NORMAN — Jamarkus McFarland would get down in his stance this spring, including Saturday in the Red-White Game, and occasionally sneak a peek.
And McFarland would feel secure.
“I can turn around, and I don't see that question mark,” said the Oklahoma defensive tackle. “Everyone has the ability to take care of their position, to take care of their spot.
“This defense has a chance to very, very good.”
Same goes for the Sooners as a whole. OU spring football 2011 climaxed Saturday with a 20-14 Red victory that was marked by clean play. Nothing ragged. Nothing wild.
Just the sort of game Bob Stoops loves, and it's looking more and more like this is just the kind of team he loves, too.
Stoops did nothing to quench the runaway optimism for a Sooner squad that figures to be ranked No. 1 going into the 2011 season.
“I don't think there's any question, we have more players ready to play than maybe at any other time,” Stoops said.
Isn't that how you win these days? Get a bunch of good players, then have excellent quarterbacking? The Sooners have a bunch of good players, Landry Jones takes care of the quarterbacking, and just in case calamity should strike Whitney Hand's beau, backup QB Drew Allen was very impressive Saturday.
So how many good players do the Sooners have? Are they double-stocked at every position? Do they go 44 deep in this 85-scholarship era? No.
“You probably never feel good about all 44,” Stoops said. Good teams go 1½ deep, Stoops figures, so for the '11 Sooners, “I'm saying 1¾; get them enough snaps, they could go play.”
That's 38, 39 players, and if you don't believe it, check out the OU defense.
Corey Nelson has been the Sooners' best player in the spring, Stoops said, but Nelson doesn't even have a position nailed down. He's behind star senior Travis Lewis at weakside linebacker. OU coaches will have to use their imagination with Nelson.
“We're going to get him on the field,” Stoops said, mentioning the hybrid defensive end spot that Ronnell Lewis played last season. “We'll find the opportunity.”
The best player on the field Saturday was safety Aaron Colvin, who played a mean backup corner in 2010. The Sooners like ballhawking safeties. With all-time great Roy Williams watching from the sidelines, Colvin did a nice imitation of Superman's better games. Made tackles (a game-high eight), broke up passes, destroyed routes.
Stoops' favorite answer to all kinds of projection questions is “we'll see.” But Stoops said, “Aaron Colvin is going to be a great safety.”
The Sooners are without cornerback Jamell Fleming, who was felled by grades and might not be back come autumn, and no one seemed to miss him. Gabe Lynn joined veteran Demontre Hurst in playing a very good corner. Lynn, Hurst and Colvin all had interceptions.
Throw in Tony Jefferson, Ronnell Lewis, a perhaps-rejuvenated Tom Wort and the Sooners abound in young defensive talent.
Travis Lewis said OU's defense “hopefully (will be) amazing, great, awesome. Everything in between. The sky's the limit for this team. If we keep making strides in the right direction, at the end of the day we're going to be a great defense.”
Here's something else I like about these Sooner young'ns. They seem to know what winning is all about.
Truth is, at this level of college football, everyone has talent. Everyone has players who can run and hit and cover. The difference is between the temples.
“Knowing what to do is three fourths of it,” Stoops said.
And knowing that knowing what to do might be the other fourth. The Sooners pass that test, too.
“We're committed to knowing our assignments, our alignments, our reads,” Nelson said. “Take away all the mental errors. We've been pretty good at minimizing errors.”
Stoops, looking ahead, and McFarland, looking behind, like what they see. So should all of Soonerville.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.