- David Ubben, College Football
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Landry Jones planned on standing on the sidelines and learning from the best in 2009. He was going to watch how a Heisman winner went about his business.
Less than 30 minutes into Jones' redshirt freshman season, the plan changed.
Sam Bradford's shoulder was planted into the turf and the first chapter of Jones' Oklahoma story was began. It wasn't a happy one, ending what the Sooners hoped was a return to the national title game with a 13-12 loss to BYU in the season opener.
There were other bumps in the road during Jones' first season, like a five-interception outing against Nebraska and an embarrassing blowout loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock.
By the bowl game, though, Jones looked like a different quarterback.
He rolled over Stanford's defense in the Sun Bowl, throwing for a then-career high 418 yards, three scores and completing nearly 60 percent of his passes in the 31-27 win.
"It was a starting point for sure," Jones said. "I grew up a lot in that game."
Almost three years later, he'll begin his final season in the same stadium. This time, Texas-El Paso awaits.
His freshman season ended with a career game. Jones passed up NFL money and a likely first-round selection to come back to Oklahoma for his senior season, which somehow disappointed at least a few Oklahoma fans.
Saturday, Jones will have a chance to remind most everyone of what he can do.
"I believe I’ll see more consistency," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I believe he’s a better player. More mobile, throwing a great ball. I believe the players around him will be more consistent. That position needs support."
Jones watched more film leading up to that Stanford win than he'd ever watched on an opponent before. He saw the results on the field, and his career's never been the same.
Being consistent has always been a struggle for Jones, and part of that has been decision-making and accuracy outside the pocket.
"Moving around in the pocket for sure, that’s one area that I wanted to grow in, one area I wanted to get better at," Jones said.
It was an emphasis all offseason for Jones, who also paid a visit to QB guru George Whitfield in California over spring break to work on his mechanics.
"Moving and throwing, that’s one thing that was big for me," Jones said, "and sliding around in the pocket and making throws whenever I was sliding."
Jones might need to be on the move a little more this year behind an offensive line struggling with depth. The Sooners lost a pair of three-year starters in Ben Habern (neck, back) and Tyler Evans (knee), who were both with Jones for his rocky freshman season.
Jones noted he has a lot of confidence in players like Adam Shead and Bronson Irwin, big talents sliding up into bigger roles, but Jones' senior debut will be Step 1 in proving he can be at his best for every week in a given season.
"I expect nothing but the best for myself," Jones said. "I expect to play really well and play winning football every game. That’s what I expect and that’s what I’m shooting for."
11hMax Olson and Jake Trotter