Oklahoma football: Sooners open spring practice with several questions

But, as they say, hope springs eternal. Each year at this time, all college football programs exude optimism about their futures.
by Jason Kersey Published: March 9, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma's Blake Bell (10) races past the Baylor defense for a touchdown during the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Baylor University Bears (BU) at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Norman, Okla.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Blake Bell (10) races past the Baylor defense for a touchdown during the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Baylor University Bears (BU) at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

NORMAN — Oklahoma opened spring football practices Saturday, beginning its early preparations for Bob Stoops' 15th season as the Sooners' head coach.

Despite another 10-win season and Big 12 title, Stoops was clearly displeased with much about the direction in which his program seemed headed, as evidenced by the three assistant coaches he fired.

But, as they say, hope springs eternal. Each year at this time, all college football programs exude optimism about their futures.

Here are 10 things Oklahoma's 2013 spring football practices will be about.

QUARTERBACK BATTLE

Quarterbacks are competing to be Oklahoma's starter for the first time since 2007, when Sam Bradford outshined Keith Nichol and Joey Halzle to earn the job. That competition continued into late August, and OU coaches said not to be surprised if this one — between Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson — goes as long.

“We're gonna name a guy when he's earned it,” said co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

Bell was Jones' backup last season, and has seen lots of action the past two seasons out of the Belldozer package.

“I think those opportunities, those experiences can help him,” Heupel said. “But we'll find out if ultimately that helps him be the guy.”

ESTABLISHING A NEW OFFENSIVE IDENTITY

For all the things Landry Jones did well, he was never very mobile. No matter who wins the quarterback job for 2013, the Sooners' offense is guaranteed to have that extra dimension.

“We will never give up anything as far as our quarterback having the ability to pass,” Heupel said. “That's our first, primary focus with our guys.”

Heupel said it's tough to make any firm, specific schematic decisions until a quarterback is named and his strengths are clearly identified.

“We can use their ability to extend and make plays with their feet,” Heupel said. “How many times we'll have designed play calls for them? I can't tell you right now, but that's certainly something we'll probably look at here in the spring.”

BREAKING IN NEW RECEIVERS

Oklahoma brings back several talented, experienced receivers, but also lost leaders Kenny Stills and Justin Brown.

Senior Jalen Saunders and sophomore Sterling Shepard played lots last season. Sophomore Trey Metoyer started early in 2012, but didn't adjust to the college game as quickly as many expected.

Sophomore Durron Neal and redshirt freshman Derrick Woods are expected to contribute, and senior Jaz Reynolds — coming off a year-long suspension — could have an opportunity to re-establish himself as an OU playmaker.

A STRENGTHENED OFFENSIVE LINE

Oklahoma's offensive line got a new position coach, and also gets back guards Nila Kasitati and Tyler Evans from 2012 ACL tears.

Kasitati is still recovering and won't go participate in spring practices, Stoops said, but Evans will.

Projected top-10 NFL Draft pick Lane Johnson is the 2012 offensive line's only full-time starter who won't return.

“We need to be better up front,” Heupel said. “They need to play with more urgency, they need to be tougher, more physical, be better fundamentally. If they do that, they've got a chance to catapult us offensively and allow us to be as efficient as we want to be.”

DEFENSE SCHEMATIC CHANGES


by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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