Spring ball first half: five things learned

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners have gotten busy with spring ball, and through four practices it's told us a few things Sooners Illustrated delves into now.

The Sooners have gotten busy with spring ball, and through four practices it's told us a few things Sooners Illustrated delves into now.

1. No leader has separated from the pack in the quarterback battle—Given what we'd heard, this isn't too surprising. But it remains: this is a fully open competition. Most players tend to lean the way of Blake Bell when questioned, but Trevor Knight has a powerful arm and escapability that rivals the likes of Johnny Football. Kendal Thompson has even impressed so far this spring. This battle will take until the fall to settle in all likelihood.

2. The dust has settled with the coaching changes—There's always that angst when it comes to staff moves on whether or not they'll be a good fit for the kids and the program. By all accounts, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery has brought both mental and physical toughness to their respective units, and Jay Boulware has risen OU's special teams capabilities. Players mesh will all three and it's well documented.

3. OU will use some variation of the 3-4—It won't be exclusive, but the Sooners will shift in and out of the set this upcoming season to switch things up. When Quincy Russell arrives, he could likely serve as the anchor inside for the 3-4, and a couple linebackers—a la Corey Nelson—will play closer to the line of scrimmage at times. Get ready to see some mix up.

4. Linebackers will be used much more extensively in 2013—Outside of the staff changes and quarterback battle, this is probably the most talked about topic. Position coach Tim Kish and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops have made it a point of emphasis since last season to get their linebacking corps more involved. Nelson confirmed that when he recently met with the media. Prepare for a breakout season from him and perhaps others in that unit.

5. The injury bug is back for more—It almost seems like a curse for this team, this offensively line specifically, in a way. First, Gabe Ikard broke a finger in his right hand and, though it's nothing too severe, is sidelined with perhaps only a no-snapping role this spring. Then, guard Tyler Evans re-aggravated his previously torn anterior cruciate ligament, prompting surgery again on it. That's two injured offensive linemen from a group that only had 12 heading into the spring. Yikes.

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