Three things that matter from from the 2019 Oklahoma spring football game.
The Jalen Hurts era begins
Last year right about this time, Alabama was coming off a national championship and star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was nursing a hand injury. It was a shot for Jalen Hurts to light it up and reestablish himself in the hunt for his former starting job, but he completed 19-of-37 passes for 195 yards with a pick.
He was all over the place, throwing tentatively, and generally playing like a guy with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders – which was strange for a guy who played in some of the biggest games in college football starting out as a true freshman.
Fast-forward to the Friday night Oklahoma spring game – moved because of expected bad weather on Saturday – in front of more than 50,000 people. Now, Hurts is the veteran free agent get for a program with the resume, make-up and talent to be the next great Sooner quarterback.
No one’s expecting him to be another Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray throwing the ball, but it didn’t hurt that he was sharp, completing 11-of-14 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, while taking off for 12 yards and a rushing score, too.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just a spring game, but consider the headlines and the talking points for the next few months if he struggled.
He didn’t, he looked the part of a team leader and main man for the program, and now the machine should keep on going. It also helps that …
The receiving corps is really, really good
Hurts had a group of NFL receivers are Alabama to throw to, and now he steps into a situation with little to no drop off at the position, even with Hollywood Brown off to the next level.
The backup quarterback options were terrific at times, partly because that receiving corps is so strong. Tanner Mordecai completed 12-of-24 passes for 153 yards and a scorer and Tanner Schafer connected on 6-of-7 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. It all clicked.
CeeDee Lamb and TE Grant Calcaterra didn’t play, but the young recruits showed up and looked great. Theo Wease was terrific with three catches for 68 yards and two scores, Jadon Haselwood caught two passes, Trejan Bridges made three grabs for 76 yards, and massive tight end Austin Stogner caught three passes for 42 yards.
The veterans were a part of things, too, led by big play target Lee Morris, who averaged over 26 yards on his three catches for a touchdown.
Of course the offense is good, but the defense …
The Oklahoma defense just needed to hold serve at times throughout last year to let the offense do its thing, but instead it allowed more first downs than anyone, and finished the season with the nation’s worst pass defense.
The D won’t be a brick wall under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, but the idea is to be be more disruptive, do far more at getting into the backfield, and do a better job of taking the ball away after generating a mere 11 takeaways in 2018.
Turn those 11 into 22, and the defense will more than do its job.
The spring game isn’t the time to show off everything a new D can do, but 330-pound Neville Gallimore came up with a few plays in the backfield against the terrific Sooner O line, S Chanse Sylvie and LB Bryan Mead each came up with a game-high 4.5 tackles, and S Justin Broiles got a pick.