The Norman Transcript

April 11, 2009

Sooner vs. Sooner

Red/White Game

John Shinn

Anyone thinking Oklahoma’s Red/White Game is true gauge of how next season will look should consider this: Sam Bradford spent more time signing autographs (about 30 minutes) than he did taking snaps (three series).

In what has become as big a tradition than the game itself, the Sooners did not lay all their offensive chips on the table for the annual finale to spring practice. They didn’t even come close.

“I would have liked to play a little more, but they were trying to get the young guys some work. I can understand that,” Bradford said. “I just needed to make the most of the plays I had and I thought I did.”

Bradford completed 11-of-13 passes for 97 yards and had a nice 23-yard touchdown pass to Adron Tennell in the east corner of the south end zone early in the game.

But giving the fans a true look at what the Sooners’ offense will look like next season took a back seat to developing offensive depth.

Landry Jones, who will enter next season as Bradford’s backup, and Drew Allen, who graduated a semester early from high school to participate in spring practice, took the majority of the snaps.

Neither had a spectacular afternoon. Jones was 5-for-12 for 73 yards. He found Jameel Owens for a 10-yard touchdown late in the second half, but had a pass intercepted and returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Dominique Franks, who intercepted two passes Saturday.

Allen was 4-for-14 for 58 yards.

Then again, Bradford wasn’t the only offensive stalwart who was a spectator Saturday. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Brody Eldridge, fullback Matt Clapp and running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown didn’t play.

The unit was all down to seven offensive linemen due to mild injuries and fatigue set in after a while.

“It was really hard to judge the offense with so many guys out,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Overall, I thought we saw a lot of good things and good effort. The good news is that the guys who did play got a ton of snaps.”

The defense pretty much dominated from the opening snap. In a scoring system devised by Stoops, the defense won 63-36.

The Sooners will have all but two defensive starters back from last season’s team and most were on the field Saturday afternoon.

The talent and experience showed early and often.

Besides Franks’ two interceptions, linebacker J.R. Bryant also returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown.

Running the ball was pretty much a moot point. The offense averaged less than a yard per carry (52 attempts for 27 yards).

“They had a lot of people hurt. I’m not going to take this as us being dominant,” said linebacker Travis Lewis, who made four tackles. “Sam didn’t play a lot and they had some guys banged up on the offensive line. Skill players were out.

“We’re satisfied to a point. We did what we needed to do, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. We’re just looking to bigger and better things.”

They are possible if OU’s defensive line is able to wreak havoc in the fall the way it did to end the spring. Quarterbacks were not allowed to be hit, but defensive end Frank Alexander was credited with three sacks and Jeremy Beal notched two. Defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Adrian Taylor combined for 11⁄2.

“I was really pleased with how guys were physical today,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Guys were sure of themselves in the right spots and really got after it. I was pleased with their effort.”

But the defense benefitted from going against a depleted and overworked offensive line that was without Stephen Good and transfer Jarvis Jones because of injuries. Bradford was sacked twice on the game’s opening possession. The Sooners only gave up 13 sacks all of last season.

Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson wasn’t concerned with his offensive line or his unit’s lack of production to wrap up the spring.

There were no plans to show what the offense is capable of when it fires on all cylinders.

“To look good, we wish all our guys were out here,” he said. “But we don’t need Sam to look good. We need those young quarterbacks to go through some growing pains and make some plays and learn how to play ball. That’s the thing about the spring. Guys have to learn how to play.”

John Shinn