Dallas Colleges: Justice Hansen

Crimson Countdown: QB Justice Hansen

May, 30, 2014
May 30
11:00
AM CT
During the summer months, ESPN.com will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 4 Justice Hansen, 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, freshman

Impact thus far: Hansen is a Class of 2014 early enrollee who participated in spring football.

Impact in 2014: If Hansen sees the field in 2014, something went wrong. As an Under Armour All-American, he has the tools to lead the Sooners' offense someday, but Sooner Nation should hope that day does not arrive this fall. That would likely mean the position has been crippled by injuries or other issues.

Long-term upside: Hansen looked like a true freshman in OU’s spring game but did show signs that he could be a valuable asset as he gets more comfortable with the college game. It’s too early to know just how good he can be, but he has a bunch of traits in common with other quarterbacks who have had success in crimson and cream.

Evaluation grade for Hansen: Inc. It’s really too early to say with Hansen but there were some very encouraging signs during the spring, particularly his growth from the beginning of spring until the end. If he can make another jump over the summer, he could become a legit option as the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Trevor Knight.

Development grade for Hansen: B. It’s a little early for grade the Sooners' approach to his development, but Hansen has gotten many more opportunities than the average early enrollee quarterback. The Sooners need him or Cody Thomas to secure the backup quarterback spot, so both guys got plenty of spring reps to spur their development.

Quotable: “I’m trying to help out Justice because he still should be in high school and he’s got to get his game-time speed up and his reactions. He’s doing a great job for where he is and how young he is.” -- sophomore quarterback Baker Mayfield.

2014 Big 12 recruiting draft: Round 2

May, 8, 2014
May 8
3:30
PM CT
Earlier this afternoon, we began the 2014 Big 12 recruiting draft with Round 1. We continue the draft with Round 2:

1. Kansas -- DE Derick Roberson
Signed with: Texas
Brandon Chatmon: With Jerrod Heard secured as the face of the offense, let’s get someone to be the face of the defense. The lanky, athletic defensive end could develop into a terror for opposing defenses, and his natural pass rush skills would help him make an immediate impact on the Jayhawks’ defensive front.

2. Iowa State -- DT Terrell Clinkscales
Signed with: Kansas State
Jake Trotter: I actually thought about taking Clinkscales with Iowa State's first pick, so I'm thrilled I was able to still grab him here with the Cyclones' second selection. After booting two DTs during the spring, Iowa State is in major need of immediate impact in the position. As one of the top juco DTs in the country, Clinkscales is just what the doctor would have ordered in Ames.

3. West Virginia -- CB Dravon Henry
Signed with: West Virginia
Chatmon: Obviously, I think coach Dana Holgorsen and Co. did a great job on the recruiting trail with my selection of back-to-back WVU signees in the first two rounds. With Daryl Worley on one side and Henry on the other, the Mountaineers could have the Big 12’s top cornerback duo in the near future. In a league that likes to spread you out and expose weak links in the secondary, great cornerback play can be the difference.

4. TCU -- OLB Edwin Freeman
Signed with: Texas
Max Olson: This selection makes a lot of sense when you remember that Freeman's former high school coach, Kenny Perry, is now the cornerbacks coach for the Horned Frogs. TCU made a run at Freeman, who ended up choosing Texas over Texas A&M, and he fits in well with this defense. He likes playing safety, but Freeman's future is probably at linebacker and he could've been a darn good for TCU.

5. Texas Tech -- DT Poona Ford
Signed with: Texas
Trotter: After ranking ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense, and after graduating its top two D-linemen from last season in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech needs some beef. As the only ESPN 300 DT to sign in the Big 12, Ford would bring the beef. He would also eventually give Tech the inside presence it so desperately needs defensively.

6. Kansas State -- LB Kyron Watson
Signed with: Kansas
Chatmon: The Wildcats' defense was missing an impact linebacker in the mold of Arthur Brown a season ago. Watson can fill that void. He’s versatile enough to play inside or outside and has the speed and instincts to make plays from sideline to sideline. And he’d be a special teams demon for Bill Snyder’s squad. Watson is a no-brainer for the Wildcats’ pick.

7. Texas -- WR Armanti Foreman
Signed with: Texas
Olson: Heartbroken over losing out on Ford at this spot, and with few elite defenders left on the board, the Longhorns reluctantly go the receiver route and take the highest-rated one on the board. Foreman is the choice over Allen Lazard simply because he's capable of starring as either a wideout or as a cornerback, the spot where he earned all-state honors in 2013.

8. Oklahoma State -- QB Justice Hansen
Signed with: Oklahoma
Trotter: With Mason Rudolph, Jerrod Heard and William Crest gone, the Cowboys grab the final ESPN 300 QB on the board in Hansen, whose size and mobility makes for a good fit in Stillwater. I foresee many Hansen-to-K.D. Cannon TDs coming to Boone Pickens Stadium.

9. Oklahoma -- WR Lamar Parker
Signed with: West Virginia
Chatmon: The undersized Parker (5-8, 155 pounds) reminds me of Jalen Saunders. Much like the former OU receiver, Parker would bring speed, competitiveness and return ability to the Sooners. With OU's increased focus on the running game, Parker would provide a big-play threat to keep defenses honest.

10. Baylor -- RB Samaje Perine
Signed with: Oklahoma
Olson: Baylor thinks very highly of the running back it did sign, Terence Williams, and he'd be a fine pick here. But it's too tempting to go with Perine, a bruising power back who would bring a lot of muscle to the run game that loses Lache Seastrunk. Though he didn't hold an offer from BU in real life, Perine would be the thunder to the Bears' lighting pass game, a great short-yardage option early on. He's absolutely ripped now, but imagine what strength coach Kaz Kazadi could do with him.

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: QBs

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
4:00
PM CT
With spring ball done, we’ll be reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, beginning Monday with quarterbacks. Some of these outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): After lighting up Big 12 defenses last fall, Bryce Petty thinks there’s still room for improvement going into his second and final season as Baylor’s starting QB. He spent spring break with QB guru George Whitfield working on pocket presence and completing passes in the face of the blitz. Petty connected on 62 percent of his throws last season while finishing fourth nationally in passing yards. If that completion percentage goes up by even just a little bit, look out.

2. Kansas State (2): Outside Petty, Jake Waters owns the most proven track record in the league. That speaks to the inexperience of the position in the conference, but it also speaks to the way Waters closed out last season. While quarterbacking the Wildcats to wins in six of their seven final games, he actually posted a better Adjusted Total QBR than Petty during that stretch. Even with Tyler Lockett sitting out, Waters still delivered a crisp spring game performance and seems poised for a big final season in the “Little Apple.”

3. Oklahoma (3): Trevor Knight might have been underwhelming in the Sooners’ spring game. But don’t let that be a deception. After recovering from some minor early season injuries in 2013, Knight took a major step forward late in the season, capped with a spectacular MVP performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. He’ll have to stay healthy (which was a problem his first season), and he’ll have to become more consistent with his passing accuracy. But the talent and upside is there for Knight to have a monster sophomore campaign. The Sooners still need to iron out who exactly Knight’s backup will be, especially given his penchant for getting nicked up. Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen failed to move the needle much in the spring. Blake Bell is at tight end. And Baker Mayfield, while terrific the entire spring after transferring in from Texas Tech, remains ineligible for 2014.

4. Texas Tech (4): While Knight had a lackluster spring game outing, Davis Webb had a spectacular one. Texas Tech’s lack of QB depth is scary (incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes will be the backup by default), but there’s no getting around how impressive Webb has been dating back to Texas Tech’s dominating win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Including that game and three open scrimmages in the spring, Webb threw 17 touchdowns with no interceptions. This spring, Webb showed more zip on his passes after adding close to 20 pounds of muscle. He hopes to get even stronger this summer, and has plans to train with Whitfield in May. If Webb goes down with injury, the Red Raiders will probably be toast. But if he stays upright, Tech could emerge as a dark-horse contender for the Big 12 title.

5. Oklahoma State (5): After a series of steady performances over the spring, veteran J.W. Walsh will go into the summer as the overwhelming favorite to open as the starter against Florida State. Even though he struggled with his accuracy and decision-making in 2013, the Oklahoma State coaching staff loves Walsh’s leadership, toughness and commitment. If Walsh can revert to completing passes at the rate he did as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago (67 percent), he could enjoy plenty of success. If he doesn’t, the Cowboys have a couple of other interesting options, who both had their moments in the spring. Walk-on Daxx Garman has the strongest arm on the roster. True freshman Mason Rudolph can make all the throws, too, though clearly still has a steep learning curve.

6. TCU (8): The Horned Frogs made the biggest jump on this list with the addition of transfer Matt Joeckel, who after backing up Johnny Manziel the past two seasons should be the odds-on favorite to take over as the starter. Coming from Texas A&M, Joeckel actually has the most experience among TCU’s other QBs operating the offense Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie installed during the spring. Joeckel’s arrival gives TCU the luxury to bring talented incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein along more slowly. It also allows the Horned Frogs to use Trevone Boykin the way they did last season, as a receiver and situational quarterback. With only one career start, Joeckel, of course, has much to prove. But the same goes for the majority of the league’s QBs.

7. Texas (6): The Longhorns ended spring ball with Tyrone Swoopes as their starting QB. That didn’t go well in the spring game, as Swoopes struggled mightily through most of the scrimmage. Texas could move back up the Big 12 QB rankings if USC transfer Max Wittek announces his intentions to enroll. But until he does, he can’t be counted on. Throw in David Ash’s foot injury and concussion past and true freshman Jerrod Heard’s inexperience, and Charlie Strong’s first summer in Austin figures to include plenty of QB uncertainty.

8. West Virginia (7): With Clint Trickett sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, juco transfer Skyler Howard had ample opportunity to make a mark. Instead, the Mountaineers exited spring the way they started it -- with Trickett still atop the depth chart. A dearth of options is not coach Dana Holgorsen’s problem. Veteran Paul Millard outplayed Howard in the spring game. Logan Moore emerged after moving from receiver to QB before the spring. And four-star signee William Crest will join the fray this summer. But Holgorsen must get better QB play than he did last fall for the Mountaineers to recover from a disastrous losing season.

9. Iowa State (9): According to coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones’ QB competition will linger into mid-August. But Grant Rohach will go into the summer with the clear edge after outperforming Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning in the spring game. Rohach showed promise late last season, leading Iowa State to a come-from-behind, overtime victory at West Virginia in the season finale. But after furiously rotating through QBs in recent years, the Cyclones understandably want to give this derby due process to play out.

10. Kansas (10): Six of the league’s teams went into the spring with a quarterback battle. Of those, only the Jayhawks came out with an unequivocal starter. After sophomore Montell Cozart outshined Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in the spring game, coach Charlie Weis wasted little time in declaring Cozart the starter. Cozart still has a long ways to go, especially with his passing. But at least Kansas now has a young dual-threat QB with upside to build around.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring.

On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. On Tuesday, we reviewed five questions that remain unanswered. On Wednesday, we took a look at five surprising Sooners. On Thursday, we highlighted the five disappointing developments of the spring. Today we end the series with five things to keep an eye on when the Sooners return to their preparation for the 2014 season with summer workouts in June.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesGetting junior DT Jordan Phillips healthy in time for preseason camp is a priority for Oklahoma.
Key injuries: The health of several banged up Sooners including tight end Blake Bell (MCL), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (back), and defensive back Julian Wilson (shoulder) will be the biggest summer focus. OU needs Phillips to return to his pre-injury form of 2013. If he does the Sooners' defensive line could be dominant. Bell’s return to health could provide a big receiving target for Trevor Knight and Wilson’s return would add another experienced veteran to a Sooners secondary that spent a good portion of the spring seasoning younger players such as safety Hatari Byrd and cornerback Dakota Austin.

Summer quarterback development: Most eyes will be on redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen as they battle for the backup job behind Knight. But don’t overlook the importance of the summer for Knight, a redshirt sophomore. The summer months and competitive workouts could help Knight’s continued development as a passer and decision maker. In addition, it’s an opportunity for Knight to really emerge as a key leader for the entire team, not just the offense.

Skill position battles: As the uncertainty at some receiver spots and in the secondary linger on into the summer, those Sooners battling for a spot at receiver, cornerback or safety will get the chance to go head-to-head with each other in an attempt to improve and distinguish themselves. It’s an important summer for players such as cornerback Stanvon Taylor and receiver K.J. Young, a pair of second-year players who could earn a starting role if they take their game to another level in the summer heat. In addition, summer arrivals such as safety Steven Parker II and receiver Michiah Quick could arrive on campus and impress immediately, much like Sterling Shepard did before he broke into the lineup as a true freshman.

Leaders emerging: Along with Knight, other leaders should emerge who could ultimately help decide just how successful the Sooners will be this fall. Terrific leadership a year ago from guys such as Gabe Ikard and Trey Millard was the foundation of OU’s 11-2 season despite the musical chairs at quarterback. If the Sooners can replace those departed seniors with similar leadership, their chances of a Big 12 title and national championship run will increase significantly.

No distractions: One of the most important goals of the rest of spring and summer is to limit and/or erase distractions caused by off-the-field decisions. The Sooners have a real chance to make a run at a College Football Playoff berth, so it will be important for the leaders of the team to emphasize the importance of good off-the-field decision making to their teammates so the Sooners can open the season with a roster full of eligible and hungry players.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring. On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. Today, we move on to five questions that remain unanswered.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight is already a good QB, as evidenced by his play last season but now he needs to take the next step in his development.
Which Trevor Knight will trigger the Sooners this fall? Knight left no doubt how good he could be after his MVP performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Now the OU quarterback needs to answer how good he is over the course of a season. It’s easy to forget Knight is just a sophomore with plenty of developing to do if he plans to become one of the Big 12’s top signal-callers. His subpar spring game is an example, as he finished with 53 passing yards and one interception during a disappointing showing. Transforming from a good quarterback to a great quarterback is the next step in Knight’s progression.

Who will be the starting running back? The competition promises to continue into August, but don't be surprised if it continues deep into the season. OU has plenty of good options including sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross, but this competition could be decided by what the Sooners' running backs do without the ball in their hands. Ross had an excellent spring but didn’t star in the spring game while Ford showed he can play at a Big 12 level as a freshman. The running back battle could be the most exciting battle to monitor this fall.

How will Ahmad Thomas be used? The sophomore has really come on since the middle of last season. He saw time against Alabama and held his own, then built upon that performance with a strong spring. It would be a surprise if he’s not a major contributor on OU’s defense; it’s just a matter of where he plays. Thomas is a versatile defensive back who can play safety or nickelback. He’s the type of guy the Sooners can leave on the field -- regardless of the offense they’re facing -- and feel confident he will make an positive impact against the run or pass.

Who will back up Knight? Baker Mayfield is the obvious choice … in 2015. The former Texas Tech quarterback was the standout of the spring game and will have Knight feeling like his starting spot is never secure when he becomes eligible to play for the Sooners after sitting out the 2014 season. This fall, however, Knight’s backup remains a question mark. Redshirt freshman Cody Thomas looks like he could develop into a quality quarterback, and the new NCAA rules will allow the Sooners to quicken his development like never before. Thomas should be considered the favorite to win the No. 2 job but Justice Hansen's decision to enroll early has allowed him to get one spring under his belt and he could arrive in the fall much more comfortable than the average freshman. This is another battle that could last deep into August.

Who will make big plays in the passing game? Austin Bennett. Blake Bell. Jordan Smallwood. Durron Neal. K.J. Young. Those names could emerge as key targets for Knight this fall but none of them have locked down a spot in the offense quite yet. Smallwood, who probably had the best spring of the bunch, will undoubtedly play a role but OU needs someone to emerge as a legit, consistent threat alongside Sterling Shepard or risk watching one of the Big 12’s top returning receivers be double teamed constantly.

OU position battle update: Offense

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
11:00
AM CT
Spring football has come to a close at Oklahoma.

The Sooners’ 15 practices answered some questions but others still remain. Now is the perfect time to update the some of the position battles that made this spring intriguing in Norman, Okla. beginning with the offense.

Backup quarterback

Pre-spring: This was arguably the biggest offensive concern heading into the spring. Two freshmen, Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen, are behind projected starter Trevor Knight and preparing them for the backup role was one of the spring’s most important goals.

Post-spring: Those questions still remain. Thomas, who was splitting time with OU’s baseball team during the spring, is clearly ahead of Hansen, who threw two interceptions in the spring game after enrolling early to participate in spring drills. Even though Thomas performed better in the spring game he hasn’t appeared to run away with the job.

Summer outlook: The four months until August are the best news for the Sooners. That extra time to develop could be critical for Thomas and Hansen because one of them will need to be the No. 2 quarterback. Either way, OU must have its fingers crossed that Knight stays healthy.

Starting running back

Pre-spring: Keith Ford was considered the favorite to take over as OU’s starting running back after a solid freshman debut. His determination and physical running style earned him carries in a senior-laden backfield in 2013.

Post-spring: Even though he had a lackluster spring game (three carries, six yards), Alex Ross made a move during spring drills. Coach Bob Stoops consistently praised the sophomore, who continually made plays during spring scrimmages. Fellow sophomore Daniel Brooks also looked healthy for the first time in a Sooners’ uniform during the spring game, giving OU more options at the position. The spring left the position murkier than ever but it’s a good problem because the Sooners have several talented options to carry the ball, much like they did in 2013.

Summer outlook: February signees Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are expected to arrive in the summer, kicking up the competition at the position to an even higher level. Stoops expects multiple running backs to get carries this fall, so expect this competition to rage on into the season.

No. 2 receiver

Pre-spring: Sterling Shepard is a proven playmaker and emerging leader. Junior Durron Neal was the clubhouse favorite to emerge alongside Shepard with sophomore Derrick Woods and others ready to battle to become key contributors.

Post-spring: This battle is far from over but redshirt freshman Jordan Smallwood could join Shepard as one of Knight’s favorite targets. The buzz surrounding Smallwood has been unrelenting since he stepped on campus last summer, only to be muffled after a foot injury forced him to redshirt. He returned for bowl practices and the buzz wasn’t far behind. With three receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown in the spring game, the redshirt freshman showed his size, athleticism, route running and ball skills could make him a consistent part of OU’s offense.

Summer outlook: Several receivers could become receiving targets this fall but outside of Smallwood, nobody looks like they’ve cemented a role in the offense. Thus, the competition continues and four freshmen, including potential game-breaker Michiah Quick, will arrive in the summer with an eye on surpassing their older teammates on the depth chart.

Spring game review: Oklahoma

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
9:00
AM CT

The excitement surrounding Oklahoma’s football program is night and day compared to a year ago. The Sooners announced 43,500 fans in attendance for their spring game on Saturday, a school record. Last year’s announced crowd was 29,200. With the Trevor Knight era fully underway, here’s a recap of OU’s spring game.

[+] EnlargeMayfield
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsFormer Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield was impressive in the spring game.
Best offensive performance: Baker Mayfield stole the show, completing 9 of 9 pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The former Texas Tech quarterback, who transferred to OU in January after earning Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors last season, is ineligible for the 2014 season. Nonetheless, Mayfield outshined Knight, the Sooners’ projected starter this fall, with his flawless outing. Mayfield has Big 12 game experience, and it showed throughout the spring game. He’ll spend this fall giving OU’s defense fits while leading the scout team.

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Eric Striker looked like he was in midseason form with two sacks and one tackle for loss. Striker, who starred in OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, picked up right where he left off. He continually got into the offensive backfield and appeared unblockable at times coming off the edge. He could be poised for a dominant junior season.

Best debut: True freshman Dimitri Flowers looks ready to help the offense immediately. One of the scariest scenes of the spring game was Flowers lying on the ground, clutching his knee. Fortunately for the Sooners, it was just a hyper-extended knee for the fullback/tight end hybrid. Flowers has impressed with his football IQ and receiving skills during his short time on campus as an early enrollee. He tied for the team high with four receptions and finished with 40 receiving yards. He should be a key contributor this fall.

Notable play: Sophomore linebacker Jordan Evans had the hit of the day against K.J. Young on a receiver screen. Evans’ hit popped the ball up in the air, allowing defensive tackle Jordan Wade to secure Knight’s lone interception of the day. It was a key play because Evans played with the No. 1 defense after returning starter Frank Shannon, OU's leading tackler in 2013, missed the game for personal reasons. Shannon's status remains unclear, so the Sooners could turn to Evans to be the man alongside Dominique Alexander this fall if Shannon is unable to return. Evans looked ready for the task on Saturday.

Developing storyline: OU’s defense clearly won the day. The Sooners are young, talented and versatile on that side of the ball, led by Striker and returning All-Big 12 defensive end Charles Tapper. OU’s secondary, a potential concern with the loss of two-time All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin, had a strong day in coverage, particularly the starting unit. Sophomore Dakota Austin was solid sliding into Colvin’s former spot opposite Zack Sanchez. If this unit continues to develop, it could be one of the best and more versatile defenses in the nation.

Biggest question answered: Few, if any, questions got answered. The defense was dominant, but that wasn't surprising, and nobody separated themselves in the running back derby or backup quarterback race. Keith Ford and Alex Ross will welcome true freshmen Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine into the running back competition this summer. At quarterback, Cody Thomas outperformed Justice Hansen, but didn’t put a stranglehold on the backup quarterback position heading into the summer. The best development of the game was a relatively injury-free outing.

Biggest question emerging: Which Knight will lead the Sooners in 2014? He didn't look like the Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP, going 5-of-14 for 53 yards and one interception. Evans' hit led to his lone pick, but he was inefficient and unproductive. The defense carries a large portion of the blame and the receiving corps, without top target Sterling Shepard and potential starter Durron Neal, also contributed to Knight's underwhelming spring finale. Knight knows he will have to perform much better for OU's national title dreams to approach reality.

Quotable: “I don’t know that you ever get anything answered in 15 practices. What I feel like is there has been improvement. Players that haven’t had a ton of experience have more now. We’ll build on it.” -- OU coach Bob Stoops

Spring game preview: Oklahoma

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
3:00
PM CT
Oklahoma will hold its spring game on Saturday, and there are several storylines to keep an eye on for the Allstate Sugar Bowl champions. Here's a closer look at what to watch in OU's spring game.

When: Saturday at 2 p.m.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight won't play a lot in OU's spring game, but he has a chance to showcase his development.
Where: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

What to watch for:

  • Has Trevor Knight continued to develop? Don’t expect the Sooners quarterback to get a lot of work during the spring game as his health is a top priority. Yet, Knight is still a young and relatively inexperienced quarterback who needs quality reps. The spring game will show if he carries himself like a veteran and if his teammates are responding to him as the man in command of OU’s offense. A strong one or two series would show Knight is continuing to develop as a player despite not being pushed by daily competition for the starting job.
  • What about behind him? Quarterbacks Cody Thomas, a redshirt freshman, and Justice Hansen, a true freshman, are raw and untested. The spring game gives the duo the chance to show they can handle the No. 2 quarterback job if called upon in the fall. Thomas has been splitting his time with the Sooners’ baseball team with no ill effects on his football duties, while Hansen enrolled early and is adjusting to life as a college football player.
  • Who will get the bulk of the carries? OU will welcome ESPN 300 signees Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to its running backs group this summer. So this spring is the opportunity for sophomore running backs Keith Ford and Alex Ross to cement their spots at the front of the line alongside Knight. Ford was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman. He earned carries before fumble troubles placed him on the sideline. Ross has been one of the stars of the spring with coaches and teammates alike lauding his explosiveness in scrimmages. Saturday is their chance to show they’re ready to fill the void left by the departures of Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch.
  • DB Ahmad Thomas: It would be a surprise if Thomas doesn’t see the field a lot this fall. The sophomore is proving to be versatile and talented while lining up at multiple positions in OU’s defense. After enrolling early in January 2012, Thomas played in 12 games as a true freshman and finished with nine tackles in limited action. Now, he appears poised to be a key piece of the Sooners defense as a sophomore. The Sooners are tinkering to find the best spot for Thomas, but a strong spring game could reaffirm his place as one of the breakout stars this spring.
  • New names: Several young players are creating a buzz, including receiver Jordan Smallwood, cornerback Dakota Austin and defensive tackle Charles Walker. Smallwood’s name has repeatedly come up this spring, as he’s made a solid impression after missing the 2013 season with a broken foot. Austin has been competing with Stanvon Taylor and Cortez Johnson to replace All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin, and, while undersized, his coverage ability and competitive nature have shone through. Walker has earned a reputation as a future star with his exceptional size and speed combination, so Saturday will be the first glimpse at the redshirt freshman. The spring game will give that trio and many other young Sooners the opportunity to show they can be contributors on offense or defense in 2014.
Justice Hansen could look back upon this spring as a turning point in his life.

The Oklahoma quarterback enrolled early to participate in spring football with his new team. And, with Kendal Thompson’s departure and Blake Bell’s shift to tight end, Hansen is getting plenty of opportunities to impress.

[+] EnlargeJustice Hansen
Max Olson/ESPNJustice Hansen, who was ranked No. 100 in the 2014 ESPN 300, could be the Sooners' backup QB this season.
The Edmond, Okla., native is showing slow but steady improvement during his first semester at OU, even though he’s being challenged in new ways on a daily basis.

“It’s extremely hard on every one of our players who come in here, but especially on our quarterbacks,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s extremely difficult. There’s so much thrown at you so quickly. Within six weeks of being here, you’re on the practice field going against guys that have been here, they’ve been through the system and understand the system.”

The Under Armour All-American and former ESPN 300 prospect's talent has been on display, but so has his inexperience.

“Justice coming right from high school has the biggest adjustment,” coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s really a talented guy with his arm and how he’s worked.”

Hansen is having the normal ups and downs of a freshman with good days and good throws alongside bad throws and mental mistakes. But, more importantly, he’s improving and learning from the setbacks.

“It’s overwhelming at times,” said Heupel, who also coaches the Sooners’ quarterbacks. “But the first four days before spring break you saw him get better each day. Since they've been back, he’s comprehended things even better.”

OU needs Hansen or redshirt freshman Cody Thomas to prove they’re ready to handle backup duties behind starter Trevor Knight. Saturday’s spring game could go a long way in showing if Hansen is ready to handle the task or if he’ll have to postpone his arrival as a impact player until a much later date. With some much to learn, Hansen would have to be considered the dark horse candidate to earn the No. 2 quarterback role as he joins Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who is ineligible for the 2014 season, as lone newcomers to the quarterbacks room. Yet, if his development continues or even accelerates, he could be ready sooner rather than later.

“I think by the time you finish spring ball, you get through summer and you come back into fall camp, he’ll be really comfortable with what we’re doing,” Heupel said. “I expect him to grow leaps and bounds by the time fall ends.”

No matter what happens, the early enrollee has impressed Knight, who is the veteran of the group even though he’s preparing for his redshirt sophomore season. One trait in particular has stood out to OU’s incumbent starter.

“His composure, he stays really composed, it’s not a 'rah, rah' thing,” Knight said. “He takes constructive criticism extremely well. He comes in the meeting room and works as hard as he can and he’s answering questions, he’s done a really good job.”

Knight growing into leadership role

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
11:00
AM CT
His voice sounds the same but the weight of his words land differently throughout the halls of the Switzer Center.

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is growing into his role as “the man” behind center this spring. His leadership in the hallways and meeting rooms of OU’s football building could be a key to the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight's performance in the Sugar Bowl solidified his status at Oklahoma.
“Building off of last year and being the oldest guy, it kind of forces you to step up and be that leader,” Knight said. “I feel like guys are looking at me to be that guy and I think I’ve done a good job of being that and they’re following pretty well.”

For the majority of the 2013 season the quarterback spot remained unclear as Knight was joined by Kendal Thompson and Blake Bell as options at the position. Now, after Knight’s stellar Allstate Sugar Bowl, the sophomore is the unquestioned starter and the guy the offense will turn to for leadership when adversity hits.

“[It’s] his ability to speak with a louder stick in the weight room and locker room,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “For him to [show] more of his personality and [put his] stamp on the offense.”

Yet, Knight’s role has undertaken a bigger change than his daily approach. Heupel often praised his work ethic and habits while he was redshirting in 2012, saying Knight was preparing as if he was the starter despite being the scout team quarterback at the time.

That part of Knight’s personality is as present as ever.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a change in his demeanor,” Heupel said. “He’s a great leader, a great kid on and off the field. He’s extremely competitive. He’s the same guy every day, in the meeting room or on the field, he doesn’t change. Hopefully that will transcend through entire football team.”

Those traits are one of the reasons the coaching staff didn’t think twice about naming him the opening day starter a year ago.

“I don’t notice it being much different,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Because he always did what you wanted him to do.”

It’s easy to forget that Knight is still a young player with three years to play and plenty of improvement to make. He’s the oldest player in the quarterback room with Baker Mayfield (who is ineligible for 2014 after transferring from Texas Tech after his true freshman season), redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen alongside him.

“It’s nice to be the oldest guy and be that leader,” Knight said. “But I know that I haven’t accomplished much yet. I’m still a young guy so I want to build off of that and get better and better every day.”

This spring isn’t just about becoming comfortable as the focal point and leader of the offense. Knight needs to become a better quarterback.

“He continues to progress,” Heupel said. “We think he has a great command of what we’re doing and he’s understanding defenses better. He should only get better at every practice with every rep.”

Battle at backup QB a big one for OU

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
11:00
AM CT
No true freshman quarterback has ever stepped on campus with a better opportunity than Oklahoma early enrollee Justice Hansen.

A vacant sign would be the best representation of the Sooners backup quarterback spot with Blake Bell's move to tight end and Kendal Thompson's decision to transfer to Utah.

[+] EnlargeJustice Hansen
Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMIFrom UA All-American to OU backup QB? The Sooners are hoping Justice Hansen makes the most of his spring reps.
The departure of two of the three quarterbacks who took snaps behind center for the Sooners in 2013 leaves an opportunity for Hansen and redshirt freshman Cody Thomas to fill the void. Hansen, an Under Armour All-American, will get more quality reps than most true freshmen as OU tries to prepare the duo behind starter Trevor Knight.

“It’s opened that window of opportunity for him to get those reps, and I’m sure it will be the most a guy like that’s been able to get [at OU],” head coach Bob Stoops said. “But watching Justice work out, he fits the part of being here and belonging, so we’ll be excited to get him those snaps and seeing how he does.”

Questions about Thomas tend to revolve around his ability to juggle his football and baseball duties. He was solid while running the scout team last fall but will have to manage his time well to excel behind center this spring.

“Coach Pete [Hughes] and Josh [Heupel], they’ve already communicated really well through the winter,” Stoops said. “We want him to have success at both and I know they want him to have it too. So we’ll do the best we can to manage it. So far, it hasn’t been a problem.”

Three practices into the spring, the Sooners feel positive about the progress of Hansen and Thomas alongside Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who is ineligible to play this fall but has already made a strong impression in crimson and cream.

“Justice being here, Cody being involved in spring practice, those guys have done a lot of good things,” co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “They’ve taken their understanding to a new level and [are] spreading the ball around. We’re going to need more than one quarterback to play well for us to win games. Those guys have made some good strides in three days.”

No battle for a backup spot on the depth chart is more important in Norman, Okla., this spring. The nightmare scenario for the Sooners would be watching an injury to Knight derail what could have been a national title run in the fall.

“It’ll be a big part our team’s success, is those guys coming around and getting a really good and consistent feel of what we want them to do at the quarterback position,” Stoops said. “It’ll really important that we do a good job with them and make sure they work hard in the spring.”
Oklahoma kicked off spring practice over the weekend.

The Sooners are well ahead of where they were at this time last year but still have work to do if they hope to build off their 2013 season. Here are five things that need to happen for a successful spring in Norman, Okla.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSophomore signal-caller Trevor Knight must show more consistency for Oklahoma in 2014.
Trevor Knight builds on his Sugar Bowl performance: After watching Knight complete 72.7 percent of his passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-31 win over Alabama, it's easy to assume Knight will consistently match that performance in 2014. But what if he doesn’t? There’s no reason to expect the sophomore to take a step backward this spring but, even though his name is already being mentioned among the Big 12’s best quarterbacks, he won’t earn that spot until he consistently plays at a championship level. If Knight looks better than ever this spring, it’s a great sign for 2014.

A backup quarterback emerges: OU and Blake Bell are all in on the senior’s move to tight end. Thus, redshirt freshman Cody Thomas or early enrollee freshman Justice Hansen need to show they can handle the pressure of running the offense during spring practice. They are a pair of young, inexperienced quarterbacks who could find themselves thrown into the fire if anything happens to Knight. Heading into a season with one proven quarterback is never a good idea, so the Sooners are hopeful Thomas or Hansen can erase concerns about the backup QB spot.

Competition in the trenches: The Sooners return several veteran offensive and defensive linemen, including DE Charles Tapper, OT Daryl Williams and DE/DT Chuka Ndulue. Thus, if playing time and the overall rotation remains up in the air heading into the summer, that means young players like DE Mike Onuoha, DT Charles Walker and OT Derek Farniok are amping up the competition in the trenches. If that is happening, the Sooners could dominate games with their depth and versatility on the lines.

Skill position players step up: The best-case scenario for offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and the rest of the offensive staff is to spend the summer trying to figure out ways to get several players involved. The only way that would happen is if youngsters at running back and receiver look like playmakers this spring because simply having starters emerge at those positions is not enough. OU lost its top two rushers and three of its top four receivers from last season, but if only two or three players seize the opportunity for more playing time, its depth at both positions would be in doubt. A two-deep full of playmakers is always better than a sizable drop off after the starters.

The defense appears to be faster and deeper: One reason the Sooners surprised in 2013 was their speed and versatility on defense. It’s a scary proposition for Big 12 offenses if OU gets more athletic and deeper in 2014. This spring will tell if increased depth and athleticism in the secondary is a certainty. Young players along the defensive line and at linebacker could upgrade the athleticism at both spots if they are ready to make an impact.

OU spring prediction: No. 1

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM CT
Oklahoma begins its spring football drills on Saturday.

An exceptional Sugar Bowl performance, a young and talented defense and renewed confidence in quarterback Trevor Knight has the Sooners eyeing a national title run in 2014. Yet that won’t happen without growth at several key positions, starting this spring. This week we made five spring predictions during a series which concludes with No. 1:

No. 1: The backup quarterback spot remains a concern heading into the summer.

Why it matters: Projected starter Trevor Knight was knocked out of two of the five games he started in 2013. Exceptional performances against Kansas State and Alabama as his redshirt freshman season came to a close has overshadowed the fact injuries forced him to leave games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. The sophomore is likely to be more mindful of protecting himself in 2014, but it takes only one play for OU’s destiny to change. The Sooners need a quality backup quarterback they are confident can step in without a major drop-off if called upon this fall.

What it would mean: If this prediction becomes reality, it could be the biggest concern heading into the summer. It wouldn’t be time to panic because the summer months, particularly 7-on-7 workouts, provide opportunity for growth and improvement, but it would force preparations for the worst-case scenario to commence.

Redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen stepped on campus with All-American accolades, but that will mean nothing when it comes time to run the Sooners' offense.

Thomas, who will play baseball this spring, might have the edge over Hansen, an early enrollee who arrived in January. Both quarterbacks should get plenty of opportunities to prove themselves this spring, and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will push them to be ready to play if needed.

Neither guy is likely to separate himself with his physical ability because they both have terrific physical tools, so their decision-making, command of the offense and mental approach should decide whether one of them becomes a legitimate backup quarterback behind Knight.

Big 12 early enrollee breakdown

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
10:00
AM CT
Across the Big 12, teams are looking for instant impact from their recruiting classes. Several of those potential instant impact players have enrolled at their schools early, looking for a chance to play right away.

Below is a breakdown of all the Big 12 early enrollees, and their outlooks for the spring:

BAYLOR

Juco

OG Jarell Broxton: Could grab a starting role with All-American guard Cyril Richardson gone.

CB Chris Sanders: Was a favorite to start, but is out for the spring after shoulder surgery.

CB Tion Wright: Less highly-touted than Sanders, but has an opportunity with Sanders out.

LB Grant Campbell: With All-Big 12 LB Eddie Lackey gone, Bears hoping Campbell can fill a starting role alongside Bryce Hager.

High school

WR Davion Hall: Recruited as a receiver, Hall is a powerful athlete who gives Baylor another potential dynamic playmaker.

RB Terence Williams: A bruising runner destined to someday fill the role held last season by Glasco Martin.

TE Jordan Feuerbacher: Baylor lost tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk off last season's team so there’s an opportunity for Feuerbacher.

IOWA STATE

Juco

LB Jordan Harris: Harris was the No. 5 juco ILB in the country, and will help ease the sting of losing All-Big 12 LB Jeremiah George.

S Devron Moore: The Cyclones graduated both Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield so help is needed here.

DE Gabe Luna: Luna is one of three juco DEs the Cyclones signed, but the first to arrive on campus.

KANSAS

Juco

OG/C Keyon Haughton: Charlie Weis calls him “a bad muchacho,” and the Jayhawks will need him to play right away.

CB Ronnie Davis: The Jayhawks return starting cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, but you can never have enough corners in the Big 12.

S Anthony Smithson: Adds depth and versatility to an already deep and experienced secondary.

KANSAS STATE

Juco

WR Andre Davis: All-Big 12 WR Tyler Lockett needs someone to emerge on the other side, and the No. 5-ranked juco WR has a great chance to do just that.

OT Luke Hayes: Could answer the call at a key spot vacated by departing All-Big 12 OT Cornelius Lucas.

CB Danzel McDaniel: One of the top juco corners in the country, McDaniel could lock up a starting role quickly.

Grayshirt

TE Dayton Valentine: Adds depth as a blocking tight end.

OL Bryce Fitzner: Will have time to fill out his 6-7 frame.

OKLAHOMA

Juco

TE Isaac Ijalana: The No. 1 juco TE in the country, Ijalana could help stabilize a position that has given the Sooners trouble the past couple seasons.

LB Devante Bond: Bond adds depth to what potentially could be one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

High school

QB Justice Hansen: Will be the third-team QB with Blake Bell moving to TE and Baker Mayfield ineligible until 2015.

FB Dimitri Flowers: The Sooners need a replacement for departing all-conference blocking fullback Trey Millard.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Juco

LB Devante Averette: The hard-hitting Averette has an opportunity to nail down a starting role this spring with All-Big LBs Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis gone.

WR Tyreek Hill: Hill is running track this spring and has already broken several records; he gives the Cowboys a speedy playmaker to help ease the early loss of Josh Stewart.

High school

QB Mason Rudolph: One of the highest-rated QBs ever to sign with the Cowboys, Rudolph will battle J.W. Walsh immediately for the starting job.

RB Devon Thomas: Thomas was the highest-rated running back from the state of Oklahoma, and adds depth to a position that could use some help.

TCU

Juco

S Kenny Iloka: Iloka has already impressed, and pads a deep and talented safety rotation at TCU.

OG Frank Kee: Will be asked to fill a starting job inside on the TCU offensive line.

TEXAS

Juco

TE Blake Whiteley: The nation’s No. 2 juco tight end, the Longhorns signed to fill a position that’s been inconsistent for them.

High school

OLB Andrew Beck: With Texas’ depth at LB, Beck most likely is a redshirt candidate.

OG Alex Anderson: Recruited by Joe Wickline when still at Oklahoma State, Anderson was a late addition to the class.

TEXAS TECH

Juco

S Josh Keys: The nation’s No. 5 juco safety, Keys could step into the spot vacated be departing veteran Tre’ Porter.

DT Keland McElrath: Has been dealing with a foot stress fracture, but the Red Raiders need help at DT with Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush gone.

WR Devin Lauderdale: Was a four-star player coming out of high school and will give QB Davis Webb another weapon on the inside.

WEST VIRGINIA

Juco

QB Skyler Howard: Has a chance to make a move on the QB competition, especially with Clint Trickett out for the spring.

S Keishawn Richardson: Opened up the spring as the second-string cornerback behind Daryl Worley, who started as a true freshman in 2013.

LB Edward Muldrow II: Currently backing up returning starter Isaiah Bruce as the Sam linebacker.

OT Sylvester Townes: The Mountaineers have two holes at tackle, giving Townes a chance to make an instant impact.

High school

DE Davonte James: The ESPN 300 signee brings speed to West Virginia’s D-end position.

WR Ricky Rogers: Rogers is a redshirt candidate with the entire West Virginia WR rotation back from last season.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: QBs

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
3:00
PM CT
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’ll be examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, beginning Tuesday with quarterback. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBryce Petty's return leaves Baylor sitting pretty at the most important position on the field.
1. Baylor: The Bears have the reigning first-team All-Big 12 quarterback in Bryce Petty, who should be even better in his second season as a starter. In 2013, Petty led the Big 12 in QBR, and was on the short list of Heisman candidates until mid-November. His play dipped a bit late in the season, but Petty still finished with 44 total touchdowns to just three interceptions. He will start out on the Heisman short list again in 2014. The Bears also have a viable backup in Seth Russell.

2. Kansas State: Junior college transfer Jake Waters was one of the most improved players in the league over the course of the season. Waters split time with Daniel Sams through the first half of the year, but eventually took command of the starting position and spearheaded the Wildcats to wins in six of their last seven games to ride a wave of momentum into the offseason. Like Petty, Waters should only get better in his second season as a starter. Sams figures to be moved around this spring, but he has proven he can step in at QB, too.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners were one of the most inconsistently quarterbacked teams in the league, notably during double-digit losses to Texas and Baylor. But with one game, OU’s situation looks completely different. In just his fifth career start, freshman Trevor Knight torched Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, leading the Sooners to one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history. Insiders in Norman always thought Knight had the talent. The switch just finally flipped in New Orleans. Even with Blake Bell moving to tight end, the Sooners have depth with former four-star QBs Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen.

4. Texas Tech: Davis Webb also delivered one of the best bowl performances of any quarterback. After Baker Mayfield transferred, the plan was for Webb to split snaps with Michael Brewer against Arizona State. But Webb played so well, that plan was scrapped. Webb had the fourth-best QBR of any bowl to lead Tech to the upset. Webb actually played pretty well before the bowl, too, and has a promising future in Lubbock. The Red Raiders, however, are thin here. With Mayfield and Brewer transferring, Patrick Mahomes is Tech’s only other scholarship QB, and he doesn’t arrive until the summer.

5. Oklahoma State: To enjoy success here, the Cowboys will need J.W. Walsh to return to his efficient 2012 form. Or, they will need Mason Rudolph to emerge as a true freshman the way Wes Lunt did two springs ago. Walsh took a step back as a sophomore. He completed 67 percent of his passes in 2012, but just 59 percent last season, and eventually lost his job back to Clint Chelf. Rudolph, the gem of the 2014 recruiting class, had no such issues completing passes in high school, connecting on 72 percent for 64 touchdowns while leading his team to a state championship. If Walsh’s arm strength continues to be a problem, Rudolph could quickly go from QB of the future to QB of the now.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesA healthy David Ash would be a welcome sight for Charlie Strong.
6. Texas: The Longhorns might have the most fluid quarterback predicament in the Big 12. Quarterback play haunted Mack Brown the last four years, but will it haunt Charlie Strong in his first season? That could hinge heavily on the health of David Ash, who missed almost all of last season because of concussion issues. The school says Ash will be ready to go for the spring. But if he suffers another head injury, the Longhorns could be in a fix. Tyrone Swoopes has wheels and a big arm, but still needs a lot of polish, and four-star signee Jerrod Heard won’t be in Austin until the summer.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers have no fewer than four quarterbacks with a reasonable chance of becoming the starter. Paul Millard and Clint Trickett shared duties last season, though neither seized the position. Millard is playing baseball, and Trickett is still banged up. That could open the door for junior-college transfer Skyler Howard to make a move on the job. Keep an eye on true freshman William Crest, though. Crest, the No. 11 dual-threat QB in the country, won’t arrive until after the spring. But the Mountaineers have had success with mobile freshman quarterbacks before.

8. TCU: The Horned Frogs first must decide what they’re going to do with Trevone Boykin. But they can’t afford to leave him at receiver until another viable option surfaces at QB. Tyler Matthews didn’t look ready in limited action, but the Horned Frogs have a pair of intriguing possibilities in Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein. Neither, however, will arrive until the summer, meaning TCU’s QB situation will remain unresolved past the spring.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones have the requisite skill talent to bounce back from a disappointing season. But that won’t happen until they stop playing musical quarterbacks. The answer could be Grant Rohach, who played well late in his redshirt freshman season. Sam B. Richardson will also be in the mix. Richardson was never healthy last year, and had the same kind of promising finish in 2012 that Rohach delivered last season. The darkhorse will be Joel Lanning, who redshirted last year. Lanning, who signed with Iowa State over Nebraska, has the arm to make this a three-way battle.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks add another player to the Jake Heaps/Montell Cozart timeshare in UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Neither Heaps nor Cozart did enough to warrant full-time snaps, so Millweard, a former four-star recruit, will have his chance this spring.

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