Oklahoma wraps up spring practice Saturday afternoon with the annual Red-White Game in Norman. There will be plenty of storylines to keep an eye on, including the quarterback battle and how much the defense has progressed after getting shredded down the stretch of the 2012 season.
Here's a look at the Sooners, position-by-position, going into Saturday's spring game.
OU head coach Bob Stoops has said throughout the spring he's pleased with how Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson have battled in practice, but no one outside of the OU coaching staff has seen—or spoken with—any of the Sooners' options yet this spring. Saturday's game will be the first time the outside world has seen any of the quarterbacks play and it will no doubt be the biggest thing to watch. There has been no indication from Stoops or the staff that one of the three has any sort of an edge after several weeks of practice so at this point, it's anyone's job.
There's a lot of depth at this position with seniors Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch all vying for carries. Alex Ross, a redshirt freshman from Jenks is a name that was praised a lot last season and could be in line for a role in the rotation. Throw in fullback Trey Millard, whom OU coaches continue to insist they want to touch the ball 8-10 times per game, and you have a pretty impressive rotation in the backfield. It will be interesting to see how the carries are distributed on Saturday and who makes an impression.
Whoever becomes the next OU quarterback will have a bevy of targets to throw to. Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard should control the slot positions, but the outside receivers have yet to be determined. Trey Metoyer is certainly an option after coming off a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign. Dannon Cavil and Lacoltan Bester are the biggest receivers on the roster, but whether or not they're able to handle that position is unclear. One of the interesting storylines could be the return of Jaz Reynolds. Stoops has made it clear it is possible for him to return to game action, but has also made it clear Reynolds isn't there yet.
This position won't be clear until everyone arrives in Norman for the summer, but it's also another position in which the Sooners have tremendous depth. That's a good thing since senior Tyler Evans re-tore his ACL that caused him to miss all of 2012, and is out for the season. Gabe Ikard also suffered a hand injury and has been held out of practice, but will be good to go for the season. Saturday's game will be a prime opportunity for some of the younger player to show what they can do.
The Sooners' offense a year ago was severely hampered by the lack of readiness at this position, so much so that OU hardly used a tight end. OU has a couple on the roster that will be used, but it's unclear how ready they are for game action. New tight ends coach Jay Boulware has praised the worth ethic and skills they've exhibited in practice, but that has to translate to games.
This was a position that was addressed very nicely in the recruiting period, but all but one of the defensive line signees won't be arriving in Norman until the summer. D.J. Ward is the only one to participate in spring practice, and he was just cleared earlier this week by the NCAA due to the wild circumstances surrounding his senior year of high school. There isn't a lot of depth at defensive tackle right now, so Jordan Phillips, Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson have gotten a lot of good work in with new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. Defensive end is in quite a bit better shape depth-wise for Saturday, with plenty of players looking to assert themselves in the rotation.
This wouldn't be the first position to come to mind when discussing positions without a lot of depth, but there isn't a ton of proven depth here for the Sooners. Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin will be the ones who see the most playing time, but behind them, it's pretty suspect and there won't be much coming in the summer, either. However, if the Sooners do indeed go to a 4-2-5 base defense, the need for more linebackers becomes a bit less urgent.
There's a lot of young talent here and a couple newcomers have been making some noise over the past few weeks. Freshman Ahmad Thomas is definitely in the mix to start at safety, while Cortez Johnson—an Arizona transfer—is making a push to be the starting cornerback opposite Aaron Colvin. Even though the Sooners are replacing three of four starters from last season, this could be the strength of the defense. Saturday should be interesting since new quarterbacks will be throwing against a secondary that doesn't have a lot of game experience.