“I haven’t seen a ton of separation,” Riley said inside the Everest Training Center following a morning practice. “They’re both playing well.”
The competition between junior Kyler Murray and sophomore Austin Kendall hasn’t gained any clarity in either practice or scrimmages, partly because both are playing so well, Riley said.
“They both had a couple of the best days that they’ve had, and they’ve both been trending well here as of late,” Riley said. “The last 4-5 practices have been probably both of their best. They’re taking advantage of it. We’re not repping the 3s and 4s quite as much anymore. We were already giving those guys a pretty good chunk of the reps, but going even more now.”
When Riley named Baker Mayfield the starter over Trevor Knight in 2015, he did so on the final Monday of the preseason, one week before game week.
That window comes next Monday for the 2018 Sooners.
“We’ll just see how it goes,” the coach said. “Eventually you’re gonna get to game week and have to do something by then. I mean, we’ll certainly do something before the first game. But other than that, I think we’re gonna let it play out. We’ll get a bunch of reps and see how it goes.”
Riley reiterated that he would not rule out playing two quarterbacks. Nor does he yet want to commit to doing so.
There is a widely held belief that Murray will be the starter, but Riley is giving Kendall every possible chance to get first-team experience because Murray’s mobility might leave him more susceptible to injury. There’s also the fact that Murray will be playing professional baseball this time next year, while Kendall likely isn’t going anywhere.
To that end, Riley said he won’t try to keep his evaluation too close to the vest—he won’t wait until gameday on Sept. 1, for instance.
“This day and age those things are a little bit tougher than they were before, especially at a place like this. News tends to travel a little bit,” Riley said. “There’s some benefit (to not naming a starter early). Sure, the other team doesn’t know. But at the same time, you kind of want your team to know, too. I think they’ve got to be able to rally, and I think that kind of takes that off of ‘em and everybody can just worry about themselves and go play.
“I’m not gonna tell you guys, and I’m also not gonna nail it down myself and say I’m gonna do it on this date. I want to be fluid with it, I want to be open with it. I want to see how it continues to progress. We’ve got three more big (practices) this week and then another scrimmage here on Saturday. I want to see where we’re at there, and then I think after the scrimmage Saturday, we’ll sit back and take a look at it and see if we’re ready to name somebody.
“But I’m not gonna marry myself to saying we’re gonna do it that day.”
Center of attention: Riley said the most competitive position battle in camp might be in front of the quarterback.
Fifth-year senior Jonathan Alvarez and redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey are battling it out to start at center.
“That’s the best competition out there,” Riley said. “Man, they’re two really good players. It’s, it’s gonna be tough. That one’s gonna be tough, because they’re both two talented enough, they’re both skilled, enough. You’ve got two players, where Creed Humphrey is probably the most talented of the group, and obviously Alavarez is the most experienced, having played all the games that he has and all the snaps he’s had around here. So it’s a pretty interesting dynamic.
“But you can tell each one has worked hard on their weaknesses, or weaknesses within this competition. Alvarez has really transformed his body. Physically, he is in the best shape he’s ever been in. And then Creed has really done a ton of work mentally and made up a lot of ground there. The good thing is right now you don’t see a big difference. We tend to move it pretty decent with both of ‘em in there. They’re doing a good job snapping, a good job calling it. It’s a heck of a battle.”
Scrimmage report: Riley said Monday’s scrimmage was productive for both the offense and the defense.
“It was a pretty good scrimmage,” he said. “It was good to be able to do it in the elements. As a coach, you hope for those days. You hope that it rains, you hope that it snows, you hope that it’s windy. All those things that you can’t really simulate without the man upstairs helping us a little bit. So He helped us. Rain was great. Great for footing, great for ballhandling, both sides, special teams. Got a lot of quality work.
“Overall defensively, thought we played really well the entire day. Limited the offense in a lot of ways. I thought we played pretty smart with the conditions. Really tackled well. Pleased with how we played defensively.
“Offensively, it was a little hit or miss. Thought we had some nice plays, but our guys left a bunch out there. Our guys responded a little bit today. The roles kind of reversed today and the offense kind of got the better of the defense.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.