Spring Game: 5 Players to Watch

Joe DuVall, Staff Writer
Sooner Scoop

Tens of thousands of Sooner fans make the pilgrimage back to Norman to watch their team play in the annual Red/White Spring Game.

They are excited by the smell of the tailgates.

They are excited by the symbolic rebirth of a new season.

They are excited to see football on Owen field again.

However, they are not fooled into believing that a scrimmage produced by a few weeks of practice is indicative of what they will see come the regular season. Even the coaches and players have hinted that this year's brand will be particularly vanilla and rough around the edges after such a short amount of time together.

That doesn't mean there won't be plenty worth watching, though.

While Marshall Musil running for nearly 100 yards in 2010 didn't mean he would usurp DeMarco Murray in carries that season, Murray's explosive 2007 Spring Game performance was a preview of things to come for Oklahoma's eventual all-time touchdown leader.

So the question for the 2017 Sooner football team - one with national title aspirations - is whose performances on Saturday will be met with the most excitement?

Here are five players to watch in the OU Spring Game that may actually provide a barometer for the fall.


Marquise Brown (WR)

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Xavier Williams/Twitter

Oklahoma is hoping they can replace one explosive JUCO receiver with another. The return of Baker Mayfield means high expectations in Norman, but finding a replacement for Biletnikoff-winner Dede Westbrook is paramount for the quarterback to have the success he wants in 2017. In each of Mayfield's first two seasons at OU, he has performed his best when he can rely upon a No. 1 receiver to get open and/or make competitive catches. The average season between Shepard in 2015 and Westbrook in 2016 was 83 receptions, 1,406 yards, and 14 touchdowns. For reference, Mark Clayton had 83 receptions, 1,425 yards, and 15 touchdowns in Jason White's 2003 Heisman Trophy season. That would be a criminally high bar to set for Brown, but it is an encouraging trend for a player that Mayfield himself said could be faster than Westbrook, which sparked an entertaining back-and-forth between the trio.


Sooner fans can try and judge for themselves Saturday.


Jon-Michael Terry (LB)

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SoonerScoop.com

Much has been made about the Sooner defense's improved second half of the season with Caleb Kelly inserted into the lineup. Oklahoma went from giving up over 30 points per game in the first half of 2017 to allowing fewer than 20 with the former five-star in the lineup. However, another contributing factor was the level of play of first team All-Big 12 linebacker Jordan Evans during that seven-game stretch. Next up is likely Tulsa product Jon-Michael Terry, who really began to receive buzz during the practices ahead of the Sugar Bowl. Coaches have continued to harp on the redshirt freshman's size and athleticism this spring, which would be huge news for a position that quickly becomes muddled if Terry can't be the guy.


Parnell Motley (CB)

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SoonerScoop.com

Defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks has said that the starting cornerback spot opposite Jordan Thomas will be an open competition with returning starter Jordan Parker and redshirt freshman Parnell Motley as the clear front-runners. Wednesday, the Sooners announced that Parker suffered a hair-line fracture in his leg and would miss the remainder of spring ball. That unfortunate development does provide an elevated stage for Motley, who has received consistent praise from teammates and coaches as a playmaker in the secondary.


Will Sunderland (S)

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USA Today Sports

Speaking of coaching praise, no player has received more over the last few weeks than Will Sunderland. Both Mike Stoops and Kerry Cooks called the junior-to-be one of the most talented safeties they had ever worked with. Sunderland has performed well in small doses in his first two seasons in Norman, which has only increased the buzz among fans who have wanted to see more playing time for the Midwest City product. The graduation of Ahmad Thomas leaves a void that Sunderland is finally expected to fill and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the spotlight.


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Abdul Adams (RB)

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AP

Lincoln Riley and Jeffery Mead both singled out Adams on Wednesday as a player who has made tremendous strides from a year ago. It's not as if Adams was a slouch - he averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2017. However, all reports indicate the the Washington D.C. native has gotten more comfortable in the system, patient in his approach, and decisive in his cuts. Mead also pointed out that Adams has been impressive as a receiver and cited a 30-yard touchdown catch from Wednesday's practice as proof. If Oklahoma is to replace the massive production lost from Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon at running back, they'll need all hands on deck like Rodney Anderson, Trey Sermon, Marcelias Sutton, and most definitely Abdul Adams.


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