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Spring game review: Oklahoma

4/13/2015

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma held its annual Red-White spring game on Saturday. Here’s a snapshot of what happened:

Best offensive performance: In All-Big 12 running back Samaje Perine, who played Saturday but was limited from contact, and Joe Mixon, who was serving out the final part of his suspension by sitting out the spring game, the Sooners are loaded in the backfield. But junior Daniel Brooks showed in the spring game that he too could warrant a role in the offense. Brooks finished with 21 carries for 154 yards and three catches for 40 yards, displaying a burst new coordinator Lincoln Riley could utilize in spots in the fall. “He’s doing a really good job," coach Bob Stoops said. "Our coaches really like him. He has such explosiveness and speed. He’s running on our track team as well. He has his place. Our guys will continue to use him.”

Best defensive performance: Oklahoma ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense last season, which is why the play of sophomore cornerback Jordan Thomas in the spring game was so encouraging. Thomas finished with three tackles and an interception he returned 36 yards. “That’s something he’s been working on – that’s something we’ve been working with him on all spring – just being more confident in his craft and know that he’s one of the best players on the field whenever he’s out there," said fellow cornerback Zack Sanchez. "It obviously showed off [Saturday] with his pick and he had a couple of more big plays for us. He’s going to be a big player for us this year.” The Sooners should be in good shape on one side of the field at corner in Sanchez, who was an All-Big 12 performer last year. If Thomas can continue to emerge, Oklahoma's pass defense could be in for a big turnaround.

Best debut: He touched the ball only twice, but receiver Dede Westbrook showed why the Sooners have been buzzing about him this spring. The fleet-footed junior college transfer flashed his home-run potential by taking a reverse 22 yards. He also added a 28-yard reception off a middle screen. After Sterling Shepard, the Sooners didn't have another receiver last season that could exert pressure on opposing defenses. In Westbrook, they appear to finally have that other receiver. "A big-play guy for sure," Stoops said.

Developing storyline: The Sooners are going through perhaps the most wide-open QB derby of the Stoops era, with Baker Mayfield, Trevor Knight, Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen all vying for the starting job. Though they all had their moments, none of the four stood out in the spring game, leaving the competition muddled heading into the fall. Mayfield completed 10 of 13 passes, but tossed a pair of ill-advised interceptions into coverage. Thomas continued to struggle with his accuracy, connecting on only 5 of 12 throws. Knight was 6-of-13 passing with an interception. Hansen completed all five of his attempts; but as the only one never to start a Big 12 game, he remains the darkhorse in the competition. Stoops traditionally has waited until August before naming a quarterback starter. Saturday, he said that would likely be the case in this situation, as well. “Normally, we’ve done it that way," Stoops said. "I’m not opposed to, if somebody is a clear-cut guy. ... That’s not the case [here]."

Biggest question answered: After languishing last year at the position, the Sooners figure to be much improved at receiver in 2015. The healthy return of Shepard, who missed much of last year with a groin strain, will play a big part in that. But so should the addition of Westbrook and redshirt freshman Mark Andrews to the lineup. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Andrews showed he has the combination of size and speed to be a difficult matchup with 56 receiving yards. Six-foot-6 sophomore Jeffrey Mead also made his presence felt Saturday with a scrimmage-high 93 yards receiving, including an acrobatic one-handed grab downfield over two defenders. True freshman John Humphrey also chipped in with a 45-yard reception. “I think our receiver group is going to be better than anticipated," Stoops said.

Quotable: "As a group, for the first time this season, I think they tried to make too much happen. They got in front of a crowd; there were some very, very simple reads that we just missed. I think they just all went out there wanting to make big plays. We got off to really good starts on the drives. Getting the drives started was not a problem. Getting the ball moving was not a problem but we forced balls and the defense did a great job of making our guys pay for it. It will be a great learning experience." -- New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley