Yesterday, Oklahoma announced that their spring game is set for April 14 at 1 p.m. The Sooners head into this offseason with plenty of question marks, including position battles at a plethora of positions on both sides of the ball. With workouts underway, the spring football practices are just around the corner. A quick look at the three most important questions heading into Oklahoma’s spring football:
KYLER MURRAY AND EVERYONE ELSE?
This will be the first spring without Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma since 2014. The reins of the offense are supposed to be handed off like the Bob Stoops-to-Lincoln Riley baton, but is it truly Kyler Murray’s job to lose?
Lincoln Riley was asked that yesterday by analyst Mike Mayock during his time on NFL Network’s broadcast of Reese’s Senior Bowl practices, and Riley went on to mention redshirt sophomores Austin Kendall and Tanner Schafer, as well as incoming freshman Tanner Mordecai. Based off the 2017 season, it would be difficult to imagine anyone overtaking Murray, but Riley was not ready to get there quite yet.
Kyler Murray will be juggling baseball and spring football once again this year. The Oklahoma baseball team will be hosting Texas the same weekend of the Sooners’ spring game. Murray flew back for the spring game last year, and then returned back to Austin, Texas for the final game of their series that Sunday.
WHO REPLACES ERICK WREN AND ORLANDO BROWN?
There was a lot of continuity along the offensive line for Oklahoma the last two years. They returned the same six linemen who started at the end of the 2016 season for the 2017 season. Four of those linemen return again in seniors Dru Samia and Ben Powers, and juniors Cody Ford and Bobby Evans. The void, however, is at center and left tackle–the two most important positions along the offensive line.
At left tackle, Bill Bedenbaugh could keep it simple and move right tackle Bobby Evans over to left tackle. However, redshirt freshman Adrian Ealy is another name to keep an eye on. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackle drew a lot of comparison’s to future first-round pick Orlando Brown coming out of high school. Redshirt senior Quinn Mittermeier and redshirt sophomore Erik Swenson played left tackle last spring, too.
At center, the talk has, and continues to be about Shawnee, Oklahoma redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey. Humphrey worked out with the “A-group” during his first fall camp at Oklahoma, and he continued to be brought up during Rose Bowl media availabilities. Now redshirt senior Jonathan Alvarez has started at center and guard during his time at Oklahoma, and will likely get a serious look at center once again.
HOW MANY FRESHMAN MAKE AN IMPACT IN SPRING GAME?
Lincoln Riley has a unique problem heading into the 2018 season: close to 50% of his roster will be either true or redshirt freshmen. The 2017 class’ impact was seen early last season with Kenneth Murray getting the nod as the MIKE linebacker and then Tre Norwood and Tre Brown’s brilliance against TCU in Norman. It is no secret that high school prospects are becoming more prepared for the grind of college football than they were even a decade a go.
With the depth on the defensive side of the ball being heavy on the 2017 and now 2018 recruiting classes, it would be no shock to see a handful of freshman playing with the ones at the spring game. Both safety positions are open, one linebacker spot is, and the JACK and the strong-side defensive end are open.
The big name to watch for is Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles. The talented defensive back arrived on campus at the time of classes for the spring semester, and can play at either corner or safety. Oklahoma has Mark Jackson Jr. and Addison Gumbs that played the JACK last season, but a handful of people in the recruiting world think true freshman Jalen Redmond will see the field in his first year. Redshirt freshmen outside linebackers Ryan Jones and Levi Draper will likely get a shot due to the lack of depth at linebacker, and freshman Ronnie Perkins will see the same benefit at strong-side defensive end.
Redshirt freshmen Adrian Ealy and Creed Humphrey have already been mentioned above to add to a huge list of younger players that could see significant playing time this spring. The Sooners showed that the best player will play no matter what age last season, and more youth movement could be on tap for Lincoln Riley this spring.