Notebook: Gray shines, Stoops put on scholarship
The Oklahoma spring game wrapped up, felt like there were zero injuries that occurred during the event, and now it was time for some fun.
Head coach Lincoln Riley announced wide receiver Drake Stoops was put on scholarship during a team meeting on the field, leading to the team erupting and Stoops being mobbed by several players.
“It's been a long time coming honestly,” Riley said. “He's earned it before this, and we've been a little slow to use any of these scholarships with so many of these rules changing right now. Just kind of trying to get a lay of the land and get a feel for where we're going to be.
“I knew about two weeks ago that we were going to go ahead and do this here, and thought here at the end of the spring game would be a fun way to do it.”
Stoops has been more than just a feel-good story because of his last name and has made some big-time plays for the Sooners in the last couple of seasons.
Nothing tops his touchdown catch in the fourth overtime of OU’s 53-45 win vs. Texas last season, and Stoops has definitely shown the want-to and drive throughout his career.
“That's our guy right there, Drizzy, that's what we call him,” quarterback Spencer Rattler said. “We're happy for him. He's one of our go-to guys on those third downs, on those quick drive starters, he's always getting open. He works harder than anybody and he just keeps his head down. He's very humble about it. He deserves it.”
Stoops had one catch for six yards Saturday.
Hop on the Gray bandwagon now
The last few weeks, the whispers started to turn into roars about the ability of Tennessee transfer running back Eric Gray.
Saturday was the first taste, and OU fans have every right to get excited moving forward.
“He had the best day of the group,” Riley said. “I thought he ran the most aggressively. Kept his footing. Did some nice things. I thought he was really impressive, and no surprise. I mean, he's just kind one of those guys that shows up and works every day. You know what you're going to get out of him each and every day.”
Gray opened the show with a nice reception from Rattler, but he might have had the highlight of the game on a 19-yard touchdown run where he showed his ability to move in space.
All spring, his praises had been sung and now we know why.
“Wanted to come and show what the Tennessee guy had, what the boy from Memphis can do,” Gray said. “Definitely wanted to put on a show. Put my best foot forward. You only get one shot, one opportunity to go in front of the fans until September, so I definitely wanted to put my best foot forward.”
Defense just keeps coming
Even without Jalen Redmond and Isaiah Thomas, the wave of defensive linemen was impressive to see as Jamar Cain and Calvin Thibodeaux continue building the depth.
You see a couple of guys go out like Perrion Winfrey and Josh Ellison and think you can breathe and there here come guys like LaRon Stokes and Jordan Kelley.
They just keep coming.
“I think first thing is our defensive line — the depth, the talent we have there,” Riley said. “We didn't play a few guys there today but still, I think we got a chance to be a really good group. I love the leadership and the big-game experience, playmaking ability we have in the linebacking corps.
“I think the secondary could turn out about 100 different ways right now. But excited to see how that group grows and what we can be there because we certainly have, I think, more position battles going on in that secondary. We absolutely have more length than we've ever had in my time here at Oklahoma, which is exciting and it's been a very competitive group.”
Secondary was an interesting one because of so many injuries before spring and during spring. With guys like Woodi Washington, D.J. Graham and Pat Fields missing either all or good chunks, the door was open for people to make their mark.
“There was a few guys that came to mind,” safety Delarrin Turner-Yell said. “Guys like Justin Broiles, Bryson Washington, even Kendall Dennis. Like I said in previous interviews, anybody that plays in the secondary, they can go out and play different positions. We did have different guys try out the free safety position, including myself.
“Guys stepped up to the plate. They respect the responsibility and trusted their coaching. They went out there and played fast and made plays.”
Jordan Mukes led the team with six tackles, while Graham had the hit of the game among his three stops.
Offensive line still a work in progress
If you were hoping for an answer at offensive line, it might still take time. Guys like Tyrese Robinson, Stacey Wilkins, Anton Harrison were among the guys not suited up.
Andrew Raym started at center, with Chris Murray at guard, which is something OU only started doing in the last couple of weeks or so.
No panic, though, for Riley.
“We've rotated guys all over the place and just trying to really do what we tell these guys we're going to do which is just take a step back and just look at everybody, no preconceived notions, not based on what you've done before and let's just, let's see who is performing in the moment right now,” Riley said. “So we have worked with a lot of different combinations and I think some of those young guys have really grown and done some good things and are certainly going to be pushing for playing time and it's made another room there that's going to be very, very competitive.”
No update on Bridges, McGowan
Riley offered no further update on the status of wide receiver Trejan Bridges and running back Seth McGowan.
Bridges and McGowan were suspended last week and were not in attendance Saturday.
“Kind of like everybody else, just letting this thing play out from a legal standpoint and then we'll make any decisions we've got to make from there,” Riley said.
Riley didn’t discuss any injuries suffered during the game, and it’s unclear the severity of some for guys not suited up. But here’s just a sampling of players who missed Saturday”
Justin Broiles, Stacey Wilkins, Tyrese Robinson, Anton Harrison, Brian Asamoah, Brayden Willis, Brynden Walker, Isaiah Thomas, Jeremiah Criddell, Pat Fields, Theo Wease, Woodi Washington, Jalen Redmond.