NORMAN, Okla. — Over 40,000 fans packed into Owen Field Saturday hoping to see one of Oklahoma's four quarterbacks emerge as the favorite to lead the Sooners next fall. Instead, the largest crowd ever to attend a Red/White spring game left with perhaps more questions than answers as the OU quarterbacks had to battled one of the toughest defenses in the nation.
The Sooner quarterbacks threw a combined six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Michael Thompson and Antonio Perkins.
"It's always tough when you see each other every single day of the spring," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops. " The defense usually is pretty familiar with what they are doing and has a chance to get on them a little bit, but the offense had their moments and did some good things."
Despite throwing one interception, sophomore quarterback Brent Rawls was clearly the best of the Oklahoma quarterbacks for the third straight scrimmage. Rawls completed 11-of-17 passes for 138 yards, and was the only OU quarterback to lead a scoring drive against the first team defense when he threw the games only touchdown pass to sophomore J.D. Runells.
"He led us on a nice drive and put it in the endzone and showed he has the ability to lead us," said Stoops. "That was pleasing. I'm sure it will help his confidence in what he's doing."
"I'd say I did pretty well," said Rawls. "I made a couple mistakes, but I did make a couple good throws. I felt as a whole that we did pretty well and I did pretty well. I've been running the same offense for three years, so it's kind of hard not to catch on but it's helping a lot more now that I'm getting reps."
Senior quarterback Jason White, who will probably emerge with Rawls as the top two quarterbacks heading into the fall, was able to play in the first quarter despite still nursing a torn ACL injury. White completed 7-of-12 passes for 70 yards and threw two interceptions.
White's first interception was a perfect pass that went through the hands of Mark Clayton and into the hands of Perkins, who returned it 39-yards to give the White a 7-0 lead. But on his next drive with the first team, White bounced back and led the Red (first team offense) on a 13-play, 67-yard drive which was capped by a 26-yard field goal by Trey DiCarlo.
"Jason led us on a nice drive," said Stoops. "The first interception, in fact both of them, weren't his fault. They were balls that were right in guys hands. I told him coming off (the field) that those were good passes and those guys need to catch the ball."
White's second interception was a screen pass that was bobbled by Kejuan Jones and picked off by Brodney Pool.
Redshirt freshmen Noah Allen and sophomore Paul Thompson didn't fair as well as Rawls and White. Allen threw two interceptions and completed 4-of-14 passes for 79 yards while Thompson only completed 5-of-14 passes for 49 yards. Thompson also threw one interception. Thompson did show his ability to run with the ball scrambling for 21 yards on two carries.
"I liked what both sides did," said Stoops. "It's always tough going against yourself and splitting up teams. I liked the effort, guys playing hard. A lot of good plays."
"We got one guy hurt, Rufus Alexander," Stoops continued. "It sounds, without being definitive, that he may have injured a ligament in his knee. It's fairly serious, but we'll find out more once we get an MRI. That looks to be a bad situation and hopefully it's not but we'll see. I like what I see."
Below is a position-by-position breakdown of who did what in Saturday's Red/White.
It was a so-so day for the running backs for the running backs on Saturday. Kejuan Jones and Renaldo Works took all of the snaps with the first team offense while Donta Hickson and Jerad Estus worked with the second team.
"The running backs seemed to do pretty well," Stoops said. "At times we can be pretty tough to run on. They all had their moments. We saw Renaldo make some plays, and Kejuan and Donta, made some plays there towards the end."
Kejuan Jones was OU's leading rusher with 28 yards on nine carries. Jones had the best run of the day when he took the hand-off going to his right, ran into the clogged up pile, reversed his field back to the left and picked up 13 yards. Jones is also going to be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, when he managed to actually catch it. The sophomore from Tulsa bobbled one screen pass from Jason White that was eventually picked of by Brodney Pool and dropped another point blank screen pass from Thompson. Jones did finish with four catches for 31 yards.
Senior Renaldo Works was impressive as well on a couple of runs and finished with 24 yards on six carries. Fourth string tailback Jerad Estus also carried the ball six times for 23 yards.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Leading the way for the Oklahoma receivers was sophomore tight end James Moses and junior receiver Mark Clayton. Moses caught four passes for 43 yards, including one beautiful catch over the middle from Rawls in which he was sandwiched by OU defenders moments after he made the catch. Clayton seems to be emerging as OU's go-to-guy and the favorite target of the Sooner QB's. Clayton caught four passes and finished with a game high 58 receiving yards.
Second team receiver Travis Wilson also had a big day with two catches for 56 yards. Wilson was part of the biggest play of the day when he caught a 15-yard out from Rawls, turned up field juking a couple of defenders before being caught from behind by Brandon Shelby for a 40-yard gain.
Fullback J.D. Runells has spent a lot of time working with the tight ends this spring and that paid off today when he caught the games only touchdown pass on a 17-yarder from Brent Rawls on a third and short situation.
Clayton, Will Peoples and Brandon Jones were the starters today for the first team.
Oklahoma's first team offensive line seems set and very solid. The first team offense only rushed for 52 yards, but the line gave the OU's quarterbacks great pass protection against the vaunted first team defense for the most of the day. Wes Sims, Jammal Brown, Vince Carter, Kelvin Chaisson and Davin Jospeh were the starters today for the first team offensive line.
"I thought our offensive line, really through the entire spring, has been very good," said Stoops. "It's the best that we've had here, and I feel it's as good as an offensive line has worked against our defense in the spring of anytime that we've been here."
Offensive Line Coach Run Game Coordinator Kevin Wilson said after Saturday's scrimmage that the Sooners only used about 20 percent of their offense.
Dan Cody did not play in Saturday's scrimmage and that left the door open for redshirt freshmen Larry Birdine and Zach Latimer to step in and impress, and they did just that. Birdine led the OU defensive ends with four tackles while Latimer added four tackles, plus one sack. Latimer, who is still bulking up, is very quick off the edge while Birdine is proving to be all that the OU coaches have built him up to be with his combination of size and speed. Look for Birdine to push Cody for his starting spot next fall. Returning starting defensive end Jonathan Jackson just played one half and recorded two tackles.
Dusty Dvoracek and Kory Klein were the most impressive of the defensive tackles. Klein finished with one sack and Dvoracek had four tackles. Tommie Harris had two tackles.
Oklahoma's linebacker corp came into Saturday's scrimmage banged up and without starters Teddy Lehman and Pasha Jackson and reserve Wayne Chambers. Filling in for Lehman was Gayron Allen, who stepped up and tied two other Sooners with a game-high six tackles. Allen and senior Lance Mitchell were OU's starting linebackers. Rufus Alexander tore suffered a torn ACL and left the game in the third quarter.
Clearly the stars of today's scrimmage came from the defensive backfield. The Sooner secondary picked off six passes on Saturday, returning two for touchdowns. Antonio Perkins picked off Jason White and returned it 39-yards for a touchdown. Michael Thompson picked off Noah Allen and returned it 19-yards for six points. Brodney Pool, Jowahn Poteat, Mark Bradley and Darren Stephens also recorded interceptions.
"Those guys (DB's) cover a lot of ground," said Stoops. "All of them can run and have a chance to get to some balls hanging up in the air, and they do. It's always good to see them make plays and they continue to that."
Pool had one of the better plays of the day for the defense when had a diving interception to steal the ball away from Kejuan Jones, who was bobbling a screen pass from White. Pool also finished with a game-high six tackles.
Derrick Strait also had a solid day with four tackles. Donte Nicholson continued his solid play supporting the run and not giving up the deep ball over the middle. Strait and Perkins were the starting corners with Nicholson and Matt McCoy at the safeties. Pool was also a starter as the fifth defensive back playing in the position made famous by Roy Williams.
But if you had to give a defensive MVP, it would go to Perkins, who recorded four tackles, four pass breakups and nearly picked off another Jason White pass in the end zone that would have resulted in a 105-yard return for a touchdown.
"Antonio's a good player and he showed that again today," said Stoops. "We're very pleased with how he's come through in the spring."
OU's special teams weren't so special on Saturday. Aside from field goal kickers Trey DiCarlo and Steven Sarrubi, who were perfect on the day on field goals and extra points, the Sooners punting game still needs work. Blake Ferguson started off with a bang booming two 50-plus punts but struggled from there on out shanking at least five punts in a row. Ferguson did finish with a 43.1 average on 11 kicks. OU's punt returners did not return punts and the kick-returns failed to get the ball passed the 25-yard line.
Stoops also took a second to recognize the crowd.
"On behalf of our players and our coaches we want to thank all the fans," said Stoops. "What a great crowd. We had over 40,000, I guess the largest we've ever had for a spring game. That tells you something when we get that many people just for the spring game what great fan support and what a great place this is to play."
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