We're on day closer to the start of the college football season, and the Oklahoma Sooners were back at practice on Monday with their sights set on winning the program's 10th Big 12 championship under head coach Bob Stoops.
Some of the offensive players and coaches spoke with the media after practice, and here are a few takeaways from what they had to say:
Local walk-on receiver continues to impress
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield has praised the play of walk-on receiver Nick Basquine ever since spring practice, and it appears OU's trigger man wasn't just blowing smoke. After Basquine hauled in a 20-yard touchdown in the Sooner's scrimmage last Saturday, it looks like the former Norman North star is emerging as a possible impact player for the Sooners.
“It’s huge, not just the fact it’s in a scrimmage going against the ones, but a confidence booster," Mayfield said of Basquine's touchdown grab. "You finally get out there and get in game like situation with some actual referees, Big 12 officials, and you make a play in front of everybody.
"We even had some fans up in the club suites watching, so it’s the most game-like thing we’ll get before week one, it’s huge for a guy who hasn’t had any real game experience like that.”
Basquine turned down offers from schools like New Mexico because he believed he could play in a Power Five conference, and it appears that his decision to stay in Norman may just pay off.
“I just told myself keep pushing," Basquine said. "I knew I was putting in the extra work and just pray on it, and whenever that opportunity arises, seize it.”
There is one thing that works in Basquine's favor, seeing his quarterback also had to work his way up as a walk-on not once, but twice.
“That definitely gives you leverage because that’s somebody who’s done it and that gives you more belief but at the end of the day it’s about you and how confident you are if you believe in yourself," Basquine said.
Basquine will have to battle for playing time among a crowded group of wide receivers, but the returning ring leader at the position already knows what Basquine brings to the table.
“With Nick, he has a drive and a determination to be great, whenever you put those two together you’re going to be a great player, and that’s what he had to figure out within himself and now he looks better than ever," Dede Westbrook said.
Mykel Jones returns to practice
There's been a ton of excitement surrounding true freshman receiver Mykel Jones, with many people comparing him to the likes of shifty receivers like Ryan Broyles and Sterling Shepard. Those are hefty expectations for a young guy, but the hype started to simmer down a bit seeing Jones has missed all of preseason camp with a minor injury.
But with Jones rejoining the team at practice on Monday, the hype train began chugging right where it left off.
“He has the potential to be great, one of the great ones to come through, as a freshman at least," Westbrook said. "I’ve been trying to be a role model for him, show him the ropes, teach him how to do things.”
Dede Westbrook on true frosh receiver Mykel Jones: "He has the potential to be one of the great ones to come through here" #Sooners— Brett Coppenbarger (@BrettCope) August 15, 2016
Those are strong words about a guy who only has one practice under his belt, but despite missing time, his quarterback doesn't feel Jones has fallen behind at all.
“He was real dialed in," Mayfield said of his young receiver. "I don’t think the coaches were going to let him fall back, they had him up there paying attention during our walk through in practice to make sure he was seeing signals and knowing communication and stuff to where when he did put the pads back on, he was able to come in like he hadn’t lost a step.
"I'm very proud of him for staying in it, especially at a young age like that, you think maybe I’m hurt, I don’t have to pay attention, but he was locked in and stepped in and was ready to go today.”
Eric Wren pushing for starting spot at center
A lot of the talk surrounding the offensive line this offseason has been Jonathan Alvarez's switch from guard to center to fill the void left with Ty Darlington's graduation. It seemed like the obvious move, to switch an experienced guy like Alvarez, who started nine games last season at left guard, to his more natural position that he grew up playing.
That being said, it doesn't appear offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has penciled in Alvarez as the guaranteed starter. Bedenbaugh talked with reporters after Monday's practice, and had a lot of good things to say about walk-on senior Erick Wren.
"He’s a little shorter than what you’d like, but he’s got long arms, he’s got a lot of power in his lower body, he’s got good balance, he’s got all the traits you need," Bedenbaugh said about Wren, who came from Arizona Western Community College. "Obviously you wish he was a little bit taller, but he’s playing at a pretty high level right now. He’s pushing to start right now, him and Alvarez are battling it out, but he’s right there with him. He’s got a lot of the attributes you look for.”
It's clear Bedenbaugh is still tinkering with his lineup, and said Alvarez is rotating at center along with both right and left guards, while Dru Samia is switching between guard and tackle.
Bedenbaugh reiterated he'll have to settle on a lineup sooner than later, but also says rotating now will be beneficial down the road in case of an injury.
"It’ll give us flexibility hopefully during the season if someone does have to miss a game," he said. "Guys have played multiple positions so we can get the best five combination out there.”