Experience of 2009 benefits Jones and OU
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Coumnist
Sunday, April 18, 2010
4/18/10 at 6:19 AM
Go to Dave Sittler's Blog
Related stories: White team blanks Red.
OU: Three Questions.
OU Notebook: Stills steals the show.
NORMAN — Seven months ago, everyone figured yesterday would be Landry Jones' coming out party as Oklahoma's new starting quarterback.
Instead, what the 16,381 spectators at Saturday's Red-White game witnessed was Jones coming out and playing in a way that just may allow OU to party in 2010 like it did at the end of the 2009 season.
The original plan was for Jones to use this spring to gain the valuable experience he would have missed while serving as Sam Bradford's backup.
That strategy was scuttled when Bradford was injured in the 2009 opener. And it was shelved permanently when OU's junior All-American was lost for the season when he re-injured his damaged shoulder against Texas.
So Jones' 2010 spring fling at replacing Bradford was pushed up to last fall's cram course. As a totally untested redshirt freshman who hadn't played since high school, Jones ended up starting 10 games as a once-promising season ended up 8-5 after it was wrecked by numerous injuries.
The silver lining that came from losing Bradford, All-America tight end Jermaine Gresham and several others was evident Saturday when Jones led the White to a 23-0 win over the Red team.
"Of course we didn't want to lose our (2008) Heisman Trophy winner," OU coach Bob Stoops said of Bradford's hard-luck season. "But it definitely made Landry a totally different player coming into this spring.
"He's a much more improved and comfortable player having gone through that entire year."
Playing in sloppy conditions and a continual rainstorm, Jones completed 17-of-34 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
"I don't know if you can even quantify it," said Stoops of the experience Jones gained last season when he threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. "I don't know how many opportunities he would have had playing behind Sam.
"So it (experience) is huge, because he's much more mature and ready for it."
Jones isn't the only one. The abnormal number of injuries to key players demanded that several untested Sooners play before they actually were ready to contribute at a winning level.
The result has been a solid spring of growth at several positions.
But, as always, it starts with the quarterback. So having a battled-tested Jones available allowed Stoops and his staff to improve at offensive line and receiver, two of the biggest problems areas last season.
"The one area where you can tell Landry's gotten better is moving in the pocket and extending plays," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "Landry is much more confident moving around, extending the play and not getting a negative play."
Like most young players adjusting to the college level, Jones said the speed of the game is where he has noticed the biggest change from last September. While everything was a blur when he replaced Bradford in that first-game loss to Brigham Young, the action slowed down with every snap.
But that's the only area where Jones doesn't want the Sooners going full bore. He started feeling like he finally belonged in the starting lineup when OU whipped Oklahoma State 27-0 in the final regular-season game and then in a 31-27 Sun Bowl win over Stanford as Jones threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think our whole offense started to mesh a little bit in the Oklahoma State game," he said. "You could tell (players) had a season under their belt.
"We've stayed on track ever since Oklahoma State, and we just need to keep rolling through this summer and keep getting better for next season."
The 2010 season opener — Sept. 4 against Utah State — was supposed to be the second part of Jones' coming out party as he made his first start as a Sooner.
Instead, it will be his 11th. That's 11 more than anyone planned on seven months ago, and a number no one was complaining about Saturday.