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Oklahoma’s spring game on Saturday offers us a brief glimpse at the formation of this year’s Oklahoma Sooners football team. The game has no shortage of things to be looking out for and some aren’t even about the players and the actual football we’ll see being played.
With such a momentous occasion for the university and its storied football program, we’ve compiled a list of five things we’re most looking forward to in the spring game. Check them out below.
The atmosphere of actual football
While we know it’s not an official game, the energy and excitement with being able to see Oklahoma play football is exciting.
They ended last season on a high note in the Alamo Bowl after the surprising departure of Lincoln Riley. Riley’s departure less than 24 hours after the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State led to several recruits decommitting and finding new homes elsewhere.
The Sooners went looking for answers and a replacement.
That help came from a familiar yet distant friend when former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables returned as the head coach. He left Clemson after two national titles and several more College Football Playoff appearances as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.
Venables has worked tirelessly to reshape and renovate the Oklahoma Football program and the Oklahoma Spring game provides him a perfect opportunity to show what the coaching staff and the players have been working on this spring.
With everything that’s gone on since Bedlam, turning the page on a new era of Sooners football is going to make for a rocking atmosphere in Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Seeing the new look Oklahoma offense
When Lincoln Riley headed to Southern California, he took his offensive system and the Sooners’ starting quarterback for the last half of the year with him. That left the Sooners without a head coach, offensive coordinator, and a quarterback.
Joseph Harroz and Joe Castiglione were deliberate but focused in targeting Brent Venables to be the next head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. And Venables targeted Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to take the reins at Oklahoma. Lebby, a Sooner alum has seen his profile rise during stops at UCF and Ole Miss where his offenses have been some of the best in college football over the last few years.
He’s back in Norman and he brought his lightning-fast offense with him. At the controls of that offense sit Dillon Gabriel. A transfer from UCF who got his collegiate career started under Lebby when he was at UCF. How did that go? Well, Gabriel was a freshman All-American under Lebby’s tutelage and has extensive experience in this system.
Will the Sooners show off that tempo on Saturday? If so, how will the team look in game action with it?
Baker Mayfield's Heisman Statue Unveiling
Aside from the on-field product, this spring game will also allow for the Sooners to celebrate one of the program’s most popular players, Heisman winner Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield won his Heisman in 2017 and would go on the next year to be the number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns. He’s one of the school’s most passionate players and produced countless moments in his time at Oklahoma. He won the Heisman producing the highest passing efficiency rating in FBS history and is the first Heisman winner to begin his career as a walk-on athlete since the NCAA instituted athletic scholarships in the 1950s.
His impact at Oklahoma was immeasurable and true to Oklahoma’s standards he’ll immortalized in Heisman Park with the Sooners other five Heisman winners, with Kyler Murray soon to join him.
Future Sooners in Attendance
Even with spring ball ending coming to an end and the Sooners heading home in a few weeks for summer break, the coaching staff has a massive few months ahead of them.
This summer marks their first full summer together as a staff and that means getting out on the recruiting trail for the 2023 and 2024 classes. Before that happens, they’ll host a slew of prospects for the spring game, and the atmosphere is bound to be electric.
A great game-like atmosphere and a live showing of how they would look on the field under Venables and his staff could really give the Sooners some recruiting momentum heading into the summer.
In the coaching change, the Oklahoma Sooners upgraded their defense moving from Alex Grinch to Brent Venables. There’s zero question there.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof will obviously keep it vanilla for the most part but pay attention to alignments and packages. They’ll show a little of how Venables and Roof plan to structure and run this defense.
With six starters to replace from the 2021 defense, the Spring game provides a first look at the players tasked with replacing future NFL players.
Among those questions, we have a few more things we’ll be looking forward to. Seeing Jalil Farooq in a more meaningful role this year and the return of veteran Theo Wease as well as some new faces along the offensive line like McKade Mettauer, a transfer offensive guard from the California Golden Bears.