MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 15, 2012

Not many questions answered by OU

— NORMAN – Selfishly, this makes it more fun.

It’s the story one roots for from the press box and, taking it all in from Oklahoma’s 2012 Red-White experience, the subplots are plentiful if not obvious.

Because if Sooner football isn’t precariously uncertain heading into preseason practice, it is, at least, generally uncertain. Even where it should be most certain, it is slightly uncertain.

Everybody knows Landry Jones coming back for his senior season cleared up much of OU’s quarterback picture. But Saturday, after Jones played one series in which he led the offense – White – to a field goal (a drive that once again underlined the need for the Belldozer package, which was not unveiled at all Saturday), offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was asked what Jones had improved upon since the Insight Bowl.

Heupel thought for a few long seconds, before saying that Jones had improved as a vocal leader, but not so much that he couldn’t improve yet more.

It was a short answer that said so much, for this is Jones’ fifth year on campus. It makes parts of Jones’ past, those parts in which he just couldn’t will his offense out from whatever tight spot it found itself, make more sense.

So there’s that little issue for the starting quarterback, and an apparent mystery as to who his understudy might be.

The two best offensive players Saturday were quarterback Blake Bell, for making plays with his feet when everything broke down, and wide receiver Trey Metoyer, for being everything the Sooner Nation hoped Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills might be after Ryan Broyles was hurt last season, yet never were and weren’t again Saturday, with Reynolds getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and Stills muffing a punt and displaying the same dropped-ball tendencies that plagued him the second half of last season.

Still, Bob Stoops is loathe to name his back-up quarterback. Not coming out of spring drills and maybe not before the season begins.

In front of the microphone, Stoops said the coaches have their own thoughts on the matter, which they keep to themselves. But when asked if that meant, internally, a clear No. 2 had been identified, Stoops replied “I didn’t say that.” And when pressed, he repeated what he hadn’t said.

Metoyer was a revelation, but the position still isn’t. When Broyles went down, many wondered who might step forward in his place. Reynolds did for a game before getting suspended for a game. Stills didn’t. Can a freshman be that guy as soon as next season?

Metoyer was asked who he modeled himself after.

“Uh, Kenny,” he said. “Kenny and Jaz.”

The receiver position may not be settled until that gets turned around, until Stills and Reynolds begin taking their cues from Metoyer.

Running back?

That was a strength Saturday, with Trey Millard carrying three times for 21 yards, Brennan Clay 10 times for 65 and Roy Finch nine for 40.

Last season, Dominique Whaley looked terrific until he broke his ankle and Finch, at times, was electric after Whaley went down. But Whaley and Finch never managed to be terrific together, so just how will it work when Whaley’s available again and the game’s start counting?

Hard to know.

Then there’s the meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss defense Mike Stoops is putting together.

Nobody seemed to know exactly how well it played, just that it took Kendal Thompson, the fourth-team quarterback, engineering a late drive for the offense to pass the defense – Red – on the scoreboard.

Good thing the offensive line comes back mostly intact.

There were some alarm bells, too.

Reynolds caught a 60-yard touchdown pass for the game’s first score from a scrambling Bell, then proceeded to dunk the ball over the goal post and draw his unsportsmanlike call. Michael Hunnicutt missed the resulting 35-yard point after.

Reynolds plays hard but knuckleheaded tendencies persist.

Then there was Stills, dropping a dump-off pass like the ball was attacking him; running up on a  punt and not fielding it, only to have it carom into his body for what would have been a 40-yard turnover had it been September rather than April; and one last drop, a ball Drew Allen lobbed into his fingertips, quite possibly killing a much longer score than the one Reynolds got.

“Worse than penalties,” Heupel said.

They were just a few plays.

But aren’t they all.

It may not mean a thing.

Then again, if what we know after every spring game is never very much, this is still different. This time, we know we don’t know.

Uncertainty reigns.

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