For college football teams, spring practice is a time to continue developing younger players and begin replacing starters who have graduated or left early for the NFL Draft. With the Red-White spring game today and only one additional practice left, Oklahoma has answered many questions this spring. Others will linger into the fall. Below is what we've learned during the spring and what we've yet to find out:
What do we know?•Keenan Clayton has found a home at linebacker The last time many fans saw Clayton on the playing field he was whiffing ball-carriers from the strong safety position at the beginning of the 2006 season. This, however, isn't the same Clayton. The rising junior was moved to outside linebacker last season and he is thriving in his new position this spring, making tackles all over the field. He leads the Sooners with 17 tackles in their two scrimmages. •Joey Halzle is the No. 2 quarterback: Keith Nichol and Landry Jones get talked about the most, but Halzle is clearly OU's second-best quarterback at the moment, behind starter Sam Bradford. Nichol and Jones will get their chances in future seasons, but for now, Halzle is the No. 2. •OU is fine at cornerback: One of the biggest concerns for the defense was replacing both of last season's starting cornerbacks in Reggie Smith and Marcus Walker. But with Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson stepping up, OU hasn't appeared to have missed a beat at cornerback. Both players are good about not getting beat deep and both can make plays on the ball on underneath passes. Jonathan Nelson has proven to be a solid No. 3 corner as well.
What do we not know?•Is Quentin Chaney the answer at wide receiver? Chaney dropped several passes in the first scrimmage, then caught everything in the second. To win the starting job, Chaney will have to prove to wide receivers coach Jay Norvell that he can be consistent. So far, that hasn't happened, though Chaney could take a big step forward with a strong showing today. Both redshirt freshman Ryan Broyles and incoming freshman Jameel Owens could push Chaney for playing time in a crowded receiving rotation next season. •Will placekicking continue to be a position of strength? In his last two seasons as OU's field goal kicker, Garrett Hartley made 32 of 35 field goals, many in pressure situations. In two spring scrimmages, redshirt freshman Jimmy Stevens has connected on only 19 of 30 attempts. Stevens will have to be more accurate and prove he has a big enough leg, or risk losing kicks to incoming freshman Tress Way. •Will the linebacking unit will be OK without Curtis Lofton? Clayton has been a stud, but injuries to projected starters Ryan Reynolds (sprained ankle) and Austin Box (sprained elbow) have prevented defensive coordinator Brent Venables from getting a better feel for this unit as a whole. Plus, junior-college transfers J.R. Bryant and Mike Balogun, who could both push for playing time, don't arrive on campus until the summer.
The Sooners prepare to take to the field before their win over North Texas on Sept. 1, 2007, at the Gaylord Family -- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. OU's spring game will be held at 1 p.m. today . Check out Page 1A for more on spring football. by CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN archive Red-White spring game
•Kickoff: 1 p.m. today •Where: Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium •Seating: The gates for today's Red-White spring game will open at 11:30 a.m. Entrance into Owen Field will be available through Gates 1, 5, 7 and 12. Open seating is available throughout the lower bowl with full service concessions available on the east and west sides. Restrooms will be available throughout the stadium concourse. • Activities: Pregame festivities include recognition of 2008 women's gymnastics team, which will be competing in the NCAA regional being hosted by OU at the Lloyd Noble Center at 6 p.m. Also, the 39th John Jacobs Track Invitational will begin at 10 a.m. east of the stadium at the John Jacobs Track and Field Complex, where admission is free. Athletes from all four in-state schools, OU, OSU, Tulsa and ORU, will compete. Halftime festivities at the Red-White game will include the recognition of all former OU football alumni in attendance.
Quentin Chaney runs after a catch as Travis Lewis defends during a scrimmage on April 5. Chaney needs to prove he can be consistent after dropping several passes in the Sooners' first scrimmage. by STEVE SISNEY, The Oklahoman