NORMAN — Ordinarily, spring practice without a true quarterback competition is pretty dull. Oklahoma will hit the field for the first of its 15 offseason offseason practices or scrimmages for the first time today.
It still has Landry Jones, so there’s no true quarterback derby. There is, however, plenty to pique interest.
Here are five issues the Sooners will be tackling between today and the Red/White Game on April 14:
· Develop a backup quarterback: Jones is the established starter, and he’s earned the right to be No. 1. He’ll enter the Sept. 1 season opener at UTEP 34 straight games. It’s a remarkable streak, but OU must have a backup plan for its ending.
The Sooners found an effective short-yardage package for Blake Bell last season. It needs to find out this spring whether Bell, Drew Allen or even freshman Kendal Thompson is best suited for running the offense.
One of the three has to emerge as Jones’ heir apparent over the next year. A productive spring could make the choice a whole lot simpler.
· Receiver influx: The Sooner receiving corps was whittled so thin by the end of the 2011 season it was nearly transparent. It’s why OU’s coaching staff heavily restocked the position in last month’s recruiting class.
Wide receiver Trey Metoyer and tight ends Taylor McNamara and Brannon Green are currently on campus.
This will be their chance to shine and ingrain themselves in the offense before summer.
Metoyer figures to get every opportunity with starter Jaz Reynolds being held out of spring drills due to kidney injury.
· Secondary fix: The biggest changes the Sooners face next season are on the defensive side. Mike Stoops is back as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. The hope is he’ll restore the glory days when OU was a defensive powerhouse from 2000-2003.
Might happen, but a better place to start will be solidifying the secondary. It struggled against spread offenses last season and lost its best players — cornerback Jamel Fleming — to graduation.
The player to watch this spring is junior college transfer Kass Everett. He was brought in to replace Fleming.
The Sooners need him to show he can do it this spring.
· Get the running game going: OU played without a true power running back after Dominique Whaley was injured midway through the season. It was one of the biggest reasons the offenses grounded to a halt when wide receiver Ryan Broyles was injured late in the year.
Whaley won’t practice this spring because of the injury, but the Sooners need to create the mentality it had when it was giving him the ball.
· Nelson’s chance to shine: For the first time in four years, OU won’t have Travis Lewis at weakside linebacker.
The job goes to Corey Nelson.
The Sooner coaching staff has always believed he has the potential to be an All-American.
OU needs him to show he can be that kind of player over the next five weeks.
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org