Notebook: Bridges, McGowan no longer with OU
Wide receiver Trejan Bridges and running back Seth McGowan are no longer members of the Oklahoma football team, head coach Lincoln Riley announced Thursday.
“They’re not members of the program anymore and we wish them the very best going forward,” Riley said.
The two were suspended indefinitely April 16 after reports of an investigation into an alleged armed robbery after a 911 caller reported Bridges and McGowan had robbed him of marijuana April 15. Neither participated in the spring game two weeks ago.
No charges have been filed against either Bridges or McGowan.
“I think you have mistakes that guys make that you think that they can learn from and overcome,” Riley said. “And then there's always got to be a line there. It's certainly not a free pass. There's certain things – if they happen – that there's really no explaining left to do. We are in the business of helping people. We can't forget that.
“Every little mistake that happens out there, people want us to toss guys away immediately. That's not our nature. That's not who we want to be at all. But at the same time, we also have the university and a proud football program and a lot of things here to protect as well. We're going to help these kids as much as we can. But we're certainly going to protect the program and the university as well.”
McGowan entered the transfer portal last Thursday, following a freshman season at OU where he rushed for 370 yards on 58 attempts (6.4 average) and three touchdowns to go with 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.
Bridges missed the majority of the 2020 season after being suspended by the NCAA for failing a drug test after OU’s victory against Baylor in the 2019 Big 12 championship game.
He had two catches for 19 yards in OU’s 55-20 win against Florida in the Cotton Bowl and finishes his OU career with nine catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Following the incident, the apartment complex where Bridges was staying moved to evict him. A hearing for the eviction was scheduled for earlier this week, but the lawsuit was dismissed because Bridges voluntarily left the complex.
Door was open without Fields
It’s hard to argue an injury is a best-case scenario, but it sort of worked out that way for OU when it came to longtime starting safety Pat Fields missing the spring recovering from surgery.
Nobody is concerned about Fields bouncing back and returning to his old form, but it gave a lot of guys an opportunity to show Alex Grinch and the staff what they could.
“It definitely opened the door,” Riley said. “It gave some guys some great opportunities, whether it was a guy who played a lot like Delarrin and then a chance to move him around defensively. It gave us a chance to move Broiles to a lot of different places. I thought he had a very strong spring.
“It gave some of the young guys like Bryson Washington, Key Lawrence and Jordan Mukes an opportunity to get a lot more reps as well. Certainly, for those young players, the added reps made a big difference for those guys.”
Riley said Fields is well on his way toward a full recovery and should be available for summer conditioning moving forward.
Expectations are high once again
A lot of people have pointed toward the 2021 roster is being the most complete one Riley has had and the most realistic chance at winning the program’s eighth national championship.
ESPN put the weight of expectations on even more by placing the Sooners at the No. 1 spot following spring football.
It comes with the territory, Riley says, but there is a feeling this team just might be a little bit different than years past.
“Honestly, I would say that the competitive depth. I don't know that we've had a roster yet that has this many players have played in big games and kind of has them spread throughout all the positions,” Riley said. “I mean there's not many positions where you wouldn't say that we've got a decent amount of experience, which I think is a good place to start. I think we've got some strong leaders on this team. I think we've got a pretty unselfish team.
“A team that, a lot of guys here that just want to find any and every way that they can contribute. So I think that's a great start. And they do seem to really enjoy working together, kind of pushing each other. So there's a good vibe about the bunch right now.”
The recognition is nice, but obviously there’s no such thing as winning a spring national championship.
“We’ve never shied away from those things. But we also understand preseason rankings are completely meaningless,” Riley said. “And it’s about the work that you do.”
Obialo out, Atkinson rewarded
A few more roster management items here to close up shop. One, Riley confirmed wide receiver Obi Obialo is no longer with the team.
“Obi came to us kind of midway into the spring semester and told us that he thought that his career, maybe, coming to a close, and made the decision to leave the program,” Riley said. “And my understanding at that point, and I don't, I don't believe anything's changed, is that the was ready to hang up the cleats and move on to the next phases of his life.”
Injuries never allowed Obialo to get on track after arriving to OU as a grad transfer before the 2020 season.
Riley also announced quarterback/wide receiver Colt Atkinson was placed on scholarship Wednesday. Atkinson has practiced at both roles at different times to help the team in the last couple of seasons.
“That was a real exciting thing,” Riley said. “His dad’s a high school coach in the DFW area, so I knew he and the family were proud. Those are great ones to do. And it’s fun to see the guys that really bust their tail and do everything they can to earn it.
“For a lot of the kids, it’s almost like validation,” Riley said. “It’s a sign they really do believe in me and want to invest in me. For anybody that’s ever been a walk-on, it’s a goal out there, kind of something out there that you’re chasing, along with trying to make a squad. Or trying to win a job on special teams or win a job on offense/defense or earn the respect of the team or coaches. Whatever it is. That’s a goal for every walk-on that’s ever played.”
Former quarterback Baker Mayfield is always the standard, but the Sooners have had some great success with walk-ons in the past with guys like center Erick Wren and wide receivers Myles Tease and Nick Basquine, to name a few.
“One of the best things we’re able to do,” Riley said. “And we’ve had some really great ones over the years that have earned it. We always try to keep a couple in the bank, just to be ready because we want our walk-on program to be healthy here. We want players to know if they don’t get the scholarship they want, they can come to a place like this, they can get an opportunity, if they do well, they’re going to be considered to be put on a scholarship.
Drake Stoops was placed on scholarship immediately after the spring game, and Riley admitted he should have put Stoops on scholarship well before two weeks ago. Stoops earned it, and it was another great moment, Riley said.