Former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones returned to campus March 13 for Pro Day and was asked about the ongoing battle between Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight to be his successor at OU.
“It'll be interesting just to see what all happens with that whole deal,” said Jones, who was a four-year starter at OU and holds virtually every school passing record.
“I'd give the edge to Blake just because he's been in the system longer, but those two other guys that are coming up are just as talented.”
Bell, a junior, played a key role in the offense the past two seasons, replacing Jones in goal-line and short-yardage situations to run plays from the “Belldozer.” He has rushed for 24 career touchdowns from the package.
KING: NDULUE WILL ‘BE READY TO GO'
Oklahoma junior defensive end Chuka Ndulue has moved inside to help alleviate the Sooners' weak depth at defensive tackle this spring.
If anyone can understand that, it's former Sooner David King. Last season, King was asked to move inside several times for a variety of reasons.
King, who returned to Norman for Oklahoma's Pro Day on March 13, said Ndulue will be up to the task.
“I don't think he likes it so much against the run,” King said. “I hated it against the run, but it's fun to rush from in there. He'll transition, put on about 10-15 pounds, he'll be ready to go.”
SAUNDERS TALKS JERSEY NUMBER SWITCH
Senior receiver Jalen Saunders switched his jersey number from 18 to 8, which was worn by graduated running back Dominique Whaley.
“I always wanted the number eight; it was my first high school number,” Saunders said. “I had number seven in high school my senior year because they didn't have number eight.
“I always wanted to wear number eight because it was my dad's number.”
Saunders transferred to Oklahoma from Fresno State after spring football last season, and missed the Sooners' first four 2012 games while the NCAA mulled his eligibility.
He appeared in the Sooners' final nine games, catching 62 passes for 829 yards and three touchdowns.
CORTEZ JOHNSON IMPRESSING
Sophomore cornerback Cortez Johnson has made a strong impression on his teammates and coaches this spring.
Johnson, who transferred from Arizona after his true freshman season and sat out last year, could earn a starting position or significant playing time in the OU secondary, which lost lots of key players from 2012.
“Cortez has actually played before and he has a little experience,” said senior cornerback Aaron Colvin. “He's not all the way out of the loop. Cortez is a big, physical guy that's really strong at the line of scrimmage and he's really good at pressing. When he gets his hands on you, it's pretty much over with.”
HEUPEL: WIDEOUTS A STRONG UNIT
Oklahoma lost its two leading receivers from last year — Kenny Stills and Justin Brown — but co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said the unit remains strong.
“Certainly anytime you lose guys, you are trying to find guys to replace them that are going to play and compete at a high enough level to give you a chance to go after championships,” Heupel said. “We have some wideouts that have played and played well.”
The Sooners return Saunders, who transferred from Fresno State and gained his eligibility midway through last season, and sophomore Sterling Shepard, who played well as a true freshman.
Also, senior Jaz Reynolds continues to work his way back into coaches' good graces after his yearlong suspension in 2012.
Reynolds was OU's third-leading receiver as a sophomore, grabbing 41 receptions for 715 yards and five touchdowns, but was suspended indefinitely last May.
“He had a great winter, and has come back with a sense of urgency,” Heupel said. ”Maybe (he) wants to redeem himself and prove to himself and others what kind of a person he can be on a consistent basis.
“It is a guy that did a lot of positive things as a sophomore and obviously his junior year slips by. But he is a guy that wants to make the most of it.”
NELSON ‘EXPECTING' VARYING ROLES
Senior linebacker Corey Nelson, who recorded 47 tackles and one sack last season, said he expects to play multiple roles in 2013, including more pass rushing.
“We have a couple of packages in and they know that I played in a couple of packages the previous years," Nelson said.
“They always saw me as the type of guy who can play that position, just due to what I did on film the previous years since I've been here. It's very exciting to have multiple packages in with our defense.”
Nelson, like all Oklahoma linebackers, struggled to understand his part in the Sooners' 2012 defense, which often featured no linebackers at all. Two springs ago, OU coach Bob Stoops said Nelson looked like “the best player out there on defense ... In fact, it's not even close.”