How do you like Jason White's team? After two back-to-back great performances it is clear to this reporter that White is better suited to quarterback the 2001 Sooners than junior Nate Hybl.
With Hybl at the top of his game the Sooners can still win with him under center, but when he is not at the top of his game he doesn't have the ability to make plays on his own to keep drives alive. White does have that ability and in fact, he does it so well that White gives the team confidence that on each and every play he can do something that will make the play successful.
The main difference between the two is the versatility that White brings to the offense. Hybl can't match White's running ability. White brings the option, quarterback draws, quarterback bootlegs and quarterback misdirections to an offense that is desperately in need of more options to its attack.
Hybl may time faster in a straight forty-yard dash, but on a football field White has a knack for the run game that Hybl can match. It's obvious that White has a great feel for the run game and enjoys that aspect of the game. White considers himself a complete quarterback, with the ability to run or pass, while Hybl is more of a passing quarterback who looks at his running ability as only an opportunity to escape the rush.
In Hybl's four series against Kansas, the Sooners had 37 yards of offense and missed out on two scoring opportunities. On the second series Hybl missed a wide open Antwone Savage on a flag-route that was thrown so poorly that you would have thought it was thrown by an old option quarterback. Then, following a Bary Holleyman fumble recovery, Hybl's fumbled snap on fourth-and-a-foot from the Kansas 27 was the last straw for Bob Stoops and the offensive coaching staff. Hybl should have had 14 points on the board, but instead was headed to a very frustrating night offensively.
The fact the coaching staff made the switch so quickly makes you believe that they had the move in the back of their minds heading into the game. Who can blame the Sooner coaches for having an itchy trigger finger after White's spectacular performance in the dramatic den of the Cotton Bowl.
White's magnificent performance against the hated Longhorns had the coaches thinking of making a quarterback switch last week. However, Stoops runs these Sooners very much like a pro franchise and in the pros a player never loses his position due to injury. However, he can lose it on poor performance in a game and Hybl's performance in the first quarter wasn't going to cut it.
Thus far through Oklahoma's 6-0 start the Sooner offense has been the weak link on the team. OU had a dominant defense and special teams unit team, but their offense was hit and miss. Now, with the added dimension of White's running ability, the Sooners get the best of both worlds under center. The Sooners now have a quarterback who adds the running game to his already solid passing arm.
The decision to replace Hybl with White late the first quarter apparently came from OU Offensive Coordinator Mark Mangino. Mangino said after the game that Hybl didn't look crisp in the first quarter and that he wasn't going to wait any longer to make a move. Thus White got the call late in the first quarter and played the rest of the game.
What is interesting is that the same reasons why White didn't start at the beginning of the season are still there. White didn't earn the starting job for the season opener, because he was considered more of a risk than Hybl. White made more critical mistakes throughout spring and two-a-days than Hybl.
Despite throwing six interceptions through the first four games, Hybl was still considered the safe bet. White also played true to form in throwing for 151 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 117 yards at 9.8 yards per carry, but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled inside the Kansas five. There was also another pass that should have been intercepted by the Jayhawks and returned for a touchdown.
Thus, it comes down to how much negative play from White can the Sooner coaches stomach to get his upside on the field. My guess is they will hope he cuts down on the mistakes as he picks up playing time.
White is a different type of quarterback than Hybl in more ways than just on the playing field. Hybl is great with the media, almost professional, and you can tell he enjoys it. White is a country boy at heart and despite being incredibly polite, isn't as polished with the media. On almost every individual question White will give credit to his offensive line and coaching staff before he even begins to talk about himself. However, White is always a gentleman and never turns down an interview. He is quite humble in fact, and in many ways that is refreshing.
They are also different personalities on the field as well. Both are competitors, but in different ways. Hybl is very poised, almost a computer in the huddle. He never gets too excited and only shows emotion after a big play. White gets so excited during the start of his play that he has to be reminded by his teammates to calm down. White will also show emotion on each and every play, yet that emotion allows him to be cool under pressure.
The same kind of emotion that made Joe Namath or makes Brett Favre great
players. The great ones use that emotion to their advantage and the players feed off it in the huddle.
The demotion is going to be very hard for Hybl to take, which is understandable. Hybl left high school early, because he felt he could start at Georgia as a freshman. The arrival of Quincy Carter surprised Georgia as much as Hybl, but it still left Hybl with an empty feeling concerning his career. He then chose Oklahoma as the school where he could rejuvenate his career.
Hybl knew he would have to set for a couple of years, but figured that two years as the starter at Oklahoma would be enough to earn him a shot at the NFL.
That plan would have taken shape as well if it weren't for an injury in the Cotton Bowl. Hybl had improved through the first three games of the season and don't forget it was his gutty play that won the Kansas State game for the Sooners. However, the offense was very systematic under Hybl and lacked flair and excitement.
White chose the grandest game of them all to show the Sooners what he was about. Play well in the Texas game and many Sooner fans will throw gold your way. Back it up with another great performance on the road no less and you earn a starting position.
Now, Hybl is finds himself at a fork in the road. He is not the first big-time talent in college football, that will find himself on the bench. Does anybody remember Dean Blevins and Thomas Lott?
Publicly, Coach Stoops has said that the offensive staff will take Sunday and Monday to evaluate the quarterback situation before naming a starter for the Baylor game. This is typical Stoops and why he is one of the best in the business, Stoops is not going to make an emotional decision and it's the best and most fair way for the players to hear about the decision.
If, as expected, White is named the starter how will Hybl react? At this point he doesn't have many choices. He won't be happy about it and his mind will feel as if it is going to explode. His whole athletic life will be going up in smoke right before his eyes. He chose football over golf, despite the fact many felt he had the game to play on the PGA tour someday.
Hybl came to Oklahoma to be a starter in and to enhance his position in the NFL. Now, he won't be a starter and any kind of NFL career is very much up in the air. Hybl is a team player and he will suck it up and get ready to play as the backup. White does run the ball a lot and that could expose him to injury and Hybl will be be ready in case he is needed.
However, this is just this reporters opinion, Hybl will look to transfer at the end to the year to a smaller college, so that he can be a starter on the college level for at least one year. Hybl knows you can get to the NFL from Division 1-AA as well and he will look for that opportunity.
After the game Hybl was sad, but very gracious to this reporter. I approached Hybl concerning a short interview, but he asked if I would hold off until next week. Obviously, he didn't want to talk, but it was my job to try to talk with him and Hybl was all class in the way he talked to me and asked me to get him later in the week.
Running back controversy?
If the OU coaches aren't afraid to make changes during the game, then surely the move of Renaldo Works at F-back for the second half demonstrated they aren't afraid to substitute for anybody.
Quentin Griffin has the been the heart-and-soul of the Sooner offense this year, but for the last three weeks teams have shut down the Sooner run game and this past week Griffin was slowed by injury.
"All last week 'Q' has been hampered by a hip injury and never really looked himself," said Mangino. "So, midway through the week we made the decision that if 'Q' wasn't himself and if he was still bothered by his injury that we would go with Renaldo. Renaldo has looked great the last couple of weeks, maybe having his best practices since he has been at Oklahoma. We felt we could go with Renaldo and he would perform well and he did just that. Renaldo is a very good running back and we feel very confident that he can get the job done."
Works finished with 81 yards and 14 carries and in the fourth quarter played a big role in the Sooners controlling the clock. When a running back gets 5.8 yards per carry that is playing winning football.
'Q' is a great running back, but needs all of his assets to be effective. If he doesn't have all of his speed and quickness then the Sooners are good enough behind him with Works and Jerad Estus to rest 'Q' and give them the ball.
Meet the new go-to-guy
Since White has come on the scene Trent Smith has become a main man in the Sooner offense again. The tight end was very important to Josh Heupel, but he seemed to be the third or fourth option for Hybl.
In the fourth quarter against Texas, White found Smith on an eight-yard out route that kept a drive a live. Against Kansas, White continued to find Smith at a record setting pace. Smith's 11 catches for 70 yards and four touchdowns set school records for catches in a game and touchdowns in a game. This after it looked as if the tight end was a forgotten option in the Sooner attack early in the season.
"I wish all of our quarterbacks would look to me like Jason does," said Smith. "I don't think it has to do with anything special, except he looks for the tight end pretty early and I am usually open so he throws it."
"We had matchup advantages against Kansas and Trent kept reading that and we kept scoring. This offense is designed to take advantage of matchup advantages and I had them all day," said White.
Kansas played much shorter defensive backs on Smith and on two of the touchdown throws White just threw them up in the air and Smith out jumped his defender to grab the touchdown catch.
OU's offense always is a little more dangerous when the tight end is involved and with White under center the tight end will be a main weapon.
Success couldn't come to a greater guy than Trent Smith. Smith has always been a true team leader since he arrived out of Clinton, Oklahoma. An outstanding athlete, Smith is also one of the teams best leaders and one of the teams better players.
Smith also plays on all Sooner special teams and played close to 80 plays against Kansas. I hope that great things continue to happen to Smith the rest of his Sooner career.
Sometimes in my business reporters can be real jerks asking questions. Smith and Hybl are roommates, so one of the first questions asked of Smith during the post game was whether he was going to change roommates.
Of course, it was asked in a joking manner, but Hybl wouldn't see it as such. Smith handled it well, but the question was still in poor taste.
Mangino still searching
Mangino is still searching for the right combination in the offensive line. The Sooners couldn't run the ball against Texas and Kansas State and true freshman Vince Carter has been overwhelmed at times in the middle.
Thus, Mangino decided to move senior Howard Duncan back to left guard so that he could help Carter and move redshirt freshman Wes Sims back to right tackle. He also inserted backup right tackle Jarrod Barclay at right guard and gave him his most playing time of the season. The early results are good on both counts.
"We moved Howard inside because with a true freshman at center, we felt we would be better served to put some experience back in at guard next to him to help Vince out if he needed it," said Mangino.
"Howard is an excellent player and played very well. The big plus for us was that Wes played outstanding at right tackle yesterday. During two a-days we moved him to guard, because he never looked comfortable at tackle and was so worried about the position that he never played with his true ability. However, Saturday he was comfortable and really let his talent show. It's early, but the move looks good right now."
It's still amazing how little depth the Sooners have in the offensive line this year. On a positive note, Josh Smith did suit up for Kansas. He didn't get into the game, but he did travel and was available in case of an emergency. I guess that means that if there is an emergency then Smith's season may not be over.
Bary Holleyman continues to play well his senior year. When healthy, Holleyman has always been a good player, but injuries have kept him off the playing off way too often. However, this year Holleyman has been injury free and at times he has been dominating.
Do you find it interesting how many times a game opposing offensive lines are called for holding freshman nose guard Tommie Harris? Harris is so quick and strong off the ball that the opponent's center and guard have no choice but to hold him or Harris will kill their quarterback or running back.
Back on track
Maybe Brandon Everage should get sick more often. Everage had the creeping crud going into the Kansas game, yet broke out of a mini-slump with 11 tackles and playing his best game since Air Force.
Everage didn't tackle well against Texas or Kansas State. Against Kansas State, he wasn't always in position, but played better pass defense against Texas.
Everage got back into the grove against Kansas and once played like a dominant performer. The better Everage plays, the better the Sooner defense plays.
"It's great when Brandon plays well, because the rest of our defense feeds off of that," says Sooner Co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "Brandon plays with so much emotion when he plays well and it catches on with the rest of our defense. When he is really playing well, especially when you consider his physical style, the rest of the defense just seems to pick up their game."
The Sooner coaches are considering forcing Everage to skip his flu shot before each game!
Game balls went to Trent Smith on offense and the entire defense. However, Everage and Corey Heinecke were singled out as special players against Kansas.
The Sooners appear to have hit their groove on defense. They are in total shape and can play hard for four quarters. From this point on the Sooners will put a dominant defense on the field.
Tim Duncan got a buzz cut and died his hair back more towards it's natural color. However, he was still only one for three in field goals, but he did make one, so maybe that is a start back to his normal self.
Off with the red shirt
There was a Brandon Jones sighting as he participated on the kick coverage unit and was in late in the game at wide receiver. So much for trying to get a medical redshirt.
Once again Corey Heinecke continues to show why he is one of the best unsung hero's on the Sooner team. Heinecke finished with seven tackles on the game, but appeared to be everywhere and even if he didn't make the tackle he was forcing Kansas to alter what they wanted to do. OU will miss Heinecke more than you know next year when he has graduates.
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