With Oklahoma’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the defending Big 12 champions as the Sooners head into summer drills.
Oklahoma will begin 2017 with the usual target slapped on its chest, favored to win a third straight Big 12 title and return to the playoffs after falling short a year ago. But there are holes to be filled on both sides of the line, common for programs that perennially send so many alums to the NFL. The Sooners spent spring ball taking the first steps toward fleshing out a retooled two-deep roster.
Oklahoma Spring Game Redux
1. Baker Mayfield Will Have Help
True, the Sooners lost a ton of production to the pros, including Mayfield’s favorite target, All-American WR Dede Westbrook. However, Bob Stoops is replenishing on the fly with help from some gifted transfers.
Is there another Westbrook on campus? Probably not, but the sky isn’t falling over Norman. Oklahoma has imported Jeff Badet and Marquise Brown from Kentucky and College of the Canyons (Calif.), respectively. Both can take the top off defenses. In fact, Badet averaged 21.6 yards on his 31 catches with the Wildcats last year. The holdovers are stepping up, too, namely senior Jeffery Mead. At 6-foot-5, with an incredible catch-radius and ball skills, he’s ready to erupt in front of curious NFL scouts.
2. Corner Situation Very Promising
Oklahoma finished 111th nationally in pass defense a year ago, one element of the D’s overall problems. Still, the Sooners improved markedly in coverage over the second half of 2016, a trend that looks likely to continue into the new season.
OU is suddenly excited about its cornerbacks. First, all-leaguer Jordan Thomas elected to return for his senior year. And then sophomore Parnell Motley performed like a future star after incumbent starter Jordan Parker suffered a stress fracture in his foot in practice. While Parker will be fine in time for the start of the season, he’ll have to fight for his job, which is a good thing. Motley was consistently tight in coverage, with the catch-up speed and ball skills to turn this into a very interesting battle in August.
3. The Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher For RB Rodney Anderson
JUCO transfer Marcelias Sutton is on his way to earning a spot in the rotation, and sophomore Abdul Adams is certainly in the mix as well. But the Sooners want Anderson to be the workhorse, provided he can finally stay healthy.
Obviously, Oklahoma lost a ton with the departures of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who are both NFL-bound. There’s cautious optimism that the snakebitten Anderson is physically ready to shoulder the load in 2017. At 6-2 and 223 pounds, he’s built an awful lot like Mixon, with similar potential. Recovering from a neck injury, Anderson was intentionally limited this spring, but the staff is committed to turning him loose in a few months.