NORMAN — There’s been a different vibe throughout spring practice for Oklahoma. It changed the way the Sooners have practiced, allowing more players more work. The goal was to eliminate wasted time on the field and leave no developmental stone unturned.
It won’t be the only thing the Sooners have changed. That will be clear when OU conducts the Red/White Game at 2 p.m. today at Owen Field.
The game itself has changed. This year, it will actually look, feel and be scored like an actual game.
Teams for the game were drafted Thursday. Rosters are set and coaches have even started putting together depth charts.
There won’t be any strange scoring system for first downs or three-and-outs or interceptions. Touchdowns and field goals will be the name of the game.
“It’s better because we can give everybody a chance to go out there and play hard,” said OU defensive end Frank Alexander, who will play for the Red team. “Instead of everybody playing on the same side of the ball, now everybody is on a different team and you can see the point spread better.”
OU hopes the it will better showcase improvement made since spring drills began.
Strides had to be made after the Sooners went an uncharacteristic 8-5 last season. A rash of injuries to star players throughout the offensive line exposed depth issues. Inexperience at receiver and quarterback were also issues.
The Sooners believe they’ve addressed them. Coaches have been pleased with the increasing level of maturity and focus they’ve witnessed since the Sooners returned to the practice field.
“I think with everyone maturing, we’re going to keep building as a team and we’re not going to be getting out of place,” guard Tyler Evans said.
It must still be seen to be believed. The Red/White Game is the only opportunity for players to show the fruits of their labor until the games start counting.
Splitting the team in two has given players a sense they’ll be playing for something. There is another reason why the Sooners feel what happens today will be important to their future.
“This is what you’re working for, to play the spring game,” defensive back Jamell Fleming said. “This is going to be great for us.”
Not everything has changed.
Some established starters, like running back DeMarco Murray, won’t play. Others who’ve already proven themselves will play sparingly.
Still, there appears to be an edge heading into today. There’s a belief OU has learned from last seasons struggles.
“It’s not as good as we want, but during two scrimmages we don’t have as many turnovers and don’t have as many penalties as we have had. It’s much cleaner, it’s not great yet, but I don’t see things that I saw a year ago,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “I’ve seen a lot of things to build on.”
That’s the feeling every team wants as it exits the spring and begins to fully focus on the coming season. Today the Sooners will try proving the progress they believe they’ve made.
John Shinn 366-3536 email@example.com