NORMAN — N o news is usually good news at the annual Red/White Game, and so it was a fine Saturday at Owen Field.
Yes, Landry Jones threw a silly interception. On his very first run for public viewing, Brandon Williams collided with quarterback Drew Allen before falling forward. Tight ends James Hanna and Austin Haywood dropped enough passes to have the masses complaining to sports radio Monday morning if only it was the regular season.
But nobody’s perfect, the backup quarterback race heated up only because Drew Allen and Blake Bell both played well enough and, more than anything, a point emphasized by Bob Stoops once the day was done, there are just no glaring deficiencies on this team unless you want to pick on kicker Jimmy Stevens and his several back-ups.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we have more players ready to play this year, maybe more than any other time when you look at, just overall, two-deep guys that you can put on the field and trust, who know what to do and do it,” Bob Stoops said.
Should Oklahoma become the nation’s consensus No. 1 preseason team, that should be the biggest reason why. Players must make plays, but my goodness, do the Sooners have some players.
The guy calling the action for radio, Toby Rowland, the new voice of the Sooners, proved similarly strong. He called James Hanna “James Allen” once, but also called a very complete game. He’s sure to have a spotter with him in the both, but listening to him, it didn’t sound like he needed one.
“I can’t wait till I can call them ‘Sooners,’” Rowland said, lamenting that “White” and “Red” were the teams on the field.
Really, the only thing that ever kept Rowland from sounding like a great choice to call Sooner football was the fact it was hard to imagine him doing it. Now it’s easy, because now he has.
But for all of that, none of which shold change the way people were thinking about the Sooners prior to Saturday, there was still one great story and that story’s name is Dominique Whaley.
He carried 10 times, made one count for 40 yards, and carried for 65 in all, leading everybody on either side.
Out of Lawton MacArthur, he spent most of two years at Langston University, took a semester off, then decided to become a Sooner, even though it meant walking on.
He’ll be a redshirt junior come the fall and, by the look of things, is really and truly in the middle of the running back hunt.
That wasn’t the case for last year’s Red/White darling, Marshall Musil, who carried 29 times to close out last spring, but only twice, for 11 yards, all of last season.
It’s worth noting Whaley’s name is not Roy Finch, who anybody might think would lead the Sooners in carries next season. Nor is it Brandon Williams, who many want to pencil in as the next running back savior. Still, indications are, from what took place on the field Saturday afternoon and what was said afterward, Whaley has a chance.
“I feel like the position is wide open,” he said. “They’re giving all of us plenty of opportunities.
That jibed with the thoughts of his head coach, who, even when the question wasn’t about Whaley directly, said he thought “it’s going to be more like a committee” running the ball, “We don’t need to have one guy that has to do it.” And when the question was about Whaley directly, Stoops even sounded like he was on the guy’s side.
“He’s right there with those guys,” Stoops said. “You know, Dominique, even a year ago, has done well, so he’s definitely in that competition.”
An army brat, Whaley said he’s not sure where to call home. Could be Texas, could be Florida, could be Oklahoma. Even now, his parents are stationed a long way away, in Watertown, N.Y.
Should he remain in the mix, Sooner fans are sure to claim Oklahoma for him, because who doesn’t want to cheer on one of their own?
That was Saturday at Owen Field.
Nothing earth shattering and no injuries. Really, just about all anybody could want. And the emergence of Whaley, which actually made it fun.
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org