NORMAN — At this time last year, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones' role was simple. Mop up after reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford every time the Sooners built a big lead.
Everything changed when Bradford's shoulder was slammed into the Cowboys Stadium turf in the season opener.
"I wasn't really prepared," Jones said. "Then Sam gets hurt and I get thrown in there and had to be ready. It was really odd, a wild season."
Coach Bob Stoops, the coaching staff and teammates said Jones performed admirably considering circumstances Jones faced that were more complex than replacing a No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
"Landry wasn't expecting to play," said center Ben Habern. "When Sam went down, and he had to take that role of a starting quarterback, there are a lot of things that come with that — the leadership role, commanding the offense. He did an incredible job."
A year later, the obstacles Jones faced in 2009 are gone.
Jones gained invaluable experience. He's had an offseason to run the offense. He's gotten stronger.
Another plus is OU's offense is back to full strength. Following a rash of injuries on the offensive line, at tight end and fullback, an inconsistent running game made Jones' on-the-job training more challenging.
"There's truly no comparison from a year ago at this time," Stoops said. "He's just much more prepared and confident and sure of himself and experienced. He's looked good, strong and is throwing a great ball, making good decisions."
During his redshirt season, Jones watched backup Joey Halzle attempt 30 passes during Bradford's Heisman season. Jones attempted that many in 11 different games and totaled 449 for the season.
A year later, Jones said fall camp has been dramatically different.
"It's like night and day," Jones said. "You see the defense so much better. Instead of seeing one thing you're starting to see both (options), seeing the middle of the field split, seeing receivers run down the field."
Besides making better reads, Jones now weighs 225 pounds. Last year he weighed 215.
"I've made some throws last year I couldn't have made," Jones said. "Your arm strength grows with your accuracy. Once you see it, your body is able to make that play."
The offensive line is projected to be more reliable. If the Sooners can re-establish a running game, it would take pressure off Jones.
"The other injuries really changed who we were," said quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. "We became a team that hadn't prepared that way all spring, all summer, all fall camp. Week one, week two, week three when you're changing your identity, it's tough on your entire offensive unit.
"It's extremely tough on a young quarterback who wasn't prepared that way. We probably put more stress on our offensive line and our quarterback when you don't have that balance, you don't have a running game, get down hill and a little bit of play-action pass. Those are things we hope to get back to."
Twice, Jones had to take over for Bradford. A month after the BYU game, Bradford returned against Baylor. The following week, Bradford was knocked out it in the first quarter against Texas. This time, Jones knew what to expect. But there were mixed results.
Jones threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. Both figures led all freshmen nationally. He threw a school-record six TDs against Tulsa and a school-bowl-record 418 yards in the Sun Bowl.
One area he expects to improve is performing better away from Owen Field. Last season Jones posted an 18-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in Norman, 8-10 away from Owen Field. He threw five interceptions at Nebraska.
"I thought he handled it well," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "He had some good games. Shoot, his first start he had six touchdowns, an NCAA record (for freshmen). Everybody else talks about the couple of games that weren't as good. But he's a young guy. I thought he did great."
A year ago, Jones expected to be signaling in plays, not actually running them.
"Just a year under your belt makes all the difference," Heupel said. "Plus, being the guy gives him a little bit more of a leadership role heading into the year than what he had a year ago. He's excited about the season and we are as a coaching staff the way he's performed so far."
Road woes Landry Jones' stats were dramatically different at Owen Field. A breakdown of Jones' redshirt freshman season, listing completion percentage, passing yards per game and touchdown and interception totals. In Norman Games, Pct, Yards, TDs, Int. 5, 62.1, 306.4, 18, 4 On the road Games, Pct, Yards, TDs, Int. 7, 55.4, 238.0, 8, 10