As Oklahoma works its way through their second week of practice, it remains too early to see a clear picture of what the 2017 football team will look like, but some things are becoming less ambiguous.
Here's what we learned on and off the field from the Sooners this week of spring practice availability.
Three things we learned on the field
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1. Will Sunderland's talent isn't the question.
In the first week of spring practice, Mike Stoops, former coach of Roy Williams, dropped a bombshell compliment by saying sophomore safety Will Sunderland is "the most talented safety I've ever coached."
The quote could be dismissed for being hyperbolic or simply creating a contrast for Sunderland's need to improve his mental game. However, just a few days later defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks echoed a similar sentiment:
"I'm glad you asked about Will Sunderland. One of the most talented players that I've ever been around. I was a little concerned the last couple years about how he will process things mentally. Through five practices, he's definitely making the jump... Very pleased with where he's at from a mental standpoint - it was never about his athletic ability."
Sunderland's likely future partner on the backend of the defense, Steven Parker, has also noticed his cerebral evolution
"Will has stepped up. He's done a fantastic job. He's starting to get the know the coverages and getting to know the defenses more comfortably."
2. Oklahoma believes in Rodney Anderson.
It's a re-occurring and reasonable questionable for an Oklahoma offense that essentially returns everyone else outside of the skill positions.
The anxiety of replacing production is a yearly cycle in college football, but considering the level of talent the Sooners lost, this is an especially serious concern for a team with national title aspirations in 2017.
Yet, according to OU, just because you haven't seen much of these players, doesn't mean they won't be explosive.
Redshirt sophomore running back Rodney Anderson, who has been forced to miss the last two years for separate season-ending injuries, is someone people seem excited to see on the field.
His position coach, Jay Boulware, claimed Anderson is "probably faster" than both Mixon and Perine, while his head coach had this to say about the Katy (Texas) native:
"He’s powerful, he’s stronger, he’s bigger, he’s faster than he was. He’s a great leader just in the way works and his attitude and his toughness and he really works the way Samaje and Joe did."
3. Freshmen defenders are turning heads.
Redshirt freshmen Parnell Motley and Jon-Michael Terry, along with true freshmen early enrollee linebackers Addison Gumbs and Kenneth Murray, have been routinely praised by members of the Oklahoma defense as impressive.
Head coach Bob Stoops has faith in Motley to contribute, even though the Sooners return Jordan Thomas and Jordan Parker at corner:
"(Motley) will play this year a lot even if he doesn’t start. He can spell and a guy and he’s showing us and we’ve got the confidence in him now he can be out there. He’s playing as well as the other guys are."
Cooks was more bold, stating that the second cornerback position's depth chart has fluctuated daily.
"It's been Motley one day, Parker the next."
At linebacker, Stoops continues to be impressed by Terry, who is aiming to take over the vacancy left by Jordan Evans:
"(Terry)'s doing really well. He’s a physical guy with a lot of range to him and explosiveness and it’s just getting comfortable in there with all the reads and he’s coming along really, pretty well. That whole group is. He’s light years ahead of where he was."
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Jackson Jr. continued the drumbeat of excitement for the youth movement on defense - referencing two linebackers who should still be in high school as potential playmakers:
"Addison Gumbs and Kenneth Murray are both explosive players, able to move around the field, move well, really looking forward to seeing them play."
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops backed up the applause by saying that Gumbs and Murray were both "unique talents" and that they "play beyond their years."
Two things we learned off the field
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1. Oklahoma appears to be adapting a buddy system.
Whether it's Mark Andrews and Grant Calcaterra, Dimitri Flowers and Jeremiah Hall, or Baker Mayfield and Chris Robison, the Sooners have taken on an organic pseudo "Big Brother" mentor program where veteran players bring younger dopplegangers under their wing.
It's something Steven Parker noticed from one of his best friends on the team, Jordan Thomas, and his relationship with early enrollee Justin Broiles.
"Leadership wise... JT's teaching those young guys what it takes to be at this next level. Incoming guys like JB or even just the younger guys, basically giving them tools to better their game and make it easier."
As sappy as it sounds, having leaders who care enough about the future of the program to play an active role in teaching its next generation is exactly the type of culture Oklahoma hopes to have. Caring about the tradition before you and the legacy you leave behind is the common thread that has made OU one of the most prestigious college football schools for decades.
2. Dimitri Flowers played with a hernia in the Sugar Bowl.
One of the more graphic revelations from practice came when the Sooner fullback mentioned that he played much of last year recovering from a hernia.
In case you didn't know, here's what that means: "a condition in which part of an organ is displaced and protrudes through the wall of the cavity containing it (often involving the intestine at a weak point in the abdominal wall)."
Flowers had said protrusion under control until just before the Sooners New Orleans showdown with Auburn, when containment was breached again.
"Actually, the morning of the Sugar Bowl it popped out again, so we popped it back in, laid in the bed a couple hours, went out and played."
Before colliding with men weighing multiple hundreds of pounds, Flowers allowed the OU medical stuff to put everything back where it needed to be before playing in the 35-19 Oklahoma victory.
1. Marquise Brown will start from day one at wide receiver.
Much has been made about Brown's initial listed weight of 147 pounds, something Bob Stoops made light of before taking questions from the media on Wednesday:
"Marquise didn't knock anybody off the ball today, but he sure did run by a lot of people."
There are reports that Brown had multiple long touchdowns this week, connecting with both Mayfield and Austin Kendall behind defenses on 'go' routes. Another quarterback, Kyler Murray, mentioned the JUCO transfer as easily being one of the fastest players on the team:
"They call him 'Jet' for a reason."
No matter the variation of Lincoln Riley's offense, it will likely require a vertical threat who can take the top off a defense. And while Jeffery Mead, Jordan Smallwood, Nick Basquine, etc. have a chance to be reliable receivers, none possess the straight hot nasty American speed like Brown. If he's already syncing up with Mayfield two weeks into spring practice, then Brown should have no problems carving a spot in this offense by September.