NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma's uncertainty at quarterback might have just become a little more certain during the Sooners' 106-play scrimmage Saturday in Norman.
The Oklahoma coaching staff has been waiting all spring for one of the four signal-callers to step up and stake their claim for the starting quarterback position vacated by Nate Hybl. And on Saturday, sophomore Brent Rawls did just that.
Rawls was by far the most impressive of the Oklahoma quarterbacks completing 10-of-20 passes for 159 yards. Sophomore Paul Thompson had a so-so performance completing 5-of-14 passes for 80 yards while redshirt freshman Noah Allen threw two interceptions (both to junior cornerback Mark Bradley) and completed only 5 of his 15 passes for 57 yards.
"He has improved and is a much better football player since the first scrimmage,"said Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach Chuck Long on Rawls. "Brent actually wasn't all that bad in the first scrimmage, he had an interception and he moved the ball some, but since that scrimmage he has really turned it on and had some nice practices lately."
To make a good day even better, Rawls was the only quarterback to direct a scoring drive against the first team defense, and needed only four plays to do it. After two straight running plays, Rawls hit Mark Clayton over the middle for a 16-yard gain on third and six, and then hit hit Brandon Jones for a 45-yard touchdown pass on a play-action pass.
Jones, who was OU's most dominant receiver with five catches for 114 yards, has always been a favorite target of Rawls in previous scrimmages, but the sophomore from Shreveport, La. hooked up with Clayton twice on key third down plays. Clayton was impressed with Rawls' performance.
"Man, he was throwing out of sight today," said Clayton, who had two catches for 22 yards. "He was throwing lasers and right on the money. All of us realize how good Brent can be throwing the ball, but now there is something about him different in the huddle and on the field as well. I guess he is growing up a little bit."
"I don't think he made any mistakes today and he put us in good plays for most of the day," Clayton continued. "Despite the fact he throws hard, he throws an easy ball to catch and he had a great day today."
So how much of an impression did Rawls make on his quarterback coach?
"He definitely stepped up today," said Long. "Scrimmages are important because that is where you get as close to live work as you can get. Our situation is to get all the quarterbacks a chance, which means an equal amount of reps throughout spring ball. Once the spring game is over we will sit down the following week and give them there plan for the summer and where they stand."
Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops was also pleased with the overall play of Rawls and the other Sooner quarterbacks.
"Brent did have a good day today," said Stoops. "He has had a couple of back-to-back practices where he has been solid, which is good because he gains confidence in his abilities and effort."
"The others guys are making plays as well," Stoops added. "It was very pleasing to see Paul Thompson make a bunch of plays and Noah Allen made some nice plays. The quarterbacks are doing a lot of good things."
"I was pleased with all three of the quarterbacks," said Long. "This was a big day for those guys to see what they could do and overall I was pleased. When you look at young quarterbacks, the first thing they have to learn is to take care of the football.I think we had a couple of turnovers and a couple of interceptions and that was it today.We don't like those, but they are getting better in that department. The next thing you look for is how they make decisions and part of that decision making process is not only completions, but throwing the ball away.We needed to throw the ball away a little bit more today, but for the most part I was pleased with there decisions and how they read things."
Despite Allen's struggles throwing the ball, he did have the play of the day when he took off around the right end on an option keeper, streaked into the secondary and sprinted 30-yards downfield before pitching it back to Donta Hickson, who took it into the end zone.
Senior quarterback Jason White was held out of the scrimmage due to precautionary measures dealing with his recovering knee injury.
"His knee is just a little sore," said Stoops. "Jason said he could have played, but we didn't want to push the issue. We want to let him feel confident that he can get all of his practices in next week and possibly play him in the spring game instead."
SCRIMMAGE REPORT: Rawls steps up
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