Grading is difficult in an intrasquad scrimmage, but some positives and negatives stood out Saturday in the Red-White Game:
Short-yardage defense: C
The Sooner offense faced just eight third-down or fourth-down plays needing less than four yards to convert. It was successful six times. The defense got stops only on a third-down sack of Trevor Knight and a third-down incomplete pass thrown by Blake Bell. OU converted with two quarterback runs, three tailback runs and one pass.
Bob Stoops raved about his passcatchers, even after the game said they had a good spring. But while they made a couple of nice catches — especially Durron Neal and Trey Metoyer on deep balls — the receivers also dropped some passes, particularly Taylor McNamara once and Metoyer twice.
The interlocking OU at midfield was gone, replaced by a huge OU helmet that looked sort of cartoonish. An OU spokesman said it was nothing permanent. Here's hoping it was just spring foolishness.
Blake Bell: A
Bell was productive and void of major mistakes, which is what the coaches have said they want. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. His first score was particularly impressive, a scramble in which he bought time along the sideline and found Durron Neal for 3-yard touchdown pass.
Kendal Thompson: B
Thompson showed the scrambling ability that has the Sooners on the brink of a change in offensive philosophy. But Thompson also showed a good arm; he completed 11 of 17 for 151 yards and one TD. Thompson made a couple of questionable decisions but otherwise was solid.
Trevor Knight: C
The youngest of OU's three quarterback contenders clearly showed the least, despite as many chances with the first-team offense as Bell and Thompson had. Knight completed eight of 15 for 86 yards, though he threw a late TD pass. But Knight also fumbled taking a shotgun snap in his own end zone, which Franklin Shannon gobbled up for a defensive touchdown.
Pass Rush: B
The restructured defensive line put some decent pressure on OU's mobile quarterbacks and tallied five sacks – two by converted end Rashad Favors, one each by end Geneo Grissom, tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Eric Striker. However, Thompson and Knight also got loose for nice gains on scrambles.
Bob Stoops has had his squad practicing with piped-in music all spring, so why change Saturday? Music blared all day long, even during plays, and the only relief was an occasional stoppage to let the pep band belt out a traditional campus tune. Only the occasional classic – “Old Time Rock & Roll” or “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” – made the onslaught bearable.
Jed Barnett, who is apparently going to be the OU punter in 2013, had a rough day. He averaged 36.4 yards on five punts, including clunkers of 17 and 24 yards against the wind. Barnett grew up in Camas, Wash., and is a transfer from a California junior college. Welcome to Oklahoma, Jed.
Pass coverage: A
Just like last season, Mike Stoops had his defenders guarding pass catchers. That wasn't the problem in 2012, and there weren't a lot of receivers running free Saturday. And cornerback Aaron Colvin didn't even play. The big gains in the pass game came on well-covered completions. Converted safety Trey Franks in particular made some nice plays.