– Caleb Kelly is a veteran of the Oklahoma Spring game. Before the junior linebacker even became a member of the Sooners he had attended three of the annual events as one OU’s prized recruits.
Despite that, even Kelly has to admit this weekend’s festivities will be a special time for the large group of recruits converging on Norman for the Red and White Spring Game Saturday at Memorial Field.
“They are definitely pumping it up this year,” Kelly said. “Back when I was coming, there wasn’t an actual a difference between white and red team and how it is split up this year. There weren’t different guys coming back from the league as guest coaches. It’s just way cooler I feel like this year. Now it’s like a big, big day for all the recruiting. I was kind of one of the only recruits who came to the spring game back then. They named off all the guys who had recruits and there is like 30 or 40 kids. It’s blown up for sure.”
– While much of what is going to take place will seem like it is geared toward the current members of the Sooners and the fans, in actuality, the people Oklahoma want to impress the most are the recruits.
According to defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, this weekend is more than just getting to spend time around some of the top high school players in the country. It’s laying the groundwork for what the coaches hope will become something bigger.
“We have a lot of players coming in. It’s going to be fun,” Stoops said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a chance at a great start at building a relationship with kids and being able to articulate with you on what they see, players they meet. Just builds a stronger connection as you move forward. We will see how it works. I don’t think anybody knows how it’s going to play out. But we’re awfully excited about the players we have coming in. We’re trying to build those relationships as quickly as possible.”
– It’s not just the coaches who will be playing a big part in trying to convince the recruits that Oklahoma is the school for them. The current Sooners will carry the large brunt of that duty.
Sophomore linebacker Kenneth Murray is taking that job rather seriously.
“I just try and let guys know just how it is here from my perspective,” Murray said. “They hear what the coaches tell them and all the other recruiting stuff that you hear all over the country. I just try and tell them the coaches here are genuine and they mean what they say. Everything that they are preaching to you, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And there’s not one coach on this staff that’s not going to care about you. I believe that with all my heart and I just try and preach that to the guys just from a player’s perspective, so they can know that somebody like me, that’s playing here, has the same view.”
– While there is excitement surrounding the game and hosting the recruits, the Oklahoma coaches are curious to see how it will play out. With the new early signing days and early recruiting visits, this is a whole new ball game for them.
“This is different,” Stoops said. “You’re going to have three different types. You’ll have prospects you signed, prospects you haven’t signed and prospects who are here on official visits. So, it’s going to be busy. But you’re here doing this anyhow. It will just make more interaction. So you just blend them together and hopefully they hit it off with each other.”
– Assistant head coach/defensive line coach, Ruffin McNeill said Neville Gallimore has the No.1 nose guard position on lockdown. “Having gone through the week to week, wars and battles, pays off,” McNeill said. “I think the position change helped to, moving him to nose. It’s a lot tighter in there and he’s so athletic and has such power that he really took control of the position this spring. Doing a great job for us.”
– Kenneth Murray was asked if it is frustrating to be “dinged up” all the time. “I’m not dinged up all the time,” Murray said. “Still getting the work in. I feel comfortable in the defense right now. I’m having a good time. I’m having a good spring. I’ve really been focusing on mastering the defense and I feel like I’ve gotten really better at that. I feel like I’ve mastered everything in the front seven so I’m kind of moving myself back toward the secondary and I’m pretty much 98 percent good with that.”
– Murray didn’t say whether he will play in the spring game or not. Just that he will be out there. “I’m going to be out there doing my thing,” Murray said. “Out there with my team, having fun. I’m going to be out there, it’s the spring game.”
– Stoops likes what he has seen from Justin Broiles in the spring. “I think inside’s a better place for him. You can see his ability to cover the field. From his cornerback position you see some of that closing speed, ability to cover the field,” Stoops said. “A guy that can show some range and cover inside, those are things you’re looking for. That being a corner that has marginal speed, to coming inside where speed becomes an asset for him really helps.”
– According to McNeill, the young defensive linemen have been getting a crash course on playing in the trenches on the college level. “Here, because of our offensive line and coach Bill (Bedenbaugh), you get tested. You’re talking about going up against an NFL line every day. A young guy has to learn the speed of the game. They have. Like Ronnie Perkins, he should be at the prom right now. He’s here. They are here taking reps against Ben Powers and Dru (Samia) and Big Cody (Ford). But I like the way they’ve battled. We didn’t miss with those guys. Our older guys do a great job of teaching them. They are not afraid of the competition.”
– Cornerback Parnell Motley was not overly joyed when he saw the rosters for the Red and White Spring game. He had hoped he and Marquise Brown would not be on the same team. “I’m kind of disappointed to see the matchup,” Motley said. “Wanted to show the world what we can do again and give these fans a show. But that’s just for the first half. In the second half, I will be matching up with him.”
– Motley is also looking forward to meeting former OU safety Tony Jefferson Saturday. “I am definitely excited to meet this guy,” Motley said. “He can probably teach me some things. I can’t wait to meet him in person and for him to be my coach. That will be amazing.”
– The OU coaches said the spring is an important part of their evaluation of the players. “It’s going to be competitive. I’m on the white team. So I want to win. We’re keeping score, we have referees. So I want to win,” McNeill said. “It’s just another evaluation for us. Get to see them in game-like situations. The rosters have been cut, so you don’t have as much depth. So guys are going to be tested when they are tired. How are they going to react? Will they stay with their technique and their assignment? Or will they slip off? It’s going to be a great test for them. I’m looking forward to seeing the matchup and the battle.”
– Stoops agreed with McNeill. “I think it’s fun. I think it’s very even and very well distributed, both teams. Obviously a couple guys are going to have to swing a little bit just because of the numbers playing five and six types of DBs, but it’s really … we went through a whole practice today with each team with our individual side and it was very competitive so, yeah, hopefully we can get some guys back on the field,” Stoops said. “We got a lot of guys that won’t participate, but I got few on the edge. If we can get those we could have a pretty competitive size both ways.”