Sooners Illustrated caught up with wide receiver Durron Neal to talk about his development, getting open for mobile quarterbacks and more.
Q. You had a couple of great catches today. I guess talk about the day and talk about your outing.
A—Yeah, overall today we showed some good things on offense and we showed a lot of things we can work on. But overall the main objective was to go out there and compete and just, you know, show the coaches all spring and all winter what we've been working on. And Coach Norvell, you know, he stressed us all this week about competing. He said a lot of positions [are] open, and I'm just going out there and competing and trying to win a starting job.
Q. Your over the shoulder catch. Can you talk about that one a little bit?
A—It was a studder and go. You know, the coaches told me, ‘At 14, break it off and try to squeeze back in.' And as I was squeezing, I saw the ball kinda drifting to the right. You know, I just went up and made an adjustment and just came down with a good catch.
Q. As deep as your receiving corps is—I mean, obviously there's a lot of talent out there—does that help push you guys in practice?
A—Oh, yes. You know, all of us, we push each other every day going against the secondary. And just we all know that we're gonna need to count on each other this season. A lot of people are doubting us. With [Kenny] Stills and [Justin] Brown leaving, a lot of questions are going into our receiving corps, how strong and how competitive we are gonna be. And that's all we're gonna try and do is lean on one another and just make plays for the team.
Q. It sounds like you're aware of the switch over, I mean, losing those guys and this is a chance for you show yourselves?
A—Oh, yes. I mean, sometimes we read some of the stuff that people say. But, you know, as long as we got each other—we're brothers—and we just count on each other. We push each other every day in practice. For drops [it's] 10 push ups. In meeting rooms, you know, we focus on getting the right depth on everything, just the small things that are going to make us a better receiving corps and overall better players.
Q. You've been running with the ones a lot this spring?
A—Yes, I have been running with the ones a lot, you know. Just Coach is just trying to find different things and see different wrinkles where guys can fit in at. We're all just competing.
Q. Durron, on the touchdown Blake escaped pressure, got out to the outside. I mean, does that sort of show what's really gonna be added to the offense with a mobile quarterback?
A—Oh, yeah. I mean, having a quarterback that can extend a play is a really good thing for our offense and it's gonna put a lot of pressure on defenses. And, you know, we're told when the quarterback scrambles, just find a hole. If he's scrambling, turn it up and just sit in a hole and trust them, they'll find you.
Q. Is that kind of what you had to do on that play?
A—Oh, yes, most definitely. That's exactly what I had to do. You know, just keeping the play up and I know Blake. I see his eyes going downfield, so I just try to get in the spot where he can see me and I made a nice heck of a catch.
Q. How do you assess the quarterbacks?
A—Overall I think they showed some good things. Like I said, we showed things we can work on, but overall they all three of them competed. All three of them can show their mobility and just to show that it's gonna be tough on a lot of defenses this year.
Q. With Landry last year, I mean, you ran your routes. This year, like you said, you're told—because your quarterbacks can scramble—you're just told to find a hole. That means the play's never over, right?
A—Yeah, play is never over, and that's what Coach Norvell tries to strive to us every day in meetings. You know, the quarterbacks are going to keep the play alive. We gotta be aware of that and just get open. That's one of our things. The No. 1 thing for wide receivers is to get open and catch the ball.
Q. Kendal made some really nice plays in the open field. Do you see that typically from him in practice?
A—Oh, yeah. In practice Kendal just—that's what he does. All our quarterbacks do. Kendal out of the three just is more of the shifty guy that, you know, that likes to do it a little bit more here or there. But overall all the quarterbacks did a great job. Offense, you know, we did good in some places and some places where we gotta improve.
Q. Looks like Trey Franks has done a nice job on defense? He broke up a few passes.
A—Oh, yeah. In practice Trey just tries to show to the coaches his transformation from offense to defense. Trey did really good today, had a couple of nice hits, a couple of breakups. I mean, it's just him being a good athlete that he is and just being aware and just using his speed. You know, Trey is the fastest player on the team so he uses that speed to his advantage on defense, which is going to help us.
Q. What's your height and weight right now?
A—Right now I'm weighing 201 and standing at 5'11".
Q. So how much did you put on since the end of last year?
A—Actually I put on like seven, eight more good pounds and a lot of body fat knocked off.
Q. You just kept your speed?
A—Oh, yeah. I kept my speed. You know, I'm getting a lot stronger for us. I know on the outside it's a lot more blocking on the perimeter and being physical and that's what I'm striving myself to do, become a great blocker and also a playmaker for the team.
Q. Because of those quarterback runs and all those things, is blocking something that you guys are really stressing?
A—Oh, yes. We have to stay and [make what] we call hustle blocks. You know, Coach Norvell keeps track every day in practice and he's just telling us, you know, ‘The play's never going to be over. Always be in the place where you can make a play even if it's a big play or just a small play that can make a difference in the game.'
Q. Talking about finding a hole when the quarterbacks are scrambling, I mean, is that—I guess how do you prepare to do that? I mean, does that change a lot for you?
A—No, it doesn't change a lot. You know, it's just, I feel like, making us go the full play, not taking plays off, going the whole play. You know, some plays like for Landry [Jones] last year with him not scrambling, guys ran their routes and just stood there. Now with running quarterbacks we got a chance to keep the play alive and make big yardage for when you're close to score.