It didn’t seem fair to ask Oklahoma coaches and players about the mid-year enrollees only a couple of practices into spring, but it’s just about done.
With only one more week left of practices and OU’s spring game next Saturday, you’re starting to get a better feel of what those true freshmen can do and what to expect.
OU fans can celebrate that it sounds like quarterback Caleb Williams is on track to being exactly what he has been advertised despite not playing a senior season.
“Caleb is doing well. He’s getting a lot of reps. He’s learning a lot. We’re throwing him in a lot of different situations,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “I think he’s done a good job … he’s done a pretty good job of making plays outside the pocket. He’s athletic. He throws well on the move. He has some creative to his game.
“He still has to get consistent on the more routine plays, which is normal for this time in the offense. He’s just learning and getting started. He’s working hard to learn it while balancing a pretty challenging class load right now. He’s progressing nicely. He certainly has a long way to go in his knowledge and understanding and the decisions day in and day out. But I certainly see no reason why he can’t be a very good player for us as we go on.”
Riley expanded on that class load comment, saying Williams and Billy Bowman are the two mid-year enrollees who are taking some high school classes online right now to go with the spring semester’s worth of classes at OU.
A COVID-19 rule exception has allowed that to occur.
“It’s their first year of college and spring football and all that combined is a lot on its own. The fact you’re having to take high school classes on top of that, it’s been a challenge for both Billy and Caleb,” Riley said. “I give both those kids a lot of credit. They’ve handled it well and both their high schools, Gonzaga and Denton Ryan have been really helpful as well.”
Sources have told SoonerScoop.com that Williams has definitely made some big-time plays during practices and scrimmages, setting up a firm foundation for OU in the future.
Interior defense not slowing down
Think about OU’s defensive line, and guys like Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey automatically stand out. But as we head toward the end of spring ball, there are some others starting to make their imprint.
It’s going too far to say people had discarded what Jordan Kelley and Josh Ellison could do as playmakers for the Sooners, but it does sound as though both are starting to firmly turn that corner.
“We pretty much expect everybody to break out. I wouldn’t say unexpected by any stretch for us at least,” Riley said. “I think a few of the guys that have really done a good job this spring, Jordan Kelley is one of the first names that comes to mind. Both he, and I would also say in that interior d-line, Josh Ellison, both those guys have really taken some steps this spring. They both had really good spring practices. Have been proud of the way those guys have performed.”
Ellison, like Winfrey, was a junior college transfer still trying to figuring things out las season. Kelley had a season of being healthy in 2020 and has been able to carry that momentum with him into spring.
Depth at defensive line sure sounds like it won’t be slowing down anytime soon for Calvin Thibodeaux and Jamar Cain.
Riley and rules
One of the talking points of spring practice has been about nothing to do with the current OU roster but about the eligibility of now-TCU quarterback Chandler Morris.
After transferring to the Frogs from the Sooners in January, it was revealed that OU had not released Morris because of Riley’s long-held belief that transfers within the conference should not be immediately eligible, especially underclassmen.
The Big 12 wiped away the intraconference rule Wednesday afternoon, making it a lot easier for players to transfer from one school in the conference to another without any penalty.
“I think it’s like anything. There’s going to be rules you agree with and rules you don’t,” Riley said. “People are going to have different positions and you understand that. If people don’t agree with me I’m not mad at them. That’s fine. I see it from my perspective and my perspective has zero to do with any of the individuals.”
It’s still no guarantee Morris will be eligible for TCU as nothing has been confirmed as of Thursday afternoon.
Riley said he wants to make sure the game of college football remains the best sport in the world and that the rules and regulations keep pointing the game in that direction.
He’s still a firm believer in his stance of not allowing underclassmen to leave freely within the conference, but he will obviously abide by the rules that are now going to be in place.
“We get rules are going to change,” Riley said. “There’s rules on the field, there’s off the field, all the time we don’t like… But it’s the rule and you’ve got to live it, live with it, play within the rules whether it’s on the field or off the field and go on.”