Big 12: Trey Franks

For most of these games, we'll do a "What happened" section in addition to "What we learned," but we had SoonerNation on the case, so you can see more about the raw facts here and here.

A few of my observations on what we learned:
  • Unseating Blake Bell looks mighty, mighty difficult. Given how he'd looked as a passer in limited opportunities thus far in his career, there was plenty of reason to doubt how well Bell would handle running the Sooners' entire offense. Still, when you consider how he played and threw in high school, there was equal reason to believe he'd handle it fine. Belief in the latter looks to have paid off. Oklahoma will want his completion percentage to be a lot higher, but he made a whole bunch of plays down the field and over the middle that show plenty of potential. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he didn't have a turnover. If that means a lower completion percentage, Oklahoma's staff will take that trade all day. On Saturday, though, Bell was what he needed to be: A step ahead of competition Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. There's no guarantees yet, and Bob Stoops has never placed a high premium on naming a starter in the spring as opposed to fall camp, but by now, I'd be shocked if Bell doesn't mature into "The Guy" for the Sooners over the summer and leave little doubt in fall camp about whose team it is.
  • The defense has a few interesting new faces. Trey Franks was suspended all last season, but turned a few heads by making seven tackles and breaking up two passes. The former receiver looked solid on the other side of the ball. We'll see how he fits into the rotation at safety for the Sooners. That's a huge position of need, and you'd have a hard time convincing me he couldn't challenge for a starting job in fall camp. D.J. Ward, a hyped, home-grown defensive end recruit, finally got on the field after being cleared by the NCAA, but he didn't record any stats and Saturday was his first practice in pads.
  • Bob Stoops clarified his pay-for-play comments. I wrote about Stoops' controversial comments here, but he added another clarification after Saturday's game, according to The Oklahoman. "I was just asked about paying players to play football, and of course I went off on what they already are paid,” Stoops said. “And I probably was a little -- I didn't mean to be insensitive when I talked about when the dining halls close and we've all been in that situation. We've all been a little bit hungry on a Sunday here and there. … That doesn't mean I'm not concerned about my players and want to best for them." I don't disagree with Stoops there, but what he said doesn't change my point about the possible repercussion on the recruiting trail. It won't be hard for folks to make the case that other coaches are more sympathetic to their players' current situation, whether it's true or not. I agree with Stoops in that introducing how much he makes is irrelevant to the discussion (he argued that in Saturday's clarification), but I'm betting if Stoops had it to do over again, he'd take a pass at the question. No one's asking Stoops to change his answer or his belief. He's entitled to his opinion, and suggesting it's not a valid opinion is silly, but I fail to see the positives for him in speaking out on the issue.
  • Start up the Trey Metoyer hype train one more time. Every now and then, guys make big noise during the spring and don't show up in the fall. That happened to Metoyer last season, but he sounds like a more mature player this spring, and showed up in a big way again on Saturday. Six catches for 122 yards will definitely get people fired up for him to break out in the fall. He's got everything you could ask for physically, he's just got to turn it into production. I sense we'll be hearing "Bell to Metoyer" quite a few times this fall, but only a few less times than "Bell to Shepard." Sterling Shepard had a quiet day with just two grabs for 22 yards, but I loved what he showed last season. The Ryan Broyles comparisons are premature, but he's definitely got flashes of the FBS all-time leader in receptions.

Opening camp: Oklahoma Sooners

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
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Camp is open up in Norman. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

Next up: Oklahoma

Media's predicted finish: First.

Biggest story line: Is Oklahoma, fresh off a disappointing end to 2011, good enough to bounce back and ascend back into the BCS in 2012 as Big 12 champs? The Sooners are the favorites, and have a decent shot at winning a national title if they stay healthy. This year, they don't have to deal with the crushing pressure of the preseason No. 1 and the expectation of a national title. Even QB Landry Jones admitted to me this preseason that wins last year felt mostly like relief, the calm after holding their breath for 60 minutes. This year should be much more relaxing, with wins feeling more like accomplishments. Will the results show up on the field?

Biggest question mark: Receivers. There's tons of potential here, especially with the addition of Penn State transfer Justin Brown, who'll contribute on punt returns, too. Kenny Stills returns, but offseason suspensions means Brown and Stills will be the only Sooners on the roster who have played a down of college football when the season begins. Trey Metoyer looks likely to emerge as an impact player, but he's got to prove it. Can Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal get in the mix while Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks sit out with multiple game suspensions?

Biggest addition: Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is in after nearly a decade in charge of the Arizona program. He'll coach the defensive backs and replace Brent Venables, who left for Clemson after being forced into a co-defensive coordinator role with Stoops.

Who needs to step up: The rest of the offensive line. Oklahoma's camp has gotten off to an awful start. Center Ben Habern left football after lingering neck and back issues, and guard Tyler Evans is out with a torn ACL. That's a pair of three-year starters. Guard Gabe Ikard, the team's most talented lineman, is moving to center, but the Sooners are officially strapped for depth. It's time for junior Bronson Irwin to slide into Evans' spot, and he'll have to be great if OU is going to win another Big 12 or national title.

On the mend: Dominique Whaley. The Sooners' RB suffered a nasty broken ankle last season against Kansas State, but he's back and ready to compete with Roy Finch and Brennan Clay for carries in a crowded backfield.

Don't forget about: S Tony Jefferson. He's moving from the nickel back spot (Joe Ibiloye is expected to take over) back to free safety across from Javon Harris as strong safety, but don't be surprised if Jefferson makes a run at the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award by season's end. He's got the physical talent and his instincts are almost unmatched in this league. At a more natural spot, could he emerge as an All-American, or more?
Officially, Justin Brown is a Sooner.

The Penn State transfer participated in his first Oklahoma practice Tuesday after flying in the night before.

“It was difficult under the circumstances, but it was the decision I thought was best for me and my family,” Brown said in his first interview since leaving Penn State.

Because of NCAA rules, Brown was in shirts and shorts while the rest of the team was in pads. But coach Bob Stoops already likes what he sees.

[+] EnlargeJustin Brown
Tim Heitman/US PresswireJustin Brown will likely be the Sooners' primary punt returner in 2012.
“He was incredibly impressive out there in one day,” Stoops said. “I said to [wide receivers coach Jay] Norvell, ‘Wow, this guy is going to be special in our system.’”

Playing in a run-first offense, Brown was Penn State’s second-leading receiver last season with 35 catches for 517 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brown couldn’t hold back a smile when talking about playing in Oklahoma’s spread attack featuring veteran quarterback Landry Jones.

“I think everybody gets a chance to showcase their skills in this offense,” Brown said. “They throw the ball a lot and the give the receivers and running backs a lot of opportunities to make plays.”

The Sooners are counting on Brown to make an immediate impact as a position that’s suffered some turmoil this offseason. At the moment, the Sooners have only one non-suspended receiver -- junior Kenny Stills -- who has made a catch wearing an OU uniform. Kameel Jackson was dismissed from the team last week, and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks remain suspended.

“I can't say enough, looking out there today and you see him added to the equation, a guy that's a senior that has three years' experience playing and fighting people, crack-back blocking on people, catching the ball,” Stoops said. “He's a natural catching the football. He's going to bring a ton. It's going be exciting.”

Stoops also said that Brown will return punts for the Sooners. Brown ranked 36th nationally in punt returns in 2011 for the Nittany Lions.

“He can run through those arm tackles or people just trying to grab that jersey and pull him down,” Stoops said. “I saw him out there today, he catches them as easy and smooth as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Brown said the decision to transfer from Penn State in his senior season was an “emotional” one. The toughest part? Telling his teammates.

“They're still my family and I still talk to them every day,” Brown said. “I'm just trying to get to know a new family now.”
Oklahoma sophomore wide receiver Kameel Jackson has been dismissed from the team, head coach Bob Stoops announced Saturday.

Since the spring, Jackson had been suspended indefinitely due in part to issues in the classroom. Earlier in the week, Stoops said that he would review Jackson’s standing after Jackson completed the summer academic session.

Before his suspension became public, Jackson had even tweeted that he would be transferring to Texas A&M. But he returned to OU with a goal of working his way back onto the field.

Jackson caught 12 passes for 165 yards as a true freshman last season. He earned the start in the Insight Bowl after injuries to Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds.

While Jackson kept his scholarship during his suspension, receivers Reynolds and Trey Franks were stripped of theirs. OU put Reynolds and Franks back on scholarship earlier in the week, but Stoops said they would be suspended “multiple” games.

Video: On reinstated Sooners

August, 3, 2012
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On "College Football Live," Jake Trotter of SoonerNation breaks down what Oklahoma fans can realistically expect from reinstated players Quentin Hayes, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks.
As Oklahoma kicks off football practice this week, here are five storylines to watch this preseason:

1. How does Whaley look in pads?

The injury to Ryan Broyles overshadowed the impact of the loss of Dominique Whaley, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury midway through the 2012 season. Whaley has been cleared to practice, but even Bob Stoops admitted the Sooners won’t know how Whaley will handle cutting and contact until the team practices in pads. The Sooners have other options at running back, but Whaley is the most proven of any of them.

2. How will the offensive adjust to life without Habern?

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireFreshman receiver Trey Metoyer is already penciled in as an opening-day starter for the Sooners.
Stoops said this week that the offensive line will be ready to deal with the loss of center Ben Habern, who has given up football because of issues with his neck and back. The Sooners made a seamless transition for six games without Habern last season, sliding Gabe Ikard to center, and inserting Adam Shead in at guard. The Sooners shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Habern, but the line is a lot thinner than it was a week ago. Others like guard Bronson Irwin must step up.

3. Does Trey Metoyer build off his spring?

Other than Landry Jones, Metoyer was OU’s best offensive playmaker of the spring. Can the freshman phenom keep it going? By all accounts, Metoyer has busted it over the summer. So there’s little reason to doubt he won’t lock down a starting job before September.

4. Which other newcomer receivers will emerge?

With Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks expected to serve long suspensions, and Kameel Jackson still working on academics, OU will need wideouts other than Metoyer to emerge. Durron Neal has been slowed by a knee injury this summer, LaColtan Bester just got to campus and Courtney Gardner was unable to qualify. That leaves freshman slot receiver Sterling Shepard as the most likely to step into a prominent role. Shepard has wowed his teammates with his work ethic this summer.

5. Will the secondary regain some of its swagger?

The confidence of the defensive backfield was shaken the second half of the season following porous performances against Texas Tech and Baylor. The group even dropped its “Sharks” nickname. But the return of Mike Stoops has the secondary primed for a bounce-back season. A change of scenery could do wonders for Javon Harris and Gabe Lynn, who both figure to open the season in the starting lineup. If they hold up, the secondary could be awesome, with stars Tony Jefferson, Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst manning the rest of the unit.


Buried beneath the news that center Ben Habern’s football career is over was the announcement that coach Bob Stoops has reinstated receivers Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks as well as reserve safety Quentin Hayes.

All three players will be able to practice with the team, but remain suspended indefinitely from games. A third receiver, Kameel Jackson remains off the roster, but he could be reinstated after the summer academic session ends.

Really sad, surprising news out of Oklahoma today. Here's our news story:
Oklahoma senior Ben Habern's career is over.

The Sooner center won't return to the team after offseason neck surgery that fused together two vertebrae, despite expectations that he would return at full strength this fall.

...

"Our coaching staff knows this was a difficult decision for Ben," [coach Bob] Stoops said in a statement. "Ben has been a consummate leader for our team, both on and off the field. We appreciate the toughness that Ben has displayed, and we wish him the very best as he completes his education at OU."

First things first: Absolutely hate to see this for Habern. I covered the Sooners for The Oklahoman during Habern's freshman year, and he's consistently been a great guy to cover from that point through just last week, when he was chosen as a representative for Oklahoma at Big 12 Media Days.

Here's the video he took time to shoot for us. (Stick around until the end).

It's truly shocking news. Habern must have been thinking about quitting, but didn't know until just recently. If Oklahoma knew Habern's status was in doubt, it's highly unlikely he would have represented the Sooners at media days.

Habern's dealt with neck and back issues throughout his career, which also featured a broken ankle in 2009 and a broken right arm last season that forced him out of five games.

His experience and leadership simply can't be replaced this season. Oklahoma's fantastic offensive line takes a huge hit with his loss.

As for his spot on the depth chart? Look for guard Gabe Ikard (one of the league's best overall linemen) to slide over to play center, and junior Adam Shead to move up and replace Ikard at guard. The Sooners can handle that. Don't be surprised if freshman Ty Darlington gets some time at center, too.

Still, Habern has been around for everything coming into this year, and been a stalwart at center for the past three seasons. He saw the 2009 collapse up close. He was integral in the rebound for a Big 12 title in 2010. He learned from the pressure of 2011.

He talked about his neck surgery at Big 12 media days last week, but gave zero indication he was even thinking about quitting.

Now, he has.

It's a sad story, no doubt, but Oklahoma has no choice but to move on.

As Habern moves on, here's hoping for the best for him. I'm confident he'll excel in his future endeavors.

Suspended players reinstated

In Wednesday's statement, Stoops also said that receiver Trey Franks, defensive back Quentin Hayes and receiver Jaz Reynolds were each reinstated from offseason suspensions, but only for preseason practice. Their availability for Oklahoma's season opener at UTEP on Sept. 1 was still undecided. Receiver Kameel Jackson was not reinstated, and his suspension will be re-evaluated "at the conclusion the current academic session."

Stoops also confirmed previous reports that wide receiver Courtney Gardner and offensive lineman Will Latu would not be available this season.
Oklahoma freshman receiver Kameel Jackson, who announced last week on Twitter that he was transferring to Texas A&M and then was suspended indefinitely by Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, has apparently had a change of heart about his status at the university.

Jackson tweeted early Thursday morning that he has "decided to stay at OU."

He also explained the reason he was suspended.

"My suspensions came from my failure to meet my class attendance policy," Jackson said on Twitter. "Nothing more; nothing less."

Jackson was one of three OU receivers to be suspended indefinitely last week, along with juniors Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks. If none of these three are available for OU's season opener on Sept. 1 at UTEP, Kenny Stills would be the only receiver on the OU roster with a career reception.

Jackson caught 12 passes for 165 yards last season and started in the Insight Bowl versus Iowa.

Door opens for Sooners' incoming WRs

May, 10, 2012
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Oklahoma signee Durron Neal (St. Louis/De Smet Jesuit) had about 20 phone calls and text messages Wednesday. For Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma City/Heritage Hall), the news didn’t hit his phone until Thursday morning, and he said he has already talked to several people.

In other words, the highly touted group of receivers for the Sooners know they’re going to have to grow up in a hurry.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced Wednesday night that four players have been indefinitely suspended for violating team rules. Receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were included in that group.

Click here Insider for the rest of Bob Przybylo's story.
Four Oklahoma players have been suspended indefinitely for violations of team rules, which could leave the Sooners with just one receiver on the roster for the season opener who has caught a pass.

Coach Bob Stoops announced the suspensions late Wednesday night.

Receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson and reserve safety Quentin Hayes are the players involved.

No details of the suspensions were made public, but the most troubling aspect? Two of the suspended players have been disciplined before.
This isn't the first time Reynolds has run into trouble with Stoops. Reynolds was suspended twice in 2010, including once after he made insensitive comments on Twitter following a campus shooting at the University of Texas.

This isn't the first time Stoops has punished Franks, either. After starting OU's first two games last season, Franks was suspended two games for what Stoops termed multiple violations of team rules. Franks ended the season with 22 catches for 196 yards.

Jackson, a true freshman last season who started for the Sooners in the Insight Bowl, tweeted earlier in the week that he was transferring from OU.

That's got to be frustrating for Stoops, but there's no doubt it's just as frustrating for quarterback Landry Jones, who's about to embark on an important season for his own career.

He's not getting much help from his teammates.

This story should be interesting to watch, and will have a big impact on the Sooners' Big 12 and national title hopes. Oklahoma was already a narrow favorite in the Big 12, but will the suspensions make way for another contender -- West Virginia, Kansas State, TCU, Texas perhaps? -- to grab the role of favorite come fall?
NORMAN, Okla. -- Expect plenty from Oklahoma in the days and weeks to come, but here's a few spare notes and thoughts from my time on campus Tuesday.
  • The hype machine shows no signs of slowing around incoming receiver Trey Metoyer. Coach Bob Stoops said the incoming freshman "absolutely" could start for the Sooners; co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who coaches receivers, laughed when he was asked if Metoyer could start. Look for more on him from SoonerNation soon. Metoyer will be a big piece for the Sooners. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is speedy with great hands and jumping ability, a rare combo. Oklahoma needs a big, productive receiver, and Metoyer's proving early on that he could have the same kind of impact as a freshman that Kenny Stills did in 2010, when he broke the school's freshman record for receiving yards, with 786.
  • Trey Millard's best known for his work at fullback, but he's earned the nickname "Slash" from Stoops for his work at tight end, H-back and tailback, too. "I don't even know how he remembers it all, but he does," Stoops said. New defensive coaches Mike Stoops and Tim Kish have told stoops on multiple occasions that Millard "may be the best player on the team." His role reminds me a bit of Brody Eldridge's during the injury-plagued 2009 season. Eldridge was mostly a tight end, but played some fullback and about every position on the offensive line -- despite being just 260 pounds -- for the Sooners. You heard similar praise thrown his way.
  • Dominique Whaley was the team's top rusher a year ago before his season ended with a fractured ankle. Stoops called Whaley's progress to this point "very encouraging," adding he didn't know how exactly to quantify the senior-to-be's healing process from the injury.
  • What does Norvell think about younger receivers having to compete with a possible impact player in Metoyer? "That's Oklahoma," he said. Despite having four inches on the elder receiver Trey Franks, it's Metoyer who's earned the nickname "Little Trey." Such is life as a young gun. "That's how it goes," laughed fellow receiver Stills.
  • Stills also opened up about life after losing team leader Ryan Broyles, the FBS career leader in receptions. Stills' production slowed and the whole receiving corps suddenly started dropping passes as the Sooners lost two of their final three regular-season games. "Everything without Ryan was hard. I feel like everybody saw that," Stills said. "I hope that I can go in and step up and make the plays Ryan did."
  • Coverage wasn't different on Stills, but he was playing an unfamiliar slot position and struggled to maintain his production, much less fill the void Broyles left behind. "I was in a position I'd never played and then it was like, 'Kenny didn't step up,' which was true," he said. "I've got to make the plays when the ball comes to me."

Insight Bowl: Three keys for Oklahoma

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
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Oklahoma and Iowa will go head-to-head Friday night in the Insight Bowl at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are three things Oklahoma has to do to avoid a Hawkeye upset.

1. Help Landry Jones out. His receivers -- sans Ryan Broyles -- have suddenly come down with a case of the dropsies late in the season. Jones will be throwing to lots of new faces without Broyles and Jaz Reynolds, and Kenny Stills hasn't looked like a No. 1 receiver in the Big 12 this year. Guys like Kameel Jackson, Trey Franks and James Winchester will get reps at receiver. The Sooners can't afford drops in what looks like it'll be a low-scoring game.

2. Don't get fancy in the red zone. Oklahoma tried this against Iowa State, and Blake Bell threw an interception. The Sooners have had a ton of success with the Belldozer -- a Tim Tebow-like formation that allows the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder to burrow through the offensive line -- in the red zone, scoring 10 touchdowns in the past five weeks. Baylor couldn't stop it. Iowa may not be able to, either. But the Sooners have looked shaky in the gadget plays out of this formation. Just let Bell do what he does and make the defense stop it.

3. Win the turnover battle. It sounds simple and obvious, perhaps, but it needs to be said. Oklahoma's offense isn't as explosive as it was when the season began, and if you're a heavily favored team, this is the best way to lose these types of games. It lost the turnover battle in spectacular fashion to Oklahoma State, 5-1. The result? The Sooners lost that game by 34 points. Oklahoma lost the battle 3-0 to Baylor and lost to the Bears for the first time in school history. Oklahoma has to take care of the ball.

Numbers tell most of the Bedlam story

December, 3, 2011
12/03/11
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Sometimes, this game is pretty simple. So far, Bedlam fits the bill. Oklahoma State is dominating.

All you need to do is glance at the stat sheet to see why the Cowboys lead, 10-0.

Brandon Weeden has completed 8 of 10 passes for 115 yards, and the Cowboys offense has been as sharp as ever. The running game is rolling too. Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle have run for 53 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Everything Oklahoma State has wanted to do offensively is working.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma has made moving the ball on Oklahoma State look pretty difficult. Landry Jones has completed just 9 of his 18 passes for 84 yards and an interception deep downfield in the end zone.

The running game? Nonexistent. Brandon Williams has three carries for nine yards and Trey Franks added four on an end around.

Analyze it all you want. This doesn't take much.

Oklahoma State has sprinted out front and the reasons are obvious.
WACO, Texas -- I'll go ahead and do it.

No. 5 Oklahoma's officially on upset alert.

Baylor's gone step-for-step with the Sooners on both sides of the ball, and the scoreboard shows it. The Bears lead 17-10.

Both teams have caught a few breaks and bad calls, but this one looks like it's going down to the wire.

Time for a bit of halftime analysis after the Bears jogged into the tunnel to raucous cheers and a "B-U! B-U!" chant.

Turning point: Kendall Wright took a short pass and weaved his way for a 55-yard gain, outrunning Oklahoma's defense. On the play, OU defensive end Ronnell Lewis went down, too. The Bears scored two plays later on a 15-yard run by Terrance Ganaway, and you got the sense that Baylor and its fans started to believe they could win.

Stat of the half: It's been an ugly half. We've already seen 12 penalties for 114 yards.

Best player in the half: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Griffin connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Reese that counted and was thrown perfectly. Another 80-yard bomb on the opening drive was thrown perfectly and didn't count because of a hold. Still, he's 8-of-13 for 197 yards and a touchdown and has played mistake-free football. He has to stay that way. He's got OU safety Javon Harris on his heels.

What Baylor needs to do: Keep poking at the Sooners and keep testing them deep. Baylor did a better job of handling the Sooners' blitzes in the second quarter and giving Griffin III some time to make plays. The Bears kept working the screen game to receivers on the outside, and the Sooners backed off a bit. The running game's only worked when Baylor's offensive tempo has been at its highest, so the solution there seems pretty obvious, too. Counter-intuitive to moving the clock, yes, but it's much too early to think about anything like that just yet. The Bears need to keep moving the ball.

What Oklahoma needs to do: A big win seems like it's almost out of the question now. Baylor's not a team that's going to be pushed around tonight on either side of the ball. This game may stay low scoring, and as the road team, when the Sooners get opportunities to score, they have to take advantage. They've done that so far, outside of a Trey Franks fumble on a long run and a third-down sack to take them out of field goal range. It's telling that they've taken advantage of opportunities and still only have 10 points.

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