Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Jones facing challenge to juice OU's offense
By David Ubben ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Despite the dire straits their team is facing, Oklahoma players still can joke with new starting quarterback Landry Jones about the growing fame of he and his mustache.
Tim Heitman/US Presswire
If Landry Jones was nervous about taking over for Sam Bradford, he didn't show it versus BYU.
The redshirt freshman will replace Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford for the foreseeable future. And the Sooners' new quarterback’s facial hair is providing some levity for his teammates following the loss of Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham.
“We tease him about the mustache all the time,” Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams said. “I’m predicting before the year is over, he’ll shave that thing off.”
His teammates have quickly gravitated to the redshirt freshman who has been pressed into duty after Bradford’s shoulder injury last week against BYU.
Despite Bradford's absence, Jones is confident in his abilities for as long as he is needed.
“It's very unfortunate, but right now we have to move on and I have some huge shoes to fill,” Jones told reporters earlier this week. “So I have to pick my game up as well.”
His teammates have said that Jones reminds them of Bradford when he was younger because of his size, football acumen and his demeanor around his teammates.
“Landry is a laid-back dude,” senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. “He’s a very easy-going guy. And with him now, when he talks we all listen.”
Jones’ first taste of action was a mixed mag in the Sooners’ season-opening loss to BYU, as he completed only 6 of 12 passes for 51 yards. But the Sooners didn’t turn the ball over with him in charge and he didn’t make a bad throw.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was particularly pleased with Jones’ reaction after he took over the team.
“He couldn’t have handled it better,” Stoops said. “I didn’t see him flinch once.”
During a heralded career at Artesia (N.M.) High School, Jones led his school to two state championships and threw 89 touchdown passes in his two seasons as a starter. He was an Under Armour ESPN All-American, a Parade All-American and the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year.
He’s brings a similar skill set as Bradford, without nearly the experience. His work as a redshirt gave him a slight edge over freshman Drew Allen for the backup job in training camp.
“I have no doubt he’ll do a good job,” Tennell said. “No matter what quarterback is out there, we’ll try to make it easier for him. We’ve just got to do a better job of catching the ball.”
The Sooners likely won’t be tested as much against Idaho State, an FCS school that started the season with a 50-3 loss at Arizona State. But it will still test Jones’ confidence, which has grown with his experience.
“I feel really comfortable now,” Jones told reporters earlier this week. “I have a year under my belt. I kind of have all my checks down and have a feel for the tempo. So I feel really good.”
No coach in the Big 12 has traditionally been able to circle the wagons in times of adversity like Stoops.
The Sooners claimed the Big 12 championship in two of the last three seasons after early-season losses to Texas. In 2006, they overcame the training camp loss of Rhett Bomar after he was kicked off the team. Later that season, Stoops coached around the injury of Adrian Peterson for the second half of the season and still won the Big 12 championship.
“Our guys know we expect whoever’s out there to do well,” Stoops said. “You have to move forward and play with the guys you have. Just like with all of the other injuries, somebody’s got to step up and play. That’s what a team does.”