The off-season can be a very lonely time. For months, football-starved fans cling to any glimpse of the pigskin. April provides a little break to that endless yearning. Spring football games are going on all over the country and at the University of Oklahoma is no different. One thing that might be different is the need to get back on the field for the Sooners. After a disappointing end to the 2017 campaign, Lincoln Riley and company are chomping at the bit to get back on the field. As we unveil our 2018 Oklahoma Spring Game Primer, this will be your one stop to everything you need to get ready for the game.
What: Oklahoma Spring Game
When: Saturday, April 14; 1:15 PM CST
Where: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
New Faces in High Places
Coaches will tell you that the makeup of each football team is dramatically different year to year. But, this will especially be true of a few key position battles this season. There are just a few to watch out for in this year’s game.
Gone is the Heisman Trophy winner of a year ago, Baker Mayfield. Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall. Murray, the transfer from Texas A&M, is a two-sport star who brings blazing speed and athleticism to the position. While Kendall is more of the prototypical drop-back passer. This will be the position battle that grabs most of the attention this Spring and will most likely spill into fall practice.
Oklahoma lost two highly talented players across the offensive line in Orlando Brown and Erik Wren. The center position should be the more intriguing battle. Fifth-year senior Jonathan Alvarez will battle Redshirt-Freshman Creed Humphrey for that spot. Conventional wisdom states that Bobby Evans will slide over to the left side to hold down Brown’s spot. However, it will be interesting to see what Offensive Line coach Bill Bedenbaugh does on the right side. There’s a good chance that Cody Ford could move over to the right tackle slot with Ben Powers assuming the full-time role at Guard.
Oklahoma took a big loss on the defensive line in losing Du’Vonta Lampkin and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The Sooners arguably have made their best roster improvements in recruiting on the defensive line. However, the play of Neville Gallimore and Amani Bledsoe will be key. But, there are a few newcomers that have enrolled early that could be difference makers. Ronnie Perkins and Jalen Redmond will have every opportunity to make the two-deep. How they both perform with the lights on should be a leading indicator of how much opportunity they have to help this fall.
This position was perhaps the most criticized on the team last year. While there are not a lot of key position battles here, the development will be needed if the defensive improvement is there. Can Kenneth Murray be better in the middle of the defense this year? Will he get pushed by Jon-Michael Terry for playing time? How will Caleb Kelly adjust to switching positions? Can Levi Draper who is coming off season-ending surgery make some noise? What kind of skill does converted safety Ryan Jones bring to the position?
This might very well be the deepest position on the team. Which means there will be healthy competition. At cornerback, Oklahoma returns two starters in Parnell Motley and Tre Norwood. But, look for Tre Brown, Justin Broiles, and Jordan Parker to push Motley and Norwood. Brown, who started against TCU, has blazing speed a knack to be in the right place at the right time will certainly be in the mix. Parker, who is also coming off an injury last year, will also challenge to start but also will provide more depth.
At Safety, Oklahoma must replace two starters in Will Johnson and Steven Parker. The prize of the 2018 recruiting class was Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles. Early indications are that he will just be too good to keep off the field. At this time, he might be the Nickle back but he’s probably the only guaranteed starter. Robert Barnes and Chance Sylvie are the favorites to be in the mix along with Bookie.
This Isn’t Your Grandfathers Spring Game
One of the things that Lincoln Riley promised was a different look and feel. Riley said 2018 would look much different than any Spring Game that Sooner fans have seen in the past. Below are a few of the new things that Riley has brought to the game this year.
The Hollywood Race
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown burst on the scene a year ago for Oklahoma. By the end of the season, he became one of the best receivers on the team. During his 200-yard receiving game against Oklahoma State, Fox announcer Gus Johnson nicknamed him Hollywood and it stuck. Oklahoma students will get the opportunity to see exactly how fast he is. Students will get the chance to defeat Brown in a 50-yard race with a 10-yard head start with the winner to get the winning student an Oklahoma “swag bag.”
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) April 3, 2018
Just for Kicks
Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Athletics Department is offering a full semester of tuition to anyone that can successfully nail a 40-yard field goal. The successful kicker must make a series of kicks from 20, 30, and finally 40 yards in order to get the free semester of tuition. However, there will be prizes along the way. A successful 20-yard kick will get the student a Lincoln Riley autographed football. Good from 30-yards will give the student $500 cash.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) March 30, 2018
Trace Adkins Live
Country music star Trace Adkins will perform for roughly 45 minutes inside Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Adkins has sold more than 11 million albums and has won 3 Academy of Country Music awards in his career. The announcement of Adkins as the musical choice has been met with criticism among Sooner fans on social media. It will be interesting to see the turnout for the concert amid that public negativity.
In the past, Spring Games have been nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. Recruiting has changed that. 2018 will be the first year where hosting recruits for official visits for the Spring Game is allowed by the NCAA. Schools like Alabama, Ohio State, and Nebraska have had 85,000 plus in attendance for their Spring Games in the past years. Riley has taken every opportunity over the last couple of months to ask fans to fill up the stadium with the new emphasis on recruiting. Only time will tell, but the athletic department has done a lot to make this an event for the entire family. But, I wonder if it will be enough to get 80,000 fans in the stadium.
Schedule of Events
7:30 AM CST: Spring Sale
9:30 AM CST: Sooner Fan Fest
10:00 AM CST: Bob Stoops Statue Dedication
11:00 AM CST: Gates Open
12:30 PM CST: Trace Adkins Concert
1:15 PM CST: Kickoff