Long expects spring battles to be competitive

OU quarterback Jason White throws during a scrimmage last fall. White's health at the quarterback position is perhaps the biggest question mark this spring. OU Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long talked with OUInsider.com last week about this spring's position battles on offense.

NORMAN, Okla. – When Oklahoma's 2003 version of spring practice opens today all eyes will be certainly be on the Sooner offense.

The Sooners will start the difficult task of finding replacements for five key skill position players and two starters on the offensive line this spring. Gone from last year quarterback Nate Hybl, running back and Quentin Griffin, tight end Trent Smith, and two of the Sooners' top receivers in Curtis Fagan and Antwone Savage.

OUInsider.com had a chance to speak one-on-one with Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long about who to look for in the battle to replace OU's lost starters on offense.

On the quarterback race
"The quarterback competition is as wide open as it's ever been since I've been here, and probably since Coach Stoops has been here. It's going to be a wide open race."

"Establishing a starting quarterback out of that race is a priority. Although, I can see this competition going into the fall like it has the last couple of years. We'd like to go into the fall with it to keep them competitive throughout the summer and training camp. I feel that's beneficial for our guys the longrun. If you ask a guy like Nate Hybl or Jason White, they have benefitted from it, especially Nate since he's been healthy and ended up being part of a Big 12 Championship for us. Competition is the best thing around. It's the best thing for coaches and the best thing for a football team. It's really the best thing for the quarterback position."

"Jason White has experience, but he only has about 140 pass attempts total. That's not much in his career. The other three guys (Brent Rawls, Paul Thompson and Noah Allen) it's wide open. Paul has the most experience, but not many snaps. So, you have that delicate balance of keeping it competitive, finding a starter and at the same time getting them experience."

On the running backs
"The running back position is a little more solid in terms of experience. Kejuan (Jones) will probably be the frontrunner going in. He did a tremendous job last year, scored a bunch of touchdowns. He'll be the guy we put in the shotgun where Quentin was start there."

"We know about Renaldo Works. We think, being a senior with another year of experience and strength gaining in the weight room, that he'll be a factor again. He's been a factor in some big ball games for us. We appreciate that and we think he's going to come through in a big way again."

"Jerad Estus and Donta Hickson are two guys who need to come through. Donta, being a young guy, has really emerged in the scrimmages and practices. We really think he's going to be another Quentin Griffin. You can't replace a guy like Quentin, but we feel like he has those types of moves. He's small in stature, but he's got great moves. He's got a good head on his shoulders, very smart. We feel like he can be a special player for us."

"Jerad Estus is getting later on in years. He needs to have a big spring and fall. He's shown great explosion, but it's been a learning thing for him being able to pass protect and learning all the little things. He needs to get in there and be a factor for us as well."

On the offensive line
"Our offensive line came through for us in a pretty big way last year. Coach (Kevin) Wilson feels pretty good about our top five, six or seven guys who will be rotating in and out. He still wants to keep it competitive. He doesn't want any of those guys to think that they're solid and slack off."

On the Tight Ends
"It's pretty much a brand new deal there. With Trent Smith graduating. we feel good with guys like Chris Chester and Bubba Moses. We have Willie Roberts coming in during the summer and we won't know much about him until we get him into camp. Lance Donely will be the frontrunner coming in to replace Trent. And J.D. Runells has been like a tight end/h-back for us, which really benefited us last year. Tight end is going to be a great competitive battle."

"Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, being a new coach, is coming in not knowing much about any of these guys, so it's a fresh start for all of them. It's going to be very competitive.

On the Wide Receivers
"Good, young group. We have some good experience there with Mark Clayton and Will Peoples. Will really emerged and nailed down that ‘x' position for us, because Mark was injured at the time and we had to move him to the ‘z' and ‘h'. We need to get Mark out on the field too. Both are solid receivers."

"JeJuan Rankins, Travis Wilson and Brandon Jones also factor in big. Those three need to come through. Ataleo Ford needs a big spring. DaBryan Blanton is our fastest player. He's a guy that we may insert in certain situations to stretch that defense down the field and see what happens."

"It's going to be a very competitive spring. Even though we've have some guys with experience, we like to keep it competitive. We're going to have a lot of fun watching it unfold as a coaching staff."

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