. OU offer, but he is rumored to be a lean to LSU.

Steven Parker (6-2, 185, 4.5) – Best DB prospect in Oklahoma. Has an OU offer and was a star at the OU summer camp.

Michiah Quick (6-0, 175, 4.4) – Despite his HS having three big-time DBs just sign LOIs, Quick might be the best one overall. After signing Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, OU will be all over this California offer.

Jamal Adams (6-1, 190, 4.5) – Both OU and UT are after this big, talented safety. Might be the best safety in Texas.

John Bonney (6-0, 185, 4.5) – OU offer out of the Houston area. He has not visited yet for a junior day.

Tyler Whiley (6-1, 190, 4.5) – Big CB prospect that seems very interested in OU. Would be a huge pickup for Kish/Mike from their former recruiting territory.

Courtland Sutton (6-3, 200, 4.5) – Looks like he could be an elite center field free safety or bulk up to play OLB. His film is very good.

Podcast: OU spring football wrap-up with Jason Kersey

Spring football has wrapped up for Oklahoma following last weekend's Red-White Game. OU beat reporter Jason Kersey of NewsOK.com joins Homerism for a podcast to break down the annual spring game and talk about the news coming out of Norman.

Jason and I touch on:

*The leader in the quarterback derby.

*The influence of new members of the coaching staff on the team.

*The Sooners' stable of wide receivers.

*A surprising standout on the defensive side of the ball.

*Concerns about the defensive line.

*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Red-White Game review

By April, the lack of college football can turn a spring game into the ultimate fools’ gold for fans. When a program locks down for spring ball the way that Oklahoma does, the temptation to jump to grand conclusions based on the annual Red-White Game is strong.

Stars usually see little action and coaches typically keep the schemes pretty vanilla in the spring, which also add degrees of difficulty in assessing the scrimmage. All that said, Homerism bravely tried to cut through the clutter to give loyal readers a rundown of the key takeaways from our last look at the Sooners until the fall.

Note that given the unique nature of the situation, I focus my attention on individual players, as opposed to the squad in general.

Offense

*The race to replace Landry Jones has dominated the stories coming out of spring camp. With  practices closed off to any prying eyes, inquiring minds have had to rely on the coaching staff to handicap the contest. They’re not the most forthcoming bunch.

Well, if we’re going just off today’s action, we can call off the competition.

While Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight didn’t exactly disappoint, junior Blake Bell looked like the clear choice. Bell demonstrated superior command of the offense and played with the kind of poise you’d expect from a fourth-year player. Knight and Thompson made their fair share of plays with both their feet and their arms, but the O operated at its highest, most consistent level with Bell running the show.

At this point, I’d be very surprised if Bell isn’t taking the first snap this fall. (Doesn’t look like I’m alone on this.)

*I expect Thompson will be second-team and Knight third. Honestly, I didn’t see anything about of Knight or Thompson that would make me uncomfortable if they get pressed into service.

Thompson looked pretty dangerous tucking and running with the ball. If Josh Heupel is feeling frisky, Thompson could even get a few series each game as a change of pace.

Knight seemed to be pressing at times. He was a little on the frenetic side at the line of scrimmage when getting the offense set. I just can’t see the coaching staff feeling as comfortable with Knight behind the wheel as Thompson or Bell.

*The choppy broadcast made it difficult to get a great feel for the play of the offensive line. They generally protected well. The running game was going downhill and hitting some decent-sized holes.

Seeing the team in live action highlighted the lack of depth up front, though. Three of the five second-team linemen were walk-ons. Bill Bedenbaugh could find himself looking for someone who can play as a utility man in the fall.

*Jay Norvell’s cup runneth over with talented receivers. Even with All-American candidate Jalen Saunders spending most of the afternoon on the sidelines, this unit played like the strongest individual position group on the team. That shouldn’t be a surprise, I guess.

Sophomore Durron Neal and redshirt freshman Derrick Woods are going to press for snaps.

*Just like last spring, Trey Metoyer’s stat line (6 receptions, 122 yards) is eye-catching. Keep in mind that he did most of his damage this time working against a walk-on cornerback. The former five-star recruit still has plenty to prove.

*As Jon Gruden will tell you, OU hasn’t gotten much out of the tight end as of late. Taylor McNamara sure as hell looks the part. Here’s hoping he settles down.

*Roy Finch had the highlight of the day on his 50-yard catch and run. Once again, OU’s jitterbug back is creating buzz in the spring. We’ll see.

Defense

Hard to get a read on the defense when the schemes are as vanilla as what OU ran today.

*I never thought I’d say this, but Trey Franks’ play at safety (7 tackles, 2 passes broken up) stood out more than any other performance on the defensive side of the ball. He closes on the ball so quickly.

He could end up playing a role in the secondary this season, especially given Gabe Lynn’s uneven history.

*The Sooners stayed almost exclusively in a 4-2-5, mixing in the occasional three-man front on third down. The change definitely had Corey Nelson more engaged in the action – less thinking, more reacting.

*Big defensive tackle Jordan Phillips remains a work in progress, but he had a solid day. I also think Charles Tapper will turn into a terror when all is said and done. On the whole, the front four managed to generate decent pressure on the passer without the ability to blitz.

*Mike Stoops’ postgame comments about competing in the Big 12 said it all about the kind of players OU is recruiting defensively. Even so, the lack of size across the board still gets me. Chuka Ndulue, for instance, needs to pack on some major pounds if he’s going to be a full-time defensive tackle.

*A quick special teams note: The punting game looks incredibly shaky.

So, Bob Stoops is in favor of stipends

Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops' comments to Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com in a column earlier this week touched off a big of firestorm about compensation for college athletes. One thing I happened to notice from the jump: For all the bluster from Stoops about athletes going hungry and and the value of a college scholarship, Stoops never said he's against full-cost-of-attendance scholarships.

Full-cost-of-attendance scholarships include stipends to make up the shortfall between what is covered by an athletic scholarship and the full cost of living for a college student. A proposal to offer athletes a stipend of up to $2,000 per year to cover their living expenses is stuck somewhere in the NCAA legislative morass at the moment. (I did a podcast with NCAA expert John Infante on the subject this week.)

Columnist Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman followed up with Stoops yesterday, and OU's coach said he is in favor of stipends. As Tramel points out, that doesn't mean he's backing of his "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" message. However, the positions aren't exclusive.

Personally, I'm not going to defend Stoops' overall attitude towards athletes' compensation. I don't agree with him in the least there.

On the other hand, stipends and more expansive pay-for-play suggestions tend to get conflated in this debate, and there's an important distinction to be made between the two. Stoops' attitude about paying players above and beyond their scholarships deserves scrutiny, but the villification of Stoops as a greedy bastard who's even against modest stipends is misplaced.

Bob Stoops: Not a fan of pay-for-play

Bob Stoops

So, apparently, Bob Stoops has an opinion about the pay-for-play proposals for college athletes. OK, a strong opinion.

In an interview with Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com, Stoops dismissed the suggestion of stipends for athletes. He did it in his typically blunt fashion, which naturally caught the attention of the national media.

A guy who makes $5 million a year comes out against paying players what looks like peanuts? “You’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”

That’s chum in the water for righteously indignant opinionators like me who believe Stoops couldn’t be more wrong on this issue.

Just because I’m an OU fan doesn’t mean I’m going to ride with the Sooners’ head coach on this. I’m also not going to get into yet another debate about the pay-for-play issue.

But here’s the thing about the message...

Stoops didn’t do himself any favors by making these statements. Yeah, he might have the public’s opinion on his side. Even so, you can be damn sure that this is going to hurt him on the recruiting trail. After all, coaches like Brian Kelly and Nick Saban have paid lip service to paying stipends in the past. The Ol’ Ball Coach even suggested taking it out of coaches’ salaries.

So, who comes off looking like the asshole?

Yet, a coach saying players should be paid and a coach doing something about it are two entirely different things. I don’t see Saban organizing marches on the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to get full-cost scholarships for players.

If you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of recruits, you have nothing to lose with a tepid endorsement of a stipend that you know will never come to fruition. Meanwhile, you’re pulling down nine figures and telling your players, “I really wish we could pay you, but the NCAA won’t let us.”

I might disagree with Stoops’ justification for not paying players, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. He’s just talking it like he and his colleagues are walking it.

Sooners need some exposure

Bob Stoops

Way back in 2007, Oklahoma hosted Missouri in a battle for Big 12 supremacy so big that ESPN GameDay made its way to Norman for the game. Actually, that has been pretty commonplace at OU since Chris, Lee and Kirk started blazing a trail around the United States chasing the best matchups college football has to offer. I remember essentially nothing from the broadcast, expect for one thing.

The GameDay crew brought Bob Stoops out for an interview that morning. The producers decided to tease the spot going into commercial by panning down a row of cheerleaders and ending with Stoops.

Man, I wish I had the video of that for this article. When all was said and done, Stoops was standing there looking like he had fire ants in his jockstrap.

I think of that scene every time the subject of the Sooners’ public relations come up. Take Monday’s screed ($) from SoonerScoop.com head honcho Carey Murdock, who it seems to me gets how Stoops ticks better than anyone out there.

Murdock notes that in an offseason in which OU’s head coach has taken great pains to address some festering issues in his program, he still has yet to acknowledge arguably the biggest: access.

Stoops clearly disdains the ancillary parts of being a head coach. I’m sure he’s not alone among his peers in that regard, but he does little to hide his very public antipathy towards his non-football duties. Hell, after 14 years in the same spot, why bother? He’s not fooling anyone.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Stoops seemingly takes every opportunity he can to draw the shades around the program. Aside from limiting his own press availability, he has shut out the public and the media from practices and scrimmages. (He even stopped taking live calls from fans on his weekly show during the fall, opting instead for sanitized e-mails from viewers.)

Now, when it comes to watching actual football being played, fans get the spring game, 12 Saturdays in the fall, a bowl game (hopefully) and that’s it.

I don’t need a lecture on why Stoops does it. Keeping practices closed theoretically eliminates distractions. And why let the enemy know what you’re up to? Legend has it that TCU sent scouts to OU practices in 2005 and used the intelligence to engineer a stunning upset of the Sooners to start that season.

And plenty of coaches around the country have similar policies in place. Even Mack Brown, Texas' chief executive gladhander, has taken to the airwaves to bemoan his program's exposure.

Yet, Murdock contends – correctly – that walling off the program during the spring is hurting OU’s recruiting efforts. He notes that Texas A&M, for example, took the opportunity to turn a Friday night scrimmage into an event for fans and recruits, complete with a DJ spinning records. Stoops would just as soon lose a limb as pull that kind of stunt.

So yes, more access for fans during the spring would be nice. But even that’s not enough.

The reality is that OU football doesn’t have the same spark that it once did, not just on the recruiting trail, but in the minds of fans, too. It doesn't have to be that way.

The Sooners don't need to manufacture enthusiasm with gimmicks. They've already got a passionate fan base dying to boost the energy around the squad. More access to practices and scrimmages is an ideal way to harness that enthusiasm.

For the first time in six years, OU has an opening at the quarterback position. The Sooners have three new energetic coaches on the staff with new ideas and techniques to teach their players. There’s an overwhelming abundance of flash at the skill positions.

In short, fans should have no shortage of reasons to be buzzing about the program. They should be turning out in droves Saturday afternoon for the Red-White Game to see who among the newcomers rises to the occasion in front of a packed house. But don’t count on it. I also wouldn’t count on as many people climbing out of bed in the fall for an 11 a.m. kickoff against Iowa State or hanging in at Owen Field through a blowout, either.

When you don’t make much of an effort to let the fans get to know you, you can’t expect them to make as much of an effort to care.

Offseason Intelligence: West Virginia Mountaineers

Dana Holgorsen

West Virginia's first season in the Big 12 started hot and fizzled fast. The Mountaineers began 2012 with five straight wins, but they finished 2-6 down the stretch, including a humiliating 38-14 loss to former Big East conference mate Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Dana Holgorsen brings a 17-9 overall record into his third season as West Virginia's head coach.

Offense

The Mountaineers will be without one of their leaders—quarterback Geno Smith, who has graduated. They also will need to find replacements for their two all-conference receivers—Stedman Bailey (who skipped his senior year for the NFL) and Tavon Austin. Sooner fans should be glad to see these guys gone. Austin rushed for a record 344 yards and scored twice in a 50-49 loss to the Sooners in 2012. Smith completed 20 of 35 of his passes for 320 yards and 4 TDs. Bailey caught 13 of those tosses for 205 yards and all 4 TDs. J.D. Woods, another receiver, also had graduated, so the Mountaineers will be looking to replenish the receiving corps.

WVU will need to replace the interior of its o-line with only the tackles returning. However, the running game appears to be solid with the return of junior Andrew Buie (5-9, 188), who rushed for 851 yards and 7 TDs. Junior Dustin Garrison (5-8, 182) should see action as Buie’s backup. He rushed fro 207 yards and 2 TDs in 2012.

West Virginia – 2012 Statistics

Offense (Nat'. Rank)   Defense (Nat'l. Rank)
39.5 (9) Scoring (PPG) 38.1 (114)
171.8 (52) Rushing (YPG) 159.9 (60)
330.1 (10) Passing (YPG) 312.5 (118)
502.0 (10) Total (YPG) 472.5 (108)

Defense

The Mountain men return seven on a defense that employs a 3-4 alignment. Tackle Shaq Rowell (6-4, 208, Sr.) and end Will Clarke (6-7, 271, Sr.) come back to the front line. Rowell had 42 tackles last year with two for losses and a quarterback hurry. Clarke had 26 stops, 6.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage, including 1.5 sacks and 4 QB hurries.

One half of the linebacking corps returns in ’13: senior Doug Rigg (6-1, 241) and sophomore Isaiah Bruce (6-1, 225). Bruce was second on the team last year with 94 tackles. He also had 6.5 tackles for loss, picked off two passes and recovered two fumbles. Rigg had 58 tackles, 2.5 for losses, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Three-fourths of the WVU secondary will return this year. Karl Joseph (5-10, 197) led the team with 104 tackles as a freshman last year. He also had 7.5 tackles for loss, picked off a couple of passes and broke up six more. Joseph also forced three fumbles and recovered one. Safety Darwin Cook (5-11, 201, Sr.) and cornerback Brodrick Jenkins (5-10, 172, Soph.) combined for 108 tackles, 2 interceptions and 7 passes broken up.

The special teams could be hurting in 2012 with none of the incumbent kickers or return specialists back in 2013.

Previous: Louisiana-Monroe

Podcast: Texas spring football

The Texas Longhorns wrapped up the spring football season over Easter weekend with their annual Orange-White Game (brough to you by Dunkin' Donuts). Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation joins BH for a podcast to discuss all the latest happenings on the 40 Acres.

Wescott and I cover:

*Mack Brown's future.

*Changes to Texas' recruiting philosophy.

*The Longhorns' new-look offense.

*The debut of Tyrone Swoopes.

*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Chuck Fairbanks left a complicated legacy

Chuck Fairbanks

When Chuck Fairbanks left the University of Oklahoma after five years as head football coach to take the New England Patriots coaching job, he made enemies of those who wore crimson and cream. Fairbanks not only left a good football program, he left it in a shambles.

Fairbanks died Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Brain cancer took him out at the age of 79. I would imagine not too many tears will be shed by fans who remember he “got out of Dodge” before the Sooners would be leveled with two years’ probation. Their beloved Sooners would not be allowed on television for two years and were not rewarded with a bowl game for two years. Fairbanks’ assistant Bill Michaels had altered transcripts of two high school players from Galveston—quarterback Kerry Jackson and lineman Mike Phillips—to make them eligible for college scholarships. Fairbanks knew what was coming down the pike in the aftermath and cut out for New England. Many believe Fairbanks knew of the transgressions and split, but that will never be proven.

His resignation was a blessing for Sooner fans in the long run because the university hired Barry Switzer to replace Fairbanks. Switzer turned out to be one of the best coaches college football has ever seen.

Fairbanks, tall and handsome like Wilkinson but not as personable as Switzer, was assistant head coach at OU when Jim Mackenzie died in the spring of 1967 after just one year as the Sooners’ football skipper. Fairbanks led Oklahoma to a 10-1 record, the first Big Eight Conference championship in five years and a No. 3 ranking his first year. OU struggled the next three years going 19-12-1. The Sooners tied Kansas for the Big Eight title in 1968, but Oklahoma finished fourth and second the next two years.

In 1970 fans were bringing signs of “Chuck Chuck” to games. The Sooners began the 1970 season at 2-0, but were humiliated at home with a 23-14 loss to Oregon State. The Sooners were running a sloppy pro-style offense after experimenting with the Veer-T.

“I am embarrassed by the ineptness of our offensive team,” Fairbanks said. “This is by far the poorest performance I’ve seen them make.

“I’m not sure why, but rest assured I’m doing everything I can to find out why. Maybe it’s our coaching philosophy. Maybe we don’t have the right players at the right positions. We’ll have to try and find out.”

OU had a week off before heading to Dallas to play Texas, 3-0, and defending national champs. The Longhorns were beating up opponents with a triple-option weapon named the Wishbone. Switzer noticed and tried to convince Fairbanks to switch to the new scheme.

Fairbanks had called his former head coach at Michigan State, Duffy Daugherty, to ask his opinion of the possible switch. His former coach told him that whatever he (Fairbanks) decided, he must not go back to the old style.

The Sooners had more than a week to work on the Wishbone. They debuted the formation against the Longhorns. Texas, though, showed them how it was done, blowing out OU, 41-9. After experimenting with it the rest of the season, Oklahoma had another year to perfect the Wishbone.

And did they ever. The Sooners set all kinds of rushing records that still hold today. OU went 11-1 that year and lost a heartbreaker to Nebraska in the "Game of the Century." The Sooners finished second behind the Huskers that year. Fairbanks’s team went 11-1 in 1972, his last year. But, part of the NCAA’s probation was that the Sooners had to forfeit games in which Jackson had participated. Instead of 11-1, the NCAA changed the record to 8-4; 3-4 in the Big Eight. The Sooners had to surrender the conference championship.

Fairbanks then bolted for Foxboro, Mass., and served five years as the Patriots coach, going 86-49. He was named Coach of the Year in 1976 by leading the Pats to an 11-3 record and the AFC East title, but they lost the first playoff game. Two years later, he again led the Patriots to the AFC East title with an 11-5 record.

One day after the regular season had ended, Fairbanks accepted a job to coach at the University of Colorado. He wanted to coach New England in the layoffs, but owner Billy Sullivan suspended Fairbanks without pay for not honoring his contract. The Pats lost in the first round again. So, Fairbanks didn’t endear himself to fans in New England, either.

Fairbanks' salary at Colorado was just $45,000 a year, but a local oilman and booster gave him a large piece of real estate near a golf resort. Fairbanks also made additional income from radio and television deals. His three-year career in Boulder was a disaster, going 3-8, 1-10 and 3-8, plus the Buffaloes didn’t beat OU.

When he left, Fairbanks bankrupted the Colorado athletic budget. He resigned in June 1982 to take the head-coaching job for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. Fairbanks found himself embroiled in controversy there, too. He violated an unwritten NCAA rule to sign Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who still had one year of eligibility at the University of Georgia. The Generals finished 6-12 in 1983, the new league’s inaugural season. Chuck was fired after one year at the helm.

Chuck spent the last 30 years working in real estate and golf course development. He occasionally worked as a consultant with the Dallas Cowboys the past few years.

Oklahoma Sooners: 2012 NFL Draft recap

Ryan Broyles
The Oklahoma Sooners had a strong showing in the 2012 NFL Draft, with a total of seven players selected. Here's a rundown of where OU alums are headed and what kind of situation they are walking into.

*Ryan Broyles, WR (2nd Round, Detroit Lions)

Despite suffering a season-ending late in his senior year, Broyles arguably went higher than a number of draftniks expected. Broyles will almost certainly play as a slot receiver in Detroit and should end up competing for time right away. The Lions already have the best receiver in football, Calvin Johnson, playing on the outside. Broyles should complement Megatron and Titus Young nicely and eventually give Matthew Stafford a reliable target to help keep defenses honest.

*Donald Stephenson, WR (3rd Round, Kansas City Chiefs)

Stephenson tested this spring far better than he ever played at Oklahoma. Maybe a Missouri homecoming is what he needs. He should receive a hospitable welcome by Chiefs, who are woefully thin at offensive tackle. Don't be shocked if you see Stephenson starting at right tackle on opening day in K.C.

*Jamell Fleming, CB (3rd Round, Arizona Cardinals)

The Cardinals pass defense didn't exactly suck in 2011, ranking 17th in the league. However, with the Arizona brass looking to counteract the move to more wide-open offense, the Fleming pick makes more sense. Look for Fleming to contribute right away as a nickel corner. Eventually, he could make up half of a talented cornerback tandem alongside Patrick Peterson.

Alexander-Lewis-RRS2011*Frank Alexander, DE (4th Round, Carolina Panthers)

Big Duke Robinson's washout apparently didn't scare Carolina off of Sooners. Alexander's all-around game at defensive end should add some depth for a D that finished 28th overall in 2011.

*Ronnell Lewis, OLB (4th Round, Detroit Lions)

The Hammer is a man without a position, but it looks like his freakish athleticism was too much for the Lions to pass up. Althought he frequently played with his hand on the ground in college, he doesn't have the size to play defensive end in the pros. Lewis could make for a terror coming off of the edge as a pass-rushing linebacker. He's also a monster on special teams, so he'll likely find a home in Motown.

*James Hanna, TE (6th Round, Dallas Cowboys)

It's Hanna time in Big D. Jason Witten isn't getting any younger, and Martellus Bennett wasn't the answer. Hanna offers wide receiver speed in a tight end's body. He also blocks like a wide receiver. If Jerry Jones' plan is to transition to full-time spread along the lines of the Saints, Hanna has a chance to build a future in Dallas as a split tight end.

*Travis Lewis, OLB (7th Round, Detroit Lions)

The third Sooner bound for Hockeytown, Lewis' stay could be the shortest of OU's three players drafted by the Lions. An injury-filled fourth year sent the boisterous linebacker's stock plummeting. The Lions already have a ton of bodies competing for jobs at LB, but Lewis was probably worth a flyer late. If Lewis doesn't catch on in Detroit, someone will give him a shot. Unfortunately, his small build and struggles fending off blockers likely limit his ceiling on the next level.

Podcast: Sooners in the draft

The 2012 NFL Draft is set to kick off Thursday night, and a slew of Oklahoma Sooners are hoping to hear their names called at some point over the weekend. Daniel Mogollon of NFL Draft Bible and AllMediaNY.com checks in for a podcast to break down their prospects.

Dan and I discuss the outlook for Ronnell Lewis, Ryan Broyles, Frank Alexander, Donald Stephenson, James Hanna, Jamell Fleming and Travis Lewis.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Podcast: Wrapping Up Oklahoma Spring Football With Jake Trotter

With spring practices in the books, the true offseason has set in for the Oklahoma Sooners. Jake Trotter ESPN's SoonerNation joins Homerism for a podcast to break down the biggest stories of the spring and look ahead to the fall.

Jake and I discuss:

  • The impact of the return of Mike Stoops.
  • How the secondary will shake out.
  • R.J. Washington's breakout potential.
  • Landry Jones' mindset heading into his final season.
  • Kenny Stills' inconsistency.
  • An improved offensive line.
  • And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Numbers never lie? They do about Big 12 QBs

Robert Griffin III
While the Big 12 has gained a reputation as the conference where it's almost impossible for quarterbacks not to thrive, the league's hit rate on producing star signal callers in the NFL leaves a lot to be desired. Undeterred, NFL general managers and draftniks have pegged Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill as three of the top QB prospects in this year's draft, with RG3 and Tannehill likely to be selected within the first 10 picks.

The questionable history of the league's quarterbacks on the pro level is pretty much indisputable. Why, on the other hand, presents a far more nebulous problem.

Last week, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead raised the issue of the dearth of Big 12 QBs in the pro ranks, suggesting that teams think long and hard about using a high pick on one in this year's draft. McIntyre doesn't really offer an explicit argument as to the "why" part of the story, but his note at the article's conclusion indicates that he views Big 12 QBs as products of a league in which wide-open offenses run roughshod over tissue paper defenses.

Looking at this year's crop of Big 12 QBs, McIntyre points out that no team from the conference finished in the top 30 in the country in scoring defense in 2011. Ergo, Big 12 Ds blow. Plenty of salient examples stick out from a year ago, too – Baylor allowing 56 to Washington in the Alamo Bowl, Georgia Tech putting up almost 70 on Kansas, etc.

It's not exactly a new theory, and it's still deeply flawed.

As Paul Myerberg at Pre-Snap Read notes, McIntyre's conclusion rests on the idea that raw statistics, such as scoring and passing yards allowed, provide an appropriate measure of quality in college football. However, unlike the NFL, where there is far greater parity across the league, teams on the collegiate level vary significantly in talent, coaching and even style of play. A team that faces an abundance of poor offenses – or even just conservative ones – could have far gaudier statistics than a superior defense that has better opponents on the schedule. In the end, that makes achieving a true apples-to-apples comparison between two teams difficult, especially when they lack common opponents.

(And if you're looking for a raw stat that best sums up the quality of pass defenses in college football, it would be passer rating. Three Big 12 squads ranked in the top 30 nationally there.)

Our friends Bill Connelly and Brian Fremeau have attempted to put everyone on a more even statistical playing field. According to their F+ statistics, which try to account for all of the contextual factors so sorely lacking in the basic data, four of the top 30 overall defenses in the country in 2011 called the Big 12 home: Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Not coincidentally, those same four also rank among the best passing defenses as measured by Connelly's S&P system.

However, using the raw stats, let's examine how Big 12 defenses held up against teams outside the league. It stands to reason that if they're that bad, teams from outside the conference should have a field day moving the ball against them, right? For expediency's sake, I limited this to the 17 games played between the Big 12 and other teams from BCS leagues. (All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.)

b12-1
Definitely didn't play out the way you'd expect. In 11 of the 17 matchups, the opponents averaged fewer yards per play than their season averages. In 12 of 17 games, they scored fewer points than their season averages. Although it's not reflected in the chart above, in nine of 17 games, they averaged fewer yards per completion than they did for the season and had a worse passer rating than their season average.

What does all of this mean?

Who's really to say? We're talking about the dark arts of drafting a quarterback. There are no hard-and-fast rules.

But if you're writing off Big 12 quarterbacks because you think the defenses don't rate, the evidence doesn't seem to track.

(For the record: I really like RG3, I like Weeden and I just don't see what all the fuss is about with Tannehill.)

Trey Metoyer stands out in Sooners spring game

Trey Metoyer
I didn't attend Oklahoma's Red-White Game on Saturday, but in the aftermath, one name keeps ringing out – the same one OU fans have heard all spring.

Trey Metoyer.

It was the public's first opportunity to get a glimpse of the touted freshman receiver. By all accounts*, Metoyer dazzled in the intrasquad game. His 6 receptions and 72 receiving yards led the day's action, and it sounds like he was easily the most consistent among the wideouts.

(*I didn't attend the game and have seen nothing from it outside of the highlights on SoonerSports.com. Honestly, I wouldn't overreact too much to anything that happened. Spring games aren't really set up to show much.)

Metoyer sounds like he was worth the wait after spending the fall getting his school work in order. It's not a stretch to say he's the best receiver on the team already.

Some other thoughts based on based on what I've heard:

*Warnings of nasty weather apparently put a damper on things. A number of recruits scheduled to visit Norman for the game couldn't make it in, a tough break on what was shaping up to be a huge recruiting weekend for the Sooners. Not often you get the best running back in the NFL at your spring game.

It wasn't a total loss, however, as OU locked up a commitment from the top prospect in Oklahoma, defensive end D.J. Ward out of Lawton.

*Glass half-full: No turnovers committed by the offense. Glass half-empty: No turnovers forced by the defense. (The yin and yang of a scrimmage.)

*The members of Sooner Nation interviewed by Jenni Carlson for her column Friday on some fans' disappointment with the return of Landry Jones may point to today's action as proof that the offense would have been in good hands.

Top back-ups Blake Bell (14-of-19, 179 yards) and Drew Allen (10-of-18, 72 yards) both put together solid performances and avoided any glaring mistakes. Bell's numbers look especially nice, and he had one of the standout plays of the day on a 60-yard touchdown bomb to Jaz Reynolds.

Yet, even though these guys were going against vanilla defensive looks all day, Allen clearly had issues generating much down the field. He averaged just 4 yards per pass attempt. Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com ($) also mentioned that Bell was fortunate on multiple occasions not to have passes intercepted following poor decisions. (Bell is weighing in at 265, according to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter. Whoa...)

Redshirt freshman Kendal Thompson (7-of-9, 42 yards) did make the most of the opportunity to show his skills. Much like his dad, Thompson looks so smooth with the ball in his hands. He got a chance to showcase his wheels, too, and didn't disappoint with arguably the best run of the day. Here's hoping Josh Heupel figures out a way to get him involved in the offense this season.

*Glass half-full: The offensive line apparently protected the quarterbacks well. Glass half-empty: The defense failed to generate a consisten pass rush.

In fairness to the defense, a number of key contributors on the D-line were missing in action, including starting DE R.J. Washington and defensive tackles Casey Walker and Stacy McGee. On the plus side, monstrous DT Jordan Phillips got an opportunity to show out. The redshirt freshman has all but assured himself of a spot in the D-line rotation in the fall.

*A year ago, the coaches were singing the praises of Corey Nelson. Although he led the team in tackles today, it doesn't sound like the junior linebacker has had an entirely smooth transition under the new defensive regime.

Joe Ibiloye, on the other hand, seems to have made an impression.

*Doesn't sound like the running game made much of an impression on anyone. From the stats, Brennan Clay apparently had a decent day.

What to Watch: Oklahoma spring football game

Bob Stoops
Spring football, Sooner fans hardly knew ye.

As has become custom in Norman, Bob Stoops has sealed up Oklahoma's practices tight as a drum, leaving diehards in the dark as to how the squad is progressing. Namely, everyone wants to know how the D looks in folk hero Mike Stoops' second run as coordinator.

Saturday's Red-White Game, the final scrimmage of the spring, is supposed to be the fans' chance to get a peek at a team that they're hoping has been re-energized after falling flat in a disappointing 2011 season. However, a nasty forecast for Saturday means they might not even get that opportunity.

If the Sooners do take the field this weekend, don't let your eyes deceive you. Spring games, especially OU's, are built to be more vanilla than a tub of Greek yogurt. Bob won't show anything people haven't seen before, and the main objective will just be making it through the day without any injuries.

My advice: Key in on a few particular players or positions. Assuming the intrasquad game does go down, here's what I'd be watching:

*The rotation at offensive tackle

While no one will mistake this edition of OU's offensive line for the Hogs, the Sooners do return plenty of experienced contributors. It should make for some nice chemistry within the unit.

The one spot that could cause some headaches is left tackle. Senior Lane Johnson had his up and downs last season as the starter on the right side. Now, he's charged with protecting quarterback Landry Jones' blind side following Donald Stephenson's graduation.

Word is that Tyrus Thompson could be pushing Johnson for playing time, however. Also, Daryl Williams, the presumptive starter at right tackle, has long been considered a star in the making and may eventually end up on the left, anyway.

How James Patton rotates those three might offer some clues about what the line will look like in the fall.

*Mixing and matching the defensive backs

No one part of the team took more lumps last season than the secondary. Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez was sent packing, and Mike now has responsibility for the unit.

Tony Jefferson
Mike is promising simplified coverage schemes on the back end, but getting the right people on the field to match his system is paramount. With surefire starter Aaron Colvin on the mend, it's difficult to say who will end up where. However, Tony Jefferson has locked down free safety, and Demontre Hurst has one corner spot sewn up, so watch who's rotating in at the other spots.

*Defensive personnel groupings

Pay attention to who's on the field when. Mike is more likely to sub in to fit the opposing offense's personnel than Venables was.

The number of tight ends on the other side of the field probably will dictate who's in the game and who isn't. Watch how personnel adjusts to those substitutions.

Blake Bell*The back-up quarterback race

The old adage says the second-string quarterback is the most popular guy on a football team. Sophomore QB Blake Bell did his best last season to prove the saying correct, sparking the offense from the Belldozer formation in short-yardage situations.

While he may be popular with the fans, Bell is still battling with junior Drew Allen for the second line on the depth chart behind Landry Jones. Supposedly, Bell is showing signs of greater comfortability running OU's standard offense. Keep an eye on which of the two signal callers demonstrates greater command of the O.

*What's Jaydan Bird's role?

Mike tends to prefer bigger, more traditional middle linebackers to man the MIKE position. Bird definitely fits the bill.

Tom Wort started under Venables the last two season, and that seems unlikely to change in the fall. However, reports are that Bird has shown out this spring. He certainly looked the part in the limited footage released from the Sooners' scrimmages.

How will OU work Bird into the mix? Will they even try?

*Metoyer mania

As I've mentioned previously, no one guy is going to match what ultra-productive wide receiver Ryan Broyles brought to OU's offense. That said, Metoyer's name has been ringing out all spring.

The five-star recruit from Texas by way of prep school should pose a major threat to defenses with his ability to stretch the field and use his stellar body control to win battles for balls in the air. Watch how often Metoyer is running with the first team for an indication of how game-ready he is at this point.

Observations from Oklahoma Sooners' scrimmage highlights

In his quest to make Oklahoma football even less fan-friendly, the Sooners have been going through a spring practice blackout again this year, per dictum of coach Bob Stoops. Stoops did pass out a few scraps to hungry fans this weekend via some video highlights of Saturday's scrimmage at Owen Field – about 10 minutes worth, to be exact.

Honestly, you can't tell that much from the tape, which is shot from behind the backfield at such a tight angle that you're only seeing half the play most of the time. However, seeing as we have to take what we can get, I went through the footage and took a few notes.

So take all of these observations and impressions with some huge salt grains and the understanding that they are based on about 10 minutes of amateur clips from inside OU's shop.

*Three players pretty clearly stood out above everyone else:

  • Sophomore quarterback Blake Bell looked outstanding. Fans haven't really had a chance to see much of Bell running OU's true offense, but he certainly stood out in this case. Bell definitely carries himself with a preternatural sense of confidence and composure. His ability to make plays scrambling is something the Sooners haven't had under center in forever, and he showed some nice touch and accuracy throwing the ball. Hopefully, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will find a way to work Bell into the offense outside of the Belldozer package. If that is what the coaching staff is witnessing every day, I have no doubt Bell will be the Sooners' No. 2 QB come the fall and the starter of the future.
  • Kenny Stills was playing possessed. After struggling through an injury-filled 2011 season, plenty of Sooner fans seemingly have some doubts as to whether he'll fulfill the potential he displayed as a freshman. He absolutely looked to be on the right track in that footage. He snagged anything in his vicinity.
  • Defensively, linebacker Jaydan Bird made the biggest impression on me. He displayed good recognition and tenacity in pursuit of ballcarriers. Given that Tom Wort is a two-year starter, most have already penciled him in at the MIKE position. With defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and linebackers coach Tim Kish taking a fresh look at the D, maybe Bird will get the opportunity to work his way onto the field. He definitely looks like a potentially superb run-stopper.

*Didn't see much from the running game. Fullback Trey Millard actually seemed to run the hardest of anyone who carried the ball. Brennan Clay didn't really get that many reps, and most of what involved Roy Finch happened in the passing game.

Dimunitive Danzel Williams is intriguing, but he's pretty much Finch 2.0. He did have an awfully strong run out of a stretch call to the left side on Video 3 in which he squirted through a hole created by a nice seal block from Tyrus Thompson.

*Speaking of Thompson, I actually thought he came off best among the offensive tackles. Massive Derek Farniok still has plenty of learning left to do, as witnessed by the his failure to pick up a blitzing Corey Nelson coming off the edge near the end of Video 2. Dylan Dismuke looked like a major work in progress, too.

Still have concerns about the offensive line.

*From what I saw, third-year sophomore Chuka Ndulue is coming on at defensive end – great athleticism and displayed some nice hustle in backside pursuit. First-string senior David King was pretty disruptive, too.

*Clearly, the highlight play of the day was Trey Metoyer's one-handed grab on a fade route from Landry Jones down the left sideline that he took to the house (Video 3). Metoyer didn't get many looks otherwise, but that was sensational. He did demonstrate some decent downfield blocking in a couple instances.

Count on him as a starter from the jump.

*Quentin Hayes made a fair number of solid plays on defense, including a couple nice stops in the backfield. I haven't heard much about Hayes this spring, but he has decent striking ability and could find himself in the mix as a nickelback or back-up corner.

2011 Big 12 Barnstorming Tour: Welcome to the Little Apple

Blatant Homerism's 2011 Big 12 Barnstorming Tour rolls into Manhattan, Kan. BracketCat of Bring on the Cats talks with Homerism about spring practices for the Kansas State Wildcats and what to expect heading into the upcoming season.

BC and I discuss:

  • Bill Snyder's second stint in purple and the potential candidates to replace the legendary coach;
  • K-State's quarterback competition;
  • the arrival of hyped – and controversial – running back prospect Bryce Brown;
  • Brown's brother Arthur's impact on the defense at linebacker; and
  • what the Wildcats are doing to shore up the rushing defense and pass rush.

Previously: Iowa State.

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