Oklahoma has work ahead to replace offensive playmakers
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma wrapped up the spring still unsure how to fill the voids left by playmakers Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook.
Perine left Oklahoma as the career rushing leader. Mixon set the school record last season for all-purpose yards in a season. Westbrook was a Heisman finalist who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
All that made spring practice important to see who might surround quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman finalist a year ago. It’s still a work in progress __ the offenses were shaky during the White’s 14-13 victory over the Red on Saturday in the spring game.
The receivers struggled the most.
“There were some drops out there that we need to catch, but I’m confident that they will,” coach Bob Stoops said. “I’ll give them a little bit of a pass __ there were gusting winds that all of a sudden throws the ball off a little bit at the end that sometimes can be tough to adjust to.”
Westbrook had 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns receiving last season, and his presence as a big play threat will be difficult to replace. Mark Andrews, a two-time All-Big 12 pick at tight end who has 14 career touchdowns, is the top returning threat.
Jeffery Mead, a 6-foot-5 senior, caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from backup Kyler Murray in the second quarter. He finished with 111 yards on three catches. Dahu Green had three catches for 43 yards and Grant Calcaterra, a freshman, had three grabs for 38 yards.
Mayfield said he’s not sure if one receiver will carry more of the load than the others.
“I would have said it was spread evenly last year at this point, too, so you never know,” he said. “The chemistry is going to continue to develop and we’re going to continue to find out what kind of offense we’re going to be.”
Sophomores Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson are the top returnees at running back.
Anderson is back after missing all of last season with a neck injury and most of 2015 with a leg injury. At 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, he has the kind of frame that could make him a red zone threat. On a kickoff return Saturday, though he wasn’t allowed to be tackled, he showed some of the burst that had Stoops excited before last season’s injury.
“Rodney was going to have a role, even with the two guys we had last year,” Stoops said. “I was disappointed when that happened because we loved what he was doing.
Adams ran for 91 yards against both Louisiana-Monroe and Kansas last season. On Saturday, he ran for 25 yards and had a catch down the middle for 34 yards.
“Abdul has really stepped up the last couple of weeks, week and a half, really,” Stoops said. “The other guys are learning their way.”
Two newcomers got the bulk of the action at running back Saturday — freshmen Trey Sermon and junior college transfer Marcelias Sutton. Sermon entered the spring game with the first unit, and he led the way with 73 yards on 13 carries. Sutton scored the first touchdown of the day, a 6-yard run that saw him break several tackles. He finished with 63 yards on 10 carries.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Mayfield said. “It’s not just two or three guys this year. We really do have a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays.”
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