Don’t start going overboard or anything, but I took away plenty of good from Oklahoma’s spring game on Saturday. Equally important, I didn’t see much bad.
I’ll put together a more extensive breakdown of the game later for kicks. For now, some preliminary impressions:
*Given the lack of depth behind Baker Mayfield, I really wanted to see what Austin Kendall could do. The true freshman quarterback showed promise.
Sure, the stats weren’t great: 8-of-17 passing for 52 yards and 6 rushes for 9 yards. Watching him play told a different story.
Kendall looked comfortable piloting the offense. His throws were accurate and included arguably the best of the day, a 35-yardish strike made on the run that Dahu Green couldn’t secure in the end zone. (That also demonstrated a level of arm strength that I wasn’t sure he had.) He didn’t turn it over. Kendall also moved well inside and outside the pocket.
Obviously, it’s tough to feel confident in a rookie sitting at No. 2 on the QB depth chart. Saturday should slightly assuage those concerns.
*Even though Kyler Murray had better numbers than Kendall, he looked a little more ragged.
Murray was every bit as dynamic as advertised running with the ball. He definitely has a strong enough arm. His height will pose a problem in the pocket, though, and I thought his touch and ball placement were a little lacking. He also held onto the ball too long on multiple occasions.
Murray is such a different kind of quarterback from Kendall and 2017 commit Chris Robison that it should make next year’s QB derby fascinating.
*Bob Stoops noted after the game that he feels better about the state of the receiving corps now than he did at the same time a year ago. Without a Sterling Shepard on the roster, I’d take exception to that. If he’s talking about the lineup from top to bottom, I could see what he means on Saturday. The receivers made catches in traffic, and I can’t recall any particularly egregious drops.
Of the up-and-comers, A.D. Miller looked awfully smooth. Michiah Quick’s catch-and-run was the kind of thing of thing that we haven’t seen enough of when the bullets are alive.
My only complaint would be that I hoped to see more of Geno Lewis. No problem with what he did when he was targeted, though.
*Another spring game, another case of Daniel Brooks wetting fans’ whistles. He has to own some kind of Red-White Game career record for offense. To be fair, if he’s your third or fourth option, you’ve got a solid group of running backs.
Speaking of which, Rodney Anderson ran really hard.
*All in all, I thought the offensive line was solid. They definitely opened holes in the running game. Facing a vanilla scheme with limited blitzing, it was more difficult to get a feel for what was happening in pass protection.
In terms of individuals, I liked what I saw out of newcomer Ben Powers. He moved particularly well when pulling on run plays.
*I didn’t pay as much attention to the defensive side of the ball – not a ton to see when they’re not tackling.
My main takeaway was that if Saturday was any indication, OU will run nickel as its base defense to start the year with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo playing JACK linebacker and Will Johnson at nickelback. I don’t think there’s a linebacker on the roster at the moment who can handle the SAM linebacker position in a 3-4. That’s the spot where Caleb Kelly can help right away.
*P.J. Mbanasor appears to be progressing well at corner. He was all up in Green’s business on that incompletion in the end zone from Kendall.
*Man, Dakota Austin is tiny. I realize that’s not breaking news, but it still jumps out at me every time he’s on the field.
If he does win the job at field corner, how long can he hold up?
*Not the best day for the second-string secondary. Some notable blown assignments.
Not exactly surprising with all the youngsters out there.
*Marquise Overton looked like a force in the middle of the line. I don’t know if Matt Romar and Jordan Wade can hold him off once fall camp starts. That’s one of those good problems.