No. 5/6 Oklahoma is a stunning 30-point favorite over UCLA in Saturday’s noon kickoff on Owen Field. Several thoughts after watching the openers for both teams twice more this week.
*Receiver Charleston Rambo debuts Saturday – much-anticipated by some …the 6-2 four-star from Cedar Hill, TX.
*OU receiver Lee Morris is a remarkably skilled player – especially coming a walk-on (given skolly Monday by Lincoln Riley after monster opener). Multiple players raved about him – calling him ‘Beastley’ because of impressions he’s made lifting weights. We’re told he’s ‘6-2, a 4.4 forty guy & has a 40-inch vertical.’ The other walk on I can think of who could match up with Morris’ numbers and athleticism is Mark Bradley – son of former OU QB Danny Bradley … & an NFL draft pick.
*The stunning loss of Addison Gumbs for the season to a non-contact knee injury was awful for the player and defense. Worse, for unspecified reasons – possibly long distance travel issues from California …apparently related to his father’s wishes – Gumbs went from saying he looked forward to returning, to announcing he was leaving OU. The JACK outside linebacker position was strong coming into the season – high hopes for Gumbs, who’d beefed up to 245 lbs .. and elite prospect/signee Jalen Redmond, who was sidelined for the season in the offseason with a blood clot. Redman has big-time upside, but not in 2018. Mike Stoops could decide to continue to play Mark Jackson on a regular basis. Another option could be to move Caleb Kelly back outside – Curtis Bolton edged Kelly for the start inside at WILL in week one and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. But I’m told at least one coach believes inside backer depth is too thin to move Kelly out. There is some suggesting to an even front in which Game 1 defensive hero Ronnie Perkins could possibly move out. Perkins and Bookie Radley-Hiles played like vets in week one and didn’t look like true freshmen.
**Several things appeared to be improved defensively in OU’s win over FAU. I don’t know for sure how big a role an analyst plays in today’s game. But I’ve suggested OU’s added a defensive coach with a strong resume’ who could be having a positive influence in the defensive meeting rooms. Riley brought in Bob Diaco in the offseason. Seemed smart to me. He’s got Iowa football in his blood – playing and coaching. Among his stops, D Coordinator at Nebraska, Notre Dame, Cincinnati … and former head coach at UCONN. Riley mentioned ‘the timing wasn’t right’ to bring aboard a defensive ace and former OU Head Coach Gary Gibbs. Said something about ‘defensive staff.’ Issue. Notwithstanding … I stand by my disappointment that Gibbs is not contributing to this Sooner defense … and to many, that it’s only made worse that in-state rival Mike Gundy wisely snatched him up.
**UCLA dropped two passes that would’ve easily ended with TDs and made them a Game 1 winner. One would-be INT …. & one pass to a wide open and in-stride receiver.
**UCLA returns three of its six players who were suspended for the opener.
**Thirty-three of UCLA’s 37 pass attempts against Cincy traveled fewer than 15 yards in the air.
*UCLA not relying on as many frosh as led to believe. Only one true freshman (center) out of 57 listed on their two-deep depth chart, is certain to start vs OU. Three are listed as ‘either/OR’ starters on a list that includes offense/defense & kick game specialists.
**UCLA starting QB Wilton Speight (back) is reportedly progressing well. Chip Kelly hopes he can return after being knocked out in last week’s game because of valuable starting experience he got at Michigan. Dorian Thompson-Robinson was the No. 2 duel threat recruit in the nation and has a skillset that fits much better to offenses Kelly ran at Oregon and is installing at UCLA. Robinson could give the 2019 Sooners a tough test at the Rose Bowl next fall, but you’d prefer to not depend on a TR FR getting his first start in Norman.
**One RB stood out in reviewing the loss to Cincy. TR FR Kazmeir Allen is a California HS state champion sprinter. He looked it on a 74-yard scoring jaunt, part of his 103 rushing yards on the day. Kazmeir set a national high school record by scoring 72 TDs his senior season. Allen’s speed has been a staple of Kelly’s offenses.
NEXT UP: ISU
**The Sooners need a clean game, a win and to get out of this one healthy. Never expected to be talking up a tough game that next up in Ames, IA. Great coach, players who won in Norman last season, vulnerable 11 AM kickoff in front of rabid fan base who at times get to rockin’ and make the ‘Clones a tough out.