NORMAN — The letter came with the result Landry Jones was expecting. It came with the best result imaginable, one he had dreamed about since he was a boy.
The Oklahoma quarterback in January received a first-round projection from the NFL's Draft Advisory Board.
By then, despite the millions of dollars that go along with that news, Jones had already determined he was not done at OU. He wanted another season, another chance to fulfill the goals he had set when he left Artesia, N.M., five years ago.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” said Jones, who made the decision to return for his senior season about 10 days earlier than he indicated he would. “I prayed about it, felt good about it. There are some things I want to accomplish, some goals. I just wanted to be back, really enjoy my senior year, my teammates, this team and being a Sooner for one more year.”
That year now begins in earnest, with Jones' fifth round of spring ball. So, what exactly is left for Jones, already the school's all-time leading passer, who will likely become OU's winningest quarterback this fall?
He said, as you would expect, that competing for a national title is requisite. But he did not shy from publicly establishing a couple of personal goals: being an All-American and a Heisman finalist.
“I'm lucky enough to be at a place like Oklahoma,” Jones said, “where I have a lot of good guys around me that I'm capable of making those things come true, maybe.”
OU coach Bob Stoops said he would like to see Jones be more precise “in everything that we're doing.” But that charge isn't solely made in Jones' direction; it's more of an offense-wide challenge. Still, when you have an experienced quarterback, he is expected to be the leader of that initiative.
And it is rare to have someone who has taken as many college snaps as Jones. He was thrust into duty as a freshman because of Sam Bradford's shoulder injury, and he never relinquished the spot.
Jones has thrown 1,628 passes as a Sooner, completing 1,021 for 12,379 yards. He has thrown 93 touchdowns.
“I believe it's a great advantage, just the leadership, the poise, being able to hopefully avoid the really poor plays that put you in bad positions, with turnovers,” Stoops said. “Hopefully there's increased precision and execution. That's what you usually get with a more mature and experienced quarterback.”
Jones sees specific areas where he needs to grow — making the spring important, even if he has practiced and played as much as he has. He said he can always make sharper decisions, better understand the offense — and become more mobile.
That last issue has always been a hot button with Jones, who doesn't exactly admit to being nimble. But he's working on it. Jones said he has been involved in mobility drills.
“It comes with practice,” he said. “(Quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel) is doing a good job putting us through some stuff.”
Lineman Gabe Ikard said the team appreciated Jones' decision to spurn the NFL dollars and return to school.
“We're excited to have him back,” Ikard said. “He's as vocal as he's ever been. He's doing all the right things. He's being Landry. He's the leader of the team. We all know that. I'm very, very thankful to have him back.”
While that's the team's take, a faction of fans groaned when Jones announced he was coming back. Ikard, for one, noticed — and wondered why.
“How can you be mad that he's coming back?” Ikard said.
The theories — complaints, really — are fairly standard: He isn't Bradford. Fans clamor for change, typically. He doesn't run enough. He doesn't yell enough.
“You've got the best quarterback in the country coming back on your team,” Ikard said. “All you keep hearing is fans and people complaining. You're like, ‘Stop.'”
Well, what would stop it? More wins? More yards? Or a ring like the one his quarterbacks coach has?
All of the above? That's why he turned down the first round, really.
“It speaks to what he wants to accomplish,” Heupel said. “He wants to push himself in the top tier.”