Oklahoma fans got a look at the likely replacements for starting running backs and backup quarterbacks Saturday during the annual OU Spring Game.
Almost 44,000 fans watched running backs Abdul Adams, Rodney Anderson, Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton battle for playing time this fall. They have big shoes to fill with the departure of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon – who both expected to go in this month’s NFL draft.
Sophomore Adams had 25 yards on six carries. Anderson, a redshirt sophomore, showed he was fully recovered from last year’s injury. Sermon, a true freshman, led with 73 yards on 13 carries.
“I feel at home here,” said Sutton. “Coach (Lincoln) Riley and everybody here have embraced me. I feel good out here in the offense and feel like it’s going to be a good year.”
Sutton is working for a spot in the rotation this fall.
“Coach Boulware, he suits me up a lot,” Sutton said. “Really, right now we don’t know. He’s just doing a good job of getting everybody carries.”
OU starting quarterback Baker Mayfield liked what he saw with the new batch of running backs.
“We have a lot of depth,” Mayfield said. “It’s not just two or three guys this year. We really have a lot of guys. Marcelias (Sutton) isn’t completely healthy and Rodney’s (Anderson) still not full contact, so we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays. Trey Sermon keeps getting better and better, and Abdul (Adams) and Rodney just need to continue to step up.”
Mayfield sees more balance with the receiving corps.
“I think it’s more spread evenly,” Mayfield said. “I would’ve said it was spread evenly at this point last year too, so you never know. We’ll continue to figure out what type of offense we’re going to be, and come fall camp we’ll see if we have a go-to guy or if we’ll be a more balanced team.”
Most eyes were on redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray, who hit 9-of-13 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown. Murray got the crowd going with a 70-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jeffery Mead.
Mead led all receivers with 111 yards on three catches, while junior wide receiver Dahu Green and freshman tight end Grant Calcaterra also had three receptions.
“I feel like I played okay today,” said Murray, who transferred from Texas A&M and had to sit out last year. “Just being out there with the guys and tossing a little bit and running around a little bit. I thought that we performed well today. Not too flashy. I tried to keep it simple today and I felt that I played pretty good when we were going out there running today. I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
All four quarterbacks had to battle a stiff wind.
“Honestly, I think the one ball to Marquise might had been held up a little bit,” Murray said. “Other than that I don’t think the wind really affected me.”
Murray may have solidified a spot behind Mayfield in the quarterback competition.
“I just go in there every day and just work… go out to practice ready to work and just have fun with it,” said Murray, who is also playing for the OU baseball team. “I really don’t pay attention to that. Like I said just having fun with it.”
Mayfield was 11-of-20 for 99 yards. True freshman Chris Robinson, who was arrested for public intoxication this weekend, hit 3 of 5 passes for 49 yards while sophomore Austin Kendall went 2-of-4 for 47 yards.
“I needed to execute better,” said Mayfield, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season. “I think everybody else had a good game. I think we ran the ball well, even though we didn’t do it much. Just have to translate it from the practice field to the game situation. I think the defense played well. I continue to get higher respect for Parnell Motley.
“He’s making a lot of plays right now. The defense is looking good and the linebackers are playing well.”
Mayfield was asked to compare Murray and Kendall and their performances.
“They’re two completely different players,” Mayfield said. “I think you could run two different types of stuff when they’re in. Kyler played well. I think he gave his guys a really good chance for the ball and put it in a good spot, and he’s obviously pretty fast so he was running around making plays. Austin played well I think, nothing too special, but I think he played well.”
Freshman Tight End Grant Calcaterra showed promise as a backup to Mark Andrews.
“Overall I thought I did pretty well,” Calcaterra said. “I thought overall the offense executed pretty well. I’m pretty happy with it.”
Calcaterra has been getting bigger and stronger at OU.
“For the most part it has been pretty smooth,” Calcaterra said. “I came in around 216 pounds and now I’m 237-238 pounds. I don’t feel much slower or less athletic. I think I handled the weight gain pretty well.”
He is learning a lot from watching Andrews.
“It’s been fantastic,” Calcaterra said. “Mark is a really good friend to begin with. He’s a great player and he helps me out on and off the field with anything I need. He’s been great.”
Freshman linebackers Kenneth Murray and redshirt freshman Jon-Michael Terry showcased some new talent on defense. Murray has moved from outside linebacker to inside in OU’s 4-3 scheme.
“Yeah, it is definitely something different,” Murray said Saturday. “I mean my first day inside was Wednesday. I mean trying to learn it all… it’s kind of fast. Today, it was definitely fast out there for me. Just trying to learn all this new stuff. It’s definitely different from outside. I had outside down pretty good.
“I’m used to standing on the edge, coming off the edge, and coming after the quarterback. Now I’m inside and now I have to worry about guards coming at me and centers coming at me. I have to see the whole thing. The other thing is that I have to open my vision up. Sometimes a guard and a tackle will pull and I wouldn’t even see it because of my vision. Inside I have to see the whole field.”
Terry said it was great to get back on the field in front of thousands of fans.
“It felt great,” Terry said. “I felt good about the defense out there flying around and making plays.”
Terry is getting more familiar with OU’s system.
“The defense has changed a little bit, but it’s still just football,” said Terry, who redshirted last season. “You just have to pick your gap and play ball.
“Redshirting is hard, but you’ve just got to put in work just like you’re on the field every day. Playing the scout team and helping the offense get better – you just have to do your job, know your role and fill it.”