Preview: '09 Red/White Game

DeJuan Miller

Looking back to last year's spring game many key contributors received their first chances to shine. This year's spring game could be a repeat as a number of starters will likely not get in to the action. In this feature we preview how the position battles could shape up on Saturday.

Last year the Red (first team offense, second team defense) walked away with a 69-40 victory over the White (first team defense, second team offense) despite the fact that Sam Bradford threw three interceptions.

It is said that the weather should be better this year as it should be around 60 degrees for the kick-off with 12-13 MPH winds.

Quarterback
We expect Sam Bradford would have his way with the second team defense even if they do know the play. The hurry-up offense should also help him put up some points. He will be looking to find his groove with a new receiving corp.

Landry Jones has been talked up as a player that is starting to take a lot of strides in the right developmental directions and we expect that he will show some of that, but it may be hard to get going against the Sooner defense, especially if he has to work with some walk-ons at receiver.

Saturday will be our first chance to get a good look at Drew Allen in the Crimson and Cream, but like Jones one year ago it will likely be a hard for him to have a clear grasp on the playbook.

Running Back
DeMarco Murray is definitely out and according to Bob Stoops it is likely that Chris Brown will not see many carries if any at all. This will give the young players like Jermie Calhoun and Justin Johnson the chances to get plenty of carries.

If Mossis Madu – who we already know can get the job done at RB – does start off in the slot then the story of the day may be which of these two young backs is ahead of the other or they are still running neck and neck.

Receiver
Well this is the spot that OU needs someone to step up and emerge. There are players with a tremendous amount of upside, but three out of the top four guys have been struggling with little nagging injuries in their Sooner careers. And OU can ill afford to lose anyone to injury in this game, especially at WR.

Adron Tennell has been getting talked up in camp, so it would be a huge comfort if he can show a little bit of that in a game setting and ease all of our minds about a big outside target/vertical threat.

We all know that Ryan Broyles is an electrifying player and can do so much with the ball out of the slot, but with his speed could he develop in to a true down the field threat as well?

DeJuan Miller and Jameel Owens were both highly recruited players out of high school and this game will be their first chance to showcase their wares, but they have also been dealing with injuries.

Brandon Caleb is a player that could emerge as the surprise of the group. He has an edge to him and a confidence in his abilities that the position group may actually need. He is a physical player as well.

Tight End
I doubt we see Gresham much. He is just way too valuable to risk.

James Hanna is the player that will likely take over for Gresham once he moves on to the NFL, and he should get a lot of reps. It will also be interesting to see if he is a player they look to use more as a WR in '09.

Offensive Line
Talk about some battles developing! This is going to be the most fun group to watch. There are a number of open competitions for spots and players will be trying to win those jobs by showcasing what they can do. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the film room with coach Patton after this one is done.

We can assume that the left side is locked down with Trent Williams and Brian Simmons, so the will leave three spots wide open.

It will be Ben Habern vs. Brian Lepak at center.

Stephen Good vs. Alex Williams at right guard.

Cory Brandon vs. Jarvis Jones vs. Donald Stephenson at right tackle.

Defensive Line
This will be the strength of the team as the positions are all set with superstar talents. But the battles will take place for what available back-up playing time will be available in ‘09.

Three interesting guys that fans are dying to see let loose are R.J. Washington, David King, and Stacey McGee. They were all three highly rated players out of high school, and McGee and Washington were both Top 100 players. The surprising ad gratifying news is that many believe that King has emerged as the star of the group so far. We will see on Saturday.

Linebacker:
The linebackers are likely set next season with Keenan Clayton and Travis Lewis leading the group.

Mike Balogun has emerged as a potential star and is rumored to be one of the hardest hitters on the team. We all saw his potential and some of his inexperience in the National Championship game in Miami, Fla. He needs reps for experience purposes, so it would not be surprise if he is one of the standouts.

This will also be a chance to see some more of Daniel Franklin, who could be a sleeper amongst the group. He is starting to get some good size on him and he is a cerebral player with some explosiveness.

Jaydan Bird, Ronnell Lewis, and Tom Wort will also be let loose a and given an opportunity to show their skills. That should be fun as they will likely have some big ups and big downs.

Defensive Back
Three '09 spots are locked down barring injury. Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson will man up the corner spots and Quinton Carter will be at free safety.

That leaves strong safety the real hot spot. Joseph Ibiloye could play well enough behind Carter to make the coaches think about using him at free and Carter at strong.

Or Sam Proctor could have a repeat performance of his '08 Spring Game and put the lock-down on the SS spot for himself.

Freshman Javon Harris has worked his way in the mix and he will even get a look. Safety is a spot that should not be a weakness in 2009, but OU could not afford to lose a Quinton Carter to injury and he is a headhunter, so it will be interesting to see if he is going to be let loose for too long. I am sure that many, like myself, are hoping to see him get at least one good lick in on someone early in the game (and not to a potential starter at receiver).

Special Teams
Jimmy Stevens will be getting pushed by Tress Way and Matt Moreland at kicker. Way will be starting punter and will be pushing for the kicking duties as well. He has a huge leg.

We will also get to see a revamped special teams coverage unit that has taken on a new level of focus this off-season. This was huge area on consternation for the Sooner Nation a year ago.

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