SPRING PRACTICE: Rawls ready to make his move

Sophomore quarterback Brent Rawls talked with James Hale about the quarterback race and his first spring practice after Monday's workout

NORMAN, Okla. — With Jason White returning to spring practice sooner than most expected, you wonder if there really will be a quarterback competition this year. White worked with the first team first on every drill where he was available to participate and looks solid, despite the rust. Paul Thompson actually took most of the snaps behind him with Brent Rawls third and then Noah Allen.

However, all four did get some reps with the first unit and without question Rawls has the strongest and most exciting arm among the four. Rawls threw some passes that none of the other three could match. He still looks as if he needs to hit the weights hard and he is so skinny that you feel for his life when he looks to run.

Rawls is the total wildcard in this quarterback derby, because he hasn't always fit the image of what a Bob Stoops quarterback looks like. He certainly hasn't been as dedicated to the position as Josh Heupel or Nate Hybl. Rawls off the field problems have been well-documented and the fact that he is back in good graces with the Sooner coaching staff indicates that he has been on his best behavior since.

Rawls can win the job if he continues to wow the Sooner coaches. During today's first practice he threw some sideline and comeback routes that nobody else on the Sooner roster can throw. A couple of his flag routes sailed high, but for the most part he threw passes that were caught or could have been caught. JeJuan Rankins is already one Rawls favorite receivers and both could play big roles in the fall.

After the Sooners' first practice, I had a chance to talk with the Louisiana sophomore about his chances of coming away with the starting quarterback job this spring.

JH: With the competition so close at quarterback this spring, is it tough to play in a situation where your every movement is analyzed over and over?

BR: "It definitely has to be that way as a quarterback, because his every pass does count good or bad for the football team. You can't think about having a bad throw, because you have to get passed that. You have just to go to the next throw and make something happen with it."

JH: How did you feel you threw the football today?

BR: "I threw the ball pretty good for the most part. I had a couple miscues, but for the first day I think I did pretty well."

JH: I heard Rankins say that he had to get used to catching you fastball, do you feel you throw the ball pretty hard?

BR: "The receivers say that I throw the ball a little to hard at times, but our receivers just need to get to know me a little bit better and they will be fine. We just need to get some extra throwing in and they will get used to my passes. That is all we have been doing all winter break is throwing the ball to get used to each other. Getting comfortable with each other is what it all comes down to."

JH: Coach Long is constantly reminding you to stick to your fundamentals, what is he referring to?

BR: "He just wants to me to go through with my reads, my footsteps and my reads. That is all there is to it, is going through all my progressions and having your first, second and third reads. That is what he means when he is talking to me. He also wants me to execute my foot work and he wants me to set my feet better, and then throw through to the receiver."

JH: How do you feel you are picking up the offense at this point?

BR: "I feel that I am pretty good. There are a few changes here and there, but for the most part I feel comfortable about it. It is pretty much the same offense and it is just a matter of getting in there and getting reps so that I can get used to the offense. That is all that I have been doing."

JH: What do you think about the quarterback competition?

BR: "They are all great quarterbacks, but you can't look at that as a negative. You just have to get in there and do what I do well. They will try to do what they do well and we will see who the best is. I am trying to do what is right when I am in there and I am just trying to make myself a better quarterback.

JH: What do you think of your receivers at this point?

BR: "The winter workouts definitely got everybody in shape. The receivers are running great routes and catching the ball well. It is definitely looking good for them."

JH: You also saw the speed of the defense today, so what were your thoughts?

BR: "They definitely looked good as they were flying around out there. I tried to run a danged option against them and that was not working too good, because they were definitely flying to the ball. Everybody is looking big, fast, strong and excellent, and they are definitely going to be one of the top defenses in the country again this year."

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