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OU football: Five areas to watch during spring game

Secondary vs. wide receivers might be the most important aspect to watch Saturday at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Published: April 13, 2012

The Sooners will stage their annual spring football game Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

This year's edition isn't actually a game. The opposing sidelines will feature the offense versus the defense, using a unique scoring system.

Five areas to watch:

Revamped secondary under the microscope

The most intriguing matchup Saturday is a secondary coming off a subpar season, confident in a less complicated system under returning defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Defensive backs will be matched against talented wide receivers. Zoom in this afternoon on one-on-one matchups, especially intermediate routes and deep balls.

“It was tough coming off last year,” said Tony Jefferson, moved to free safety. “I feel we've handled the pressure coming into the spring. We've had a lot of guys making plays.”

Javon Harris, who lost his starting free safety job after a nightmare game at Baylor, is now the starting strong safety. Dependable veteran Demontre Hurst mans one cornerback slot. Lamar Harris currently is the other starting corner. Aaron Colvin might be inserted there when he returns to full health.

The other top two corners in camp have been former wideout Joe Powell and junior college transfer Kass Everett.

Backup strong safety Quentin Hayes has played well this spring. Coaches feel strong safety is a better fit for Gabe Lynn, who struggled at times last year at cornerback.

The secondary reportedly has played well this spring. Saturday's game is its version of a spring semester final exam.

“I like our secondary,” Stoops said. “The second group has shown up. If you implement one or two of those guys with the first group, they can play. Our 2's aren't where they need to be, but there are certain guys on the 2's, when I mix them in with the 1's, I feel confident in them.”

Wide receivers under the microscope

The other half of the best matchup of the day is a group of wide receivers that also feels it has something to prove.

After Ryan Broyles suffered a season-ending knee injury, wide receiver production dipped noticeably.

“We're disappointed at the way we ended last season, I don't think there's any question,” said receivers coach Jay Norvell. “That's motivation for our guys to prove themselves and step their game up.”

Junior Kenny Stills set freshman receiving records and already has 1,635 career receiving yards and 13 TDs. But his production slipped after Broyles' injury.

The big story this spring has been incoming freshman Trey Metoyer, projected to be an immediate impact player.

Jaz Reynolds emerged as a big-play threat last season. Reynolds has played well this spring despite suffering a kidney injury during Bedlam that required a lengthy hospital stay.

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel raves about slot receiver Trey Franks' all-around play this spring. Kameel Jackson gained limited experience last year. Junior college addition Courtney Gardner is the projected backup slot receiver, but he doesn't arrive until this summer.

Saturday's matchup also is a final exam for the receivers.

“We know what we want to do,” Norvell said. “All the guys that have played before feel real responsibility to get better. We've tried to make them all accountable offensively to each other.”

Veteran running backs need to step up

Junior running backs Brennan Clay and Roy Finch and fullback Trey Millard should get a ton of carries today along with redshirt freshman Danzel Williams.

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