I watched two OSU football practices last week. One basically a long scrimmage, the other the Orange Blitz, which included some scrimmaging. Here’s what I saw:
* J.W. Walsh is the quarterback. There’s no doubt about that.
Walsh is being rotated like a No. 1 quarterback, getting more snaps than freshman Mason Rudolph, who frankly could use more work if he’s actually in a QB derby.
Walsh is being promoted like a No. 1 quarterback, with OSU running a taped interview with Walsh over the public address system during the Blitz.
Walsh is playing like a No. 1 quarterback, with his performance clearly ahead of Rudolph.
Mike Gundy, who earlier said he wouldn’t talk about quarterbacks until the season opener Aug. 30, long ago surrendered that stance and Saturday even admitted that Walsh is the apparent starter.
“J.W. has been throwing the ball great,” said speedy receiver Blake Webb, who caught deep balls from both Walsh and Rudolph on Saturday. “Anytime he (Walsh) gets a chance to throw it deep, I love going deep. We connected a couple times and it was a great day.”
* Webb was the best offensive player on the field Saturday. I assume Jhajuan Seales will be OSU’s go-to receiver, while players like Brandon Sheperd and Marcel Ateman will be used extensively, too. But Webb drew the eyes of coaches two years ago when he arrived, and now we know why. The guy can play.
* I wrote about Tyreek Hill for the Sunday Oklahoman. You can read that column here.
It looks to me like Hill is going to be a tailback. If he can’t handle it, Hill will move back to slot receiver. But Hill is going to be given every chance to be the home run hitter out of the backfield, while Des Roland and Rennie Childs will be the more battering rams.
“I think you’ve got a young man that can play multiple positions,” said OSU running backs coach Jemal Singleton. “That’s part of what you do in spring ball, experiment, See what a young man can do.”
I wrote about how OSU’s ideal usage of Hill is the way West Virginia used the speedy Tavon Austin two years ago. But Singleton pointed out that Austin was a full-time receiver until late in the year, when WVU shifted him to tailback to take advantage of OU’s funky no-linebacker defense, and Austin exploded for 344 rushing yards against the Sooners.
“Tyreek has more of a background as a running back” than did Austin, Singleton said. “He did some different things in junior college. I think he’s capable.”
Roland and Childs are solid backs but not necessarily threats to take it to the house on any given play. Hill is.
“Definitely,” Singleton said. “He’s at another gear. When he’s at his top end speed, there’s not many people on the football field that are going to catch him. I think that’s the benefit that he has.
“Now, he lacks some things that those other guys have. Some size, ability to make four-yard carries really easy and those types of things. He just adds to the complement of running backs we have in the room. And I think that’s important, to have a mixture of different types of backs that can be successful against different types of opponents.”
* Rudolph is hampered by OSU’s makeshift offensive line, which is missing Devin Davis and Brandon Garrett, both recovering from injuries. Walsh’s experience and scrambling ability helps him adjust to a pass rush.
Rudolph is “a high school kid out there running around and playing,” Gundy said. “We’re really inexperienced on the offensive line, especially at the twos (backups). We just don’t have much depth. We have two starters who aren’t out there with us. For that reason, when the twos are out there, it can be tough on a quarterback. Those five guys are giving us everything, but they’ve never played at this level. It’s not easy for those guys to function, but they’re coming along well. We’re making some strides.”
* Veteran offensive lineman Daniel Koenig said, “It was not one of our better days. We’ve had better. Our offense clicks at some points and sometimes we don’t. We’re working on it. We’re getting those guys out there that need to play. We have guys that are stepping up who need to keep moving forward. If we do that, things will happen.”
* If there’s an odd man out in the receiving corps, it could be C.J. Curry. He had a couple of drops. You can’t go dropping the ball.
* Hill has been impressive considering what he’s done this spring. Worked out exclusively at slot receiver, then the last week or so working out exclusively at tailback. All the while running track as well.
* The most interesting thing Gundy said was this, about his defensive line: “I think we will be better on the defensive line this coming year than we were last year, that’s just my personal opinion.”
Now that’s quite a statement. The 2013 Cowboys had Calvin Barnett at defensive tackle alongside James Castleman, and their backups, Davidell Collins and Anthony Rogers, were seniors. Only Castleman is back. And gone, too, is starting end Tyler Johnson.
The Cowboys have a bunch of good ends, it looks like – Jimmy Bean, Sam Wren, Emmanuel Ogbah. But Gundy must be happy with the tackles, too.
* Maybe I’m out of shape from football watching, but it looked to me like OSU’s offensive tempo was good. And then Gundy said it wasn’t nearly as fast as the Cowboys want to be.
“The way we played today is similar to what we do, but it’s not like on game day,” Gundy said. “There’s a lot more going on. We would like to play faster. Our tempo last year was slow for us, but it needs to be faster this fall. It was slow today, because we don’t have enough depth. If we go too fast, we run those guys, we can’t get anything out of them.”
* Cornerback Ashton Lampkin, who figures to take over for departed Justin Gilbert, talked about which of his teammates have shined brightest this spring: “There’s a lot of guys that have stepped up. I believe (linebacker) Seth Jacobs has stepped up a lot, he’s coming in to his own. He didn’t play a lot his freshman year, he redshirted and didn’t play a lot last year. He’s come in and done what the coaches have asked of him. Tre Flowers and Jordan Sterns and Darius Curry (defensive backs all), those guys are stepping up and becoming players for this team.”
* Gundy also is high on his receivers. He said the d-line and receivers “are the deepest positions we have. They’re the most experienced. Of course they have to stay healthy and have a good work ethic, which are always important, but the maturity we have at those positions at this point is what you would have in a normal year that didn’t feature 28 seniors leaving. Those positions are in great shape. Elsewhere, we’re still developing young players.”