For the first time in months, Oklahoma Sooner fans were able to witness players take the field in the annual Spring Game. Excitement filled the air as this would mark the first time anyone outside of the coaching staff would see some of the young talent in a game type environment. With the departure of Landry Jones, all eyes were on the quarterback battle that has been raging on.
Much of the talk has centered around Kendal Thompson vs. Blake Bell with Trevor Knight being the dark horse. We all know that Bell has experience taking the field in front of a live crowd, something that is new on the collegiate level for the other two.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to go out in front of a live audience. They know it is an important game. It’s a game day feel for them. It’s like kicking off the first week of the season. Being able to put together a mock game plan and go over it, to have to prepare and go to sleep on it, have a walk through and then go play; you give them the tips and reminders right before the practice, but it’s a different day for them. You saw them handle a lot of things in a positive way. You saw them not manage the game in a way you needed a guy to in order for us to win, but that’s why you have a spring game and that’s why you practice. That’s why June and July will be extremely important for these guys.” – Josh Heupel
The consensus after the game is that each quarterback has an area they must work on in order to edge out the other contenders. However, one thing remains true…the run will be utilized from the position heading into the future.
“You saw a lot of it today on pass plays. As they are going through the progression, they don’t see something open. Those guys did a good job at times today stepping up in the pocket and getting out of it and making a play. I didn’t think we were very good with our ball security when we were moving around, but those are things that those young guys will have to learn to handle.” – Josh Heupel
One thing Blake Bell set out to do was prove that he could throw the ball this spring. We all know that he can tuck it and run but how would he fair when the time came for him to step up in the pocket and make a pass?
“I thought I did ok. For me, I missed a couple of throws and some were on me, some were on the receivers and that’s just something we’ll correct as a team. We’ll go in and watch film, figure out what we did wrong and take that into the summer. I think that’ll help with that skill and stuff like that. Overall I thought I made some good plays and was pretty accurate with the ball. I had some throw-a -ways but like I said I can always get better in a lot of areas.” – Blake Bell
Kendal Thompson has a reputation for getting in extra time when all the others have left the field. He certainly has the work ethic to be a playmaker. After the Spring Game, what is he going to take away and move forward with?
“I’d say my greatest strength is my mental aspect of the game. I really like to pick things apart and see things in that nature. Things I need to work on are the command of everything overall, my reads — just the stuff that Coach Heupel always gets on us for — things I need to get better at.” – Kendal Thompson
As mentioned above, Trevor Knight will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to win the starting job come fall.
“Getting into a new offense, obviously you’re going to deal with nerves. I think I’ve made strides throughout the spring and I’m getting more comfortable with the guys and more comfortable with the offense. It’s starting to be second nature, as long as I just keep studying my playbook and getting reps with those guys I think it will come.” – Trevor Knight
There are several qualities a coach is looking for in their quarterback. The players work in close association with their teammates and know them well. Here’s what a few of them had to say concerning the QB battle.
“I think they all three looked really good. They all led us on some really good drives and they all looked good.” – Austin Woods
“Those guys all have some pretty good speed, and they all have moves. They’re all different types of quarterbacks but they’re all mobile quarterbacks. Kendal is so quick and elusive, you think you got him and the next thing you know he’s 10 yards down the field and you’re chasing him. We have a lot of guys who can do it, we have Roy (Finch) and Trevor (Knight) and Blake (Bell). Blake Is big and strong but he’s pretty shifty, too.” – Geneo Grissom
“They all did great to me. You can see all of them can run. I think everyone knew that already, but they can also throw, too. A lot of them completed balls today and all three looked good to me.” – Sterling Shepard
Kendal is a little more shifty but overall, all the quarterbacks do a great job. The offense did good, but there are some places where we can improve in, too.” – Durron Neal
On the other hand, many fans were looking at the defense. The entire defensive line has been reworked along with a majority of the secondary. Assignments have been simplified and made a big impact on the field with many of the younger guys especially in the linebacking crew where Corey Nelson is emerging as a leader.
“As a whole I feel like we did well. As far as the B group they did well, too. There were a couple of plays out there they kind of slipped up on, but overall I thought the defense did very well. They were very physical; in getting downhill, in getting lined up right and getting the calls. Everything was pretty good overall.”
“The linebacking corps…we looked fantastic today. There were a lot of good things out there. Coach Kish agreed, and he said that there were a lot of good things that the linebackers did. We just executed. That’s what we went out there and did – we executed well. We had no mental errors, no bad mishaps.” – Corey Nelson
One thing that remains to be seen is if the defensive line can get pressure on the quarterback. With a blue jersey on, fans were not really able to see the play making ability of either, the QB or the D-Line as injuries are of the highest concern right now. That didn’t stop Geneo Grissom from praising Jordan Phillips, a guy we all expect to have an impact this fall.
“He [Jordan Phillips] got himself a sack and made a couple of plays. We’re a unit so if one guy makes a play then we’re all going to jump on his back. I feel like he did pretty good, obviously he was out there at the same time so I couldn’t really see what he was doing. But if they’re not rushing on us then everyone is doing their job.” – Geneo Grissom
Of course, there are still many unanswered questions as the Spring Game came to a close. The players and coaches have weighed in on what they saw, now it’s the fans’ turn. Feel free to sound off in the comments below!