Some Red/White Game Observations

Image via @OU_Football

Okay, so I know basically everybody who covers Oklahoma — whether they are paid to do so or not — is going to or already has put out some variation of this exact same post, but I simply couldn’t help myself. It’s football and it’s the first and last time we’re get to see any for a while.

I’ve had a chance to go back and watch the scrimmage more closely and just wanted to offer up some observations for us, if you prefer, to discuss. Initially, I thought about putting together something similar to the ‘Film Study’ posts I used to do that some of you may be familiar with. But I decided against it as I though it would likely lead me to over-analyze things, which is something I knew I had to avoid what with it being a glorified practice and the coaches holding so much back.

I have already seen a number of you post your thoughts in various threads and I’d encourage those who haven’t (or those who would like to do so again) to do so in the comments here as I always enjoy getting a take from others. There are always things I may have missed or just have a different opinion on, and I appreciate a good back-and-forth.

As to mine, here we go.

* What do you think it would take to get Berry Tramel to give his “patented” report card treatment to my post last week predicting possible spring game breakout stars? Because, not-so-humblebrag, I think I kinda nailed it.

* Speaking of the report card gimmick, despite any and everyone saying over and over again heading into Saturday how it’s just a practice and you need to resist the urge to overreactions….we get this:

“A fun day on the OU campus was tempered by offensive inefficiency Saturday in the Sooner spring game, slowing the momentum created by a 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.” – NewsOK

Seriously? Slowing the momentum? Aside from Trevor Knight suffering a torn ACL on Saturday, there was very little (if anything) that could happen that was going to ‘slow the momentum’ from the Sugar Bowl win. Or was the 43,000 plus in attendance simply a figment of my imagination?

But at least no one is overreacting to a practice. Just do a Google News search for Trevor Knight and you’ll see what I mean by people overreacting.

* As to the “game” itself, there were a number of interesting aspects on both sides of the ball. Offensively, we saw a lot of bigger, two TE sets with some combination of an actual TE and/or Ripkowski/Flowers. Meanwhile, defensively I saw them at least initially open up in a traditional 3-4 set with, as expected, Grissom standing up at OLB opposite Striker.

*Obviously, one of the main talking points coming out of Saturday is Baker Mayfield. And for good reason as he played quite well. It is worth noting that now having had the chance to go back and watch again, all of his reps came against the second team defense. Which is not necessarily to take away from his 9-for-9 125 yard, two TD performance, but it is something you have to take into consideration.

And how good he looked only adds to the confusion of why he’s at Oklahoma in the first place. I know there are some family ties between he and the OU coaching staff, but one would have to think he could have gone to any number of other schools and (1) not been forced to sacrifice a year of eligibility and (2) almost assuredly been a starter in 2015. He must have really, really wanted to go to OU.

For the life of me I don’t really get it, but it’s also not my decision to get. If the kid is happy in Norman, then more power to him. Just strikes me as a bit odd is all.

* On that same topic, as TFB has said here several times even prior to Saturday, it seems somewhat clear that Mayfield would be the guy behind Knight. But since he’s not eligible to play in 2014, the decision obviously comes down to either Cody Thomas or Justice Hansen.

And while I wouldn’t say Hansen played poorly — aside from the two INTs (though the first was not on him) — I felt like it was pretty clear that if the season were to start today Thomas would be the No. 2 QB.

* Only time will tell how much we see that true 3-4 once the season starts as Big 12 offenses, which tend to spread you out with multiple WR sets, will certainly dictate just often Coach Mike will be able to employ it. However, there is a lot to like with it from both a scheme and personnel standpoint. Which is why we saw plenty of the familiar 3-3-5 from last year and something I’m sure we can expect more of in 2014.

* To that point, one of the most exciting things to come out of Saturday’s scrimmage was just how multiple this defense looks to have the capability of being. Whether it’s a 3-4, 3-3-5, or some combination of the two, these coaches have a wealth of talent at their disposal, specifically in guys that can get after the quarterback.

Regardless of whatever happens with this Frank Shannon situation, depth at ILB is still an issue. But aside from that, this front seven is absolutely loaded. A number of those guys stood out at different times on Saturday. I thought there were times when any one of Devante Bond, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Michael Onuoha, Matt Romar, or Charles Walker all made plays at some point that forced me to take notice.

And bare in mind, this was on pure ability with Coach Mike going about as vanilla as he possibly could. Once they’re facing an actual opponent, not their fellow teammates, and they start mixing up their blitz packages….look out.

* I suppose it’s a bit of a double-edged sword playing Striker at Nickel. I understand the idea of getting creative with how/where you use him, but it just seems like such a waste when he’s on the field and not rushing the quarterback. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Grissom looked good standing up and should be able to create problems for opposing defenses. But Striker just has that special ability to get to the QB you simply cannot teach.

* I can only assume it was just heat-of-the-moment type of deal and you’re taught to play a certain way, so when you strap those pads on adrenaline just takes over. But, man, did they ever get lucky with Grissom and Flowers. On the one hand, I understand Sanchez going low on Flowers. The true freshman fullback has something like 70 pounds on him. Again, that’s what they’re taught. But the Keith Ford cut block on Grissom just seemed wildly unnecessary in this type of setting.

Regardless, thankfully both guys did not suffer serious injuries.

* Seeing Taylor McNamara split out, as he was multiple times on Saturday, to me is an encouraging sign that the TEs will indeed be a bigger part of the offense as the coaches have been telling us they will. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first. I mean it’s not like it would be the first time we’ve heard them sell something to the fans only for it to never materialize. But there were some really positive signs on Saturday.

Which, in my opinion, only added to the disappointment of Blake Bell not being able to participate. As big a part of the offense as the tight ends were, it would have been great to see just how much he’s taken to the position in a live setting.

* Fair or not, I’m just not sure how many carries there are going to be for Daniel Brooks once the season rolls around. I know everyone was excited about how he played and — as I not so subtly pointed out above — even went so far as to predict there was a chance he could do so.

There is a scenario where I could see Brooks as that third down/change of pace back, similar to the player we all thought Roy Finch was always going to be. He certainly catches the ball well out of the backfield, but all of these are the same things everyone believes Joe Mixon does well. And why some many believe he’ll be too good, even as a true freshman, to keep off the field. And all of that is ignoring a guy like David Smith who continues to put in work while being overlooked.

One would have to believe with his type of ability and elite speed, there is some type of role for Brooks in this offense. Only time will tell just how significant of a role that will be. However, as I’ve seen others suggest, I would also like to see him get a chance on kick return w/ his speed and shiftiness in the open field.

* Saw quite a bit of that diamond formation, which fans have always loved and have been imploring Heupel to use more for a year or two now. You can just do so many different things off of that, especially w/ a running threat at QB, hopefully it’s something that carries over into the regular season.

* If Keith Ford can hang onto the football, I really have no doubts he’s going to be the guy at RB this year. I say that knowing Gundy is always going to rotate backs, so multiple guys are going to play regardless. Which means there will obviously be chances for Alex Ross and others, but there’s just something for me about the way Ford runs the ball. He has such great strength and balance, I think he’ll be the guy the coaches rely on as the primary ball carrier.

* We call him Moneycutt for a reason.

* Between Derrick Woods, Jordan Smallwood, and a healthy Durron Neal, I think OU will be just fine at those outside WR spots. Was nice to get to see what everyone had been talking about in practices with Smallwood. You can tell the work he’s done in the weight room has paid off with his ability to create separation from the defender.

* I don’t know how to truly verbalize it, but KJ Young just looks so incredibly smooth out there to me. It’s just something about the way he moves.

So there you have it. A little scattershot with respect to the presentation, I know I kind of jumped all over the place, but overall I thought there was much, much more to be excited and/or positive about than the flip side of that coin. Plenty to look forward to in 2014 for this Oklahoma football team.

Just sucks that we have to wait another four plus months to see it. But, such is life.

  • Jordan Esco

    I expect there will be no shortage of some type of variation of this article in the coming days from all the local papers, but here is some more insight into Mayfield’s decision to transfer to OU. Good read, IMO.

    • soonerbred4ever

      It is just flat out wrong for Mayfield to lose any eligibility when he was never on scholarship. Kingsbury must really be a prick. I guess time will tell if he starts losing other players. I guess we will never know what transpired with him and Mayfield.

    • Shelby is a Patriot

      Really good interview, gotta like a kid that isn’t afraid of competition but is still humble about it. Too bad he is losing a year.

    • J.K. Abbott
      She didn’t have anything to do with him deciding on OU did she?

      • Sooner Ray

        Dang, that chick looks just like one of my sisters, When she was that age at least.

    • ToatsMcGoats

      I gotta say, when I heard that he was transferring here, I automatically gained a ton of respect for the kid. Not only was he willing to leave a situation where he had been the guy and was only a play away from being that guy again, but he also knew what the situation was here, at OU. I was impressed with his confidence from the get go. Welcome, Baker Mayfield. I’m glad you’re here.

  • Cardinal8

    Quick question. Mayfield was a true freshman walk on at Tech. He should be able to take his redshirt this year right?

    • lovethemsooners

      Nope. He loses a year of eligibility with this move. He’ll be a junior next year when he is finally eligible.

      • jdub

        But still Eligible for a red shirt. Right? Be a red shirt jr in 2016?

        • Sooner Ray

          Unless he’s injured, there would be no reason for him to red shirt. I don’t think he would want to sit out another year.

          • SoonerKevin

            Pretty Good Scrimmage. I sure hated to see the two minor injuries, and the uncertain news about Shannon.

          • Sooner Ray

            It was good, I’m not real concerned with the injuries, they are minor and they will be fine for summer workouts. We dodged a bullet because either one could have been more serious, actually happens more often than we probably know. Pulling for Shannon to get his problems lined out and I know the coaches and team are behind him also.

    • Jordan Esco

      What lovethemsooners said.

      It’s ridiculous and incredibly unfair that a kid who was a walk-on at Tech and paying his own way would get screwed over like that, but it is what it is (as they say) at this point.

    • Ed Cotter

      Tech didn’t approve his transfer to another BIG 12 school, and with that comes a loss of a year of eligibility. It is what it is.

      • ND52

        I still don’t understand how he’s not immediately eligible this year. He’s never received a dime of financial support from either school.

        • territorysooner

          It doesn’t matter if you are on scholarship or not. NCAA rules state if any SA transfers to a D1 school , they must sit out a year. That year’s eligibility can be saved if the SA has not yet redshirted. The Big 12, however, adds a year for transferring within the conference unless the school releases the SA, which TT did not do for Mayfield. Thus, this year’s eligibility would have been saved with regard to the NCAA as Mayfield still had a redshirt year. Unfortunately, the conference rule, coupled with TT not providing Mayfield a release, will cause him to lose a year of eligibility.

          • territorysooner

            still doesn’t make it right for a walk-on to be penalized like that!

    • blaster1371

      My understanding is he can still take a red shirt AFTER this season and still only have two years to play— counting back to his freshmen year he would be taking five years to play four seasons (1 at TT, one burned for transfer and two eligible at OU).

    • wolfbuilder

      No if I remember right no matter what he will be a JR next year cause by rule he rule he will lose one year for transfering with in the big12, I can’t remember the exact rule but he will lose one year of play, he may even lose his redshirt but, not really sure on that

      Maybe Jordan or K can help me out on this

  • Jordan Esco
    • soonermusic

      Great! I’ve been checking about every hour to see when it would be up. 🙂 had to take a break finally… and there it is! Thanks for the heads up.

    • pitbull17

      Awesome, I was going to have to wait till Tuesday to watch the replay. I had to work all day yesterday and forgot to set the dvr.

  • EasTex

    While I hate it that Grissom was injured, I can’t be too upset with Ford, he did what he would be expected to do as the starting RB, block. I can only imagine what would have been said to him in the film room if he had whiffed his block or been run over.
    Getting to see so many young players show what they can do was enjoyable. Lots of hustle plays especially on defense.
    Can’t hardly wait to see where these young men will be physically in August, as the past few months of good nutrition and S&C was evident. A very fast and strong group of players.

  • Sooner Ray

    Can’t blame Ford for his block on G, sometimes instinct takes over especially when it’s beat into your head every day. Flowers is going to be a fantastic player and it’s hard for me not to compare him to Millard. The defense looked awesome even in a vanilla state, can only imagine the possibilities when they go live. Still scratching my head about Ross, expected to see a lot more in a spring game. Mayfield would be the two guy if he was able to go, he was poised and accurate even if it was against twos. Cody will likely land that role as Hansen still showed the need to adjust to D1 speed decision making. All the backups looked to have plenty of skill for the future. Damn it’s gonna be a long summer.

    • EasTex

      Long summer, indeed.
      At least I have some good stuff from the 2013 season on DVR. That and utube will be a poor substitute, but it will have to do.

    • Indy_sooner

      I am not sure why folks are surprised on Mayfield. I mean, the guy actually played full games at Tech and so has a full year on both. That being said, I am not sure what he will do next year when CT has similar game experience and he’s faced with the prospect of being the 3rd string.It’ll get interesting for sure.

  • Tulsa Terry

    Finally saw Christian Daimler. He was #70 at left tackle on tbe Smallwood touchdown. He looked bigger and bettet than advertised.

  • ND52

    Seriously? Slowing the momentum? Aside from Trevor Knight suffering a torn ACL on Saturday, there was very little (if anything) that could happen that was going to ‘slow the momentum’ from the Sugar Bowl win. Or was the 43,000 plus in attendance simply a figment of my imagination?

    But at least no one is overreacting to a practice. Just do a Google News search for Trevor Knight and you’ll see what I mean by people overreacting.

    Could be worse folks…………”cough” Missouri “cough”.

  • leatherneck1061

    Personally I don’t mind getting a little negative press coverage if only to help ensure our guys realize last year is over. It’s a new season, and now it’s time to earn it.

  • Shifty

    Jordan if I wrote like you my report would look plagiarized …thx for pointing out that Mayfield was going against the 2s and TK was going against the 1s…Hopefully our 1s make every qb look bad especially if they know the offense w 3 oline out

  • Bennie Owen

    Kept wondering if it was the offense that was struggling or if this D was really this stout…..time after time it was the D making the plays….6-8 sacks, 3 picks, bunch of tfls….big hits all day. This D is scary already.

  • Stikboy

    Anybody see Orlando Brown at the game?

    • hOUligan

      No word there. He had tweeted that he was at practice last Monday. Doubt he had the time to hang in Norman all week.

  • Super Keith

    When Stoops was asked about the RBs after the game (specifically Keith Ford), he went back to the “he has to show he can hang on to the ball” line. It’s a little worrisome that he’s still talking about that. Since that keeps being mentioned, it must mean he’s still having issues in practice.

    I really hope he can get a handle on that (no pun intended). If he can, he’ll be an excellent contributor this year.

  • Will Narramore

    If Shannon no longer was on the team, who would back up Evans at ILB?

    • Super Keith

      I would guess one of the walk on guys. Maybe once Tay Evans gets on campus he can get up to speed quickly and be the back-up to Jordan. I suppose you could move Bond over if you absolutely had to, but it’s certainly not his strength.

      The good news is that this defense has so many talented players, and if something were to happen, and Jordan Evans couldn’t go (knock wood), Mike could scheme around some of it.

  • soonermusic

    Maybe it’s the glow from the end of last season, but I really thought there was a lot to like about the performances. I even thought TK looked good on several plays, in spite of it not being a particularly great outing for him. He will be fine in the fall, I think.

    It’s no surprise that Mayfield looked good. As many have pointed out, he’s got by far the most full speed game experience of anyone back there. Not even close.

    Hope Brooks gets some nice playing time in the fall after the way he took advantage of his opportunity. If memory serves, that’s one position where a strong showing in the spring game can get you on the field, if everything else is good, of course.

    This time of year it’s always hard not to start getting optimistic, but maybe more so this time around. The comments from the coaches regarding the defense, coupled with how hard they were crushing people, and how easily they kept coming up with the ball, does make you wonder if this is gonna be “special” as they never tire of saying. (and that may turn out to be a bit of misdirection also, because I think there’s some ridiculous potential for the offense if all the pieces fall into place)

    Can’t Wait!


    • hOUligan

      As said, TK going against the 1s. Good point about Mayfield having the distinct advantage of already facing D1 competition at game speed. He looked it. CMike talked after the game about being pretty happy with his 1s and less so with his 2s. Think Mayfield had something to do with that as OU’s 2s at this point are pretty salty and as good as some team’s 1s in places.

  • Bennie Owen

    Holakyle is the man. always puts up good vids…

    • Super Keith

      Sooner football weekend isn’t officially over until I watch the Holakyle highlight video. He even puts a good spin on losses.

  • Big Higg

    Good write up Jordan! Myself, I’m really excited about this team. I don’t think we have much to worry about outside of linebacker depth. Sooner nation is obviously excited. We definitely still have the momentum. Tramel’s report card was idiotic.

  • vargo05

    Jordan, I wasn’t as impressed with KJ Young as you. On the early pass breakup by Sanchez, Young ran, what I saw as, a terrible route. Just no burst on the cut and it was not a cut as much as a rounded-off route. Maybe I just don’t know what the route was supposed to be, but it didn’t look good to me.

  • JB

    I was impressed by Dmitri Flowers. Between him and Ripkowski, we are set at that position. I disagree with TFB. I think that when Alex Ross gets in a real game and shows what he can do, he’ll be the starter at tailback. Defense won the day, which I always hope for in a spring game. If the D’s getting torched, that’s trouble for the upcoming season.
    I said years ago on another when Mike Stoops left that our D would decline. Brent Venables is a good guy but he just isn’t the defensive mind that Mike Stoops is. I said 2 years ago that our D would get better and by year 3 of Mike’s return, our D would be a national championship caliber defense. It looks as though I may have been right on the money.