NORMAN, Okla. — The big question for the Oklahoma football team coming into the 2003 season is just how good will Jason White be as the starting quarterback?
And while that question may have not been answered for the estimated 10,000 Sooner fans who attended Tuesday nights scrimmage, they still had to leave feeling pretty good about what they saw from White in the 92-play scrimmage.
White, who took every snap with the first team offense against the first team defense, completed 10-of-20 passes for 151 yards including two touchdowns and one interception.
"I thought he executed well," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops after the scrimmage. "He had good huddle presence, got the play off and had a good cadence. He threw a lot of nice balls. He made a few mistakes, but that is not a problem and that is why you scrimmage."
White, however, wasn't so impressed with his performance.
"It was not as good as I wanted it to be, but it was the first scrimmage and we still have two weeks left to correct mistakes," said the senior from Tuttle, Okla. "We still have a lot of time to practice and get better."
"We have a great defense and we go against them every day," White continued. "That just makes us better and sometimes we have our day and sometimes they have their day. Tonight we just didn't execute like we should have, but we will correct our mistakes tomorrow and hope to get them next scrimmage."
White's first mistake came on the second drive of the scrimmage when he slightly overthrew Renaldo Works, who tipped the ball into the hands of Teddy Lehman who returned it 38-yards for a touchdown.
But White did bounce back, leading the Sooners on a 75-yard scoring drive against the first team defense which was capped by magnificent 41-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton, who juked two defenders on his way into the end zone. White's second touchdown toss was a 22-yarder to fullback J.D. Runnels off a play-action pass during the red zone drill.
"It felt great to be back," said White. "There is nothing like throwing a touchdown pass. It doesn't matter if it is practice, scrimmage or a real game, it is still the same thing. There is nothing like throwing a touchdown, especially when are coming back from two surgeries. Many of the things that you took for granted before surgery are now something that you are excited about."
Sophomore quarterback Paul Thompson, who had put together two great practices prior to Tuesday's scrimmage, got a majority of the snaps as OU's second team quarterback and completed 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 62 yards (no touchdowns, no interceptions). Thompson was only credited with one carry for 13 yards in the stat book, but showed the type of ability he can bring to the table in the run game with several impressive scrambles and keepers.
"Paul showed why he is in the position that he is," said Stoops. "When he is in the game he brings some more opportunities that we normally don't have in the game."
Noah Allen and Brent Rawls didn't play until late in the scrimmage and worked with the third and fourth teams. Allen went 3-for-4 for 49 yards while Rawls missed on several deep passes and finished 1-of-7 for five yards.
Below is a position-by-position look at who did what during Tuesday night's scrimmage.
Kejuan Jones and Renaldo Works split most of the time with the first team and did not have a good day running the ball. Works carried the ball two times for three yards while Jones only mustered 10 yards on nine carries. But part of that wasn't their fault, as the Sooner defensive line pretty much had their way with OU's offensive line on most running plays. Works did have a nice 9-yard gain on a screen pass from Jason White to convert a third down on the first drive of the scrimmage, but that was it. Donta Hickson got most of the reps with the second team and carried the ball six times for 21 yards. Jared Estus was the leading rusher for the Sooners with 40 yards on six carries while working with the second team offense. Estus also scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Tashard Choice was the first of the freshmen to get to run with the second team and looked strong at times carrying the ball nine times for 18 yards. Freshmen Jacob Gutierrez showed why he has been compared to Quentin Griffin as he juked his way to 27 yards on eight carries.
Oklahoma's tight ends were pretty much non-existent on Tuesday. James Moses, who caught one pass for five yards, was the starting tight end and worked with the first team offense for most of the night while Lance Donley worked mostly with the second team. Moses was the only Sooner tight end to record a catch. Junior college transfer Willie Roberts saw some time with the second team and dropped one pass.
To say OU's group of receivers looked good is an understatement, because they looked great. Will Peoples, Brandon Jones and Mark Clayton were the starters, and Peoples and Clayton were impressive in their limited action. Peoples caught a great pass over the middle on a crossing pattern from Jason White for a 25-yard gain, but injured his left knee on the play and was helped off the field by the OU trainers. Stoops told the media after the scrimmage he didn't believe People's injury was serious, but said that he would not comment any further until he went further evaluation. Clayton caught three passes for 56-yards, including his 41-yard catch and run for a touchdown against OU's first team defense. Sophomore JeJuan Rankins and true freshmen Marcus Johnson also looked good backing up Jones, Clayton and Peoples. Rankins caught two passes for 29 yards, while Johnson caught two balls for 28 yards.
It wasn't the greatest of scrimmages for OU's offensive line, but there aren't many teams around the country (if any) who will win many battles against OU's defensive line. The line protected fairly well for the most part in the passing game, but were dominated in the run game as Jones and Worked combined for only 13 yards on 11 carries. The starters are pretty much set with Jammal Brown and Wes Sims at the tackles, Kelvin Chaisson and Davin Joseph at guard and Vince Carter at center. OU's second team line consisted of Akim Millington and Chris Messner at tackle, Brett Rayl and John Flynn at guard and Chris Bush at center. Bush also played some guard for the first team offense. Junior Jammal Brown was involved in the only skirmish of the night when he was tussled with Teddy Lehman after one play.
"I think, offensively, we will continue to get better and better as we go," said Stoops. "I think we have a strong group of receivers, tight ends and backs who can catch the ball and make things happen. We will just keep working on it and I was encouraged about what I saw tonight. I thought Jason looked very good."
This one is very simple to break down as the Sooners' defensive line dominated the first team offensive line for most of the night. There is no doubt that Tommie Harris is 100 percent healthy as he recorded on sack on White early in the scrimmage and penetrated the backfield on several other plays. Kory Klein and Dusty Dvoracek started the scrimmage at the tackles, but Harris was quickly inserted into the lineup along with Lynn McGruder. Defensive end Dan Cody was held out of the scrimmage while nursing a minor injury, and that opened the door for redshirt freshmen Larry Birdine to start alongside Jonathan Jackson. Birdine made his presence known on the first play when he stuffed Renaldo Works in the backfield. Birdine also batted down a pass and finished with two tackles and 1.5 sacks. Jackson finished with three tackles and one sack, which he might have taken White's head off on one play when he stunted through the middle of the defense but pulled up just before getting to White. True freshmen John Williams also got some time on the second team defense and recorded two sacks and had one fumble recovery. A true freshmen, Williams already looks the part of a D-1 defensive end. Alonzo Dotson has recorded one sack. Calvin Thibodeaux started along Grant Hulsey on the second team defense and had an impressive four tackle, two sack performance.
Teddy Lehman and Lance Mitchell both started at linebacker and were impressive as usual. Mitchell recorded four tackles and Lehman had three, including his 38-yard interception return for a touchdown. Back-up linebacker Gayron Allen led the Sooners with nine tackles and Pasha Jackson recorded seven tackles while playing with both the first and second team defenses. Jackson also saw some time at middle linebacker on the second team defense. Dan Zaslaw recovered a Gutierrez fumble, and Demarrio Pleasant had one tackle.
Antonio Perkins was held out of the scrimmage, and Brandon Everage was taken out of about midway through scrimmage for precautionary measures after suffering a stinger to his shoulder. Mark Bradley started in place of Perkins and was beaten over the middle on Clayton's touchdown pass from White. Bradley was also burned early in the scrimmage by Clayton he threw a double move on Bradley off of a play-action pass, but White's throw sailed five yards too long. Derrick Strait was banged up a little bit after he tackling Will Peoples on the play where Peoples hurt his knee, but returned to action on the next play. Eric Bassey also received a lot of work with the first team defense at corner and looked more comfortable there than at safety. Redshirt freshmen Jason Carter had the hit of the night when he flat out knocked freshmen Tristen Ross off his feet and on his back after he caught a 7-yard comeback pass and turned upfield. But Ross, who lost his helmet on the play, bounced right back up and got in Carter's face to let him know he was okay and the hit wasn't apparently good enough. Carter, who played mostly on the second team at safety, led OU's DB's with five tackles and forced one fumble. True freshmen Darien Williams also had a similar smack to Carter's later in the scrimmage.
Overall, it was the defense who bested the offense in Tuesday's scrimmage, but Stoops said that was to be expected.
"I will say again that I think our offense is at a terrible disadvantage after seven practices," said Stoops. "Up until this point we haven't separated and gone against scout teams working on other defenses. We like the tempo and speed of going against one another with one's on one's and two's on two's. We have had a lot of competitive drills and a lot of good practices that way, but in the end our defense gets so used to seeing our offense and that it makes it pretty difficult for the offense. The offense still had their moments and still made some plays."
Trey DiCarlo was 7-for-11 on his field goal attempts before the scrimmage, and even hit a 54-yarder on his last kick.
All in all, Stoops was pleased with what he saw in the first scrimmage.
"I feel good about it," said Stoops. "I saw some nice physical play as we had a lot of guys hitting, playing hard and playing well. Nobody was perfect after seven days, but if they were, then we wouldn't have anything to do over the next couple of days. We have a lot of work to do, but we saw some very encouraging signs. I loved the attitude and the way this team is working and the toughness that is coming with it.
"We will build on that and hopefully continue to eliminate mistakes and eliminate turnovers," Stoops continued. "We had a few busted assignments on both sides of the ball, which are all normal this early. Overall, it was pleasing and I think both sides had their moments when they made some plays, and showed signs of being really good."