Drew Allen emerging as OU's backup QB
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Sunday, April 17, 2011
4/17/11 at 8:30 AM
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NORMAN - Landry Jones strolled in the Red Room, his pants clean, his brow dry, his mind clear.
Did Oklahoma's All-America candidate quarterback even break a sweat in Saturday's Red-White Game?
"Oh yeah," he said. "There's always a mental sweat."
So, Jones, a two-year starter, played five series, directed two field goal drives and got the rest of the day off as 25,598 fans settled into their seats at Memorial Stadium to scrutinize the backup battle between sophomore Drew Allen and redshirt freshman Blake Bell.
"Landry's been solid all spring," said head coach Bob Stoops. "We didn't really need to see him all that much."
Not after spending his sophomore season breaking numerous school records. But now the question is, who's next? Allen or Bell?
For now, it looks like Allen.
Jones admitted he was bored at times during the scrimmage, the annual wrap-up to spring practice that was won 20-14 by the Red team, but said he settled into a nice rhythm as a coach on the sidelines.
"The young guys played well," Jones said.
Both Allen and Bell had plenty of ups and downs. Both struggled. Both showed big-play ability.
Allen, last year's backup, showed a stronger understanding of the offense, of the receivers' routes and the defensive coverages. He showed a better confidence in his throws, and had a firmer foundation of basic fundamentals like footwork and timing in his release.
"He did some really positive things," said quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. "I think it was good for him to show those things. I'm sure if you talk to him, he's gonna understand there's a lot of things he missed that he can be better with."
Bell showed his unbridled running ability, an innate feel for the pocket and the pass rush and at times a powerful, if too frequently inaccurate, arm. But, in his first "live" action since he was in high school back in November 2009 (all quarterbacks wore a blue no-contact jersey and were basically restricted to touch football when they ran), Bell forgot his fundamentals, hurried through his read options and too often threw to the wrong receiver.
"Some things were OK," Heupel said. "Communication, sometimes, was down. It's a process of learning how to play within the normal system. It's going to be a point of emphasis to push. This serves as kind of a basis of where they're at and where they need to get better."
The pace of the Oklahoma offense got the better of both Allen and Bell at times. With Heupel calling plays for the Red and Jay Norvell calling plays for the White and the young quarterbacks trying to still catch up to the speed of the defense, the Sooners' fast-tempo offense was slowed down.
Statistically, Allen performed better.
Playing for the Red team, Allen completed 16-of-29 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown (16 yards to Dejuan Miller) and one interception (by Aaron Colvin) and directed three scoring drives (two touchdowns - one on a short drive after Jones was intercepted by Gabe Lynn - and one field goal).
"I feel like I was accurate and I was inaccurate," Allen said. "There were a couple passes I could have hit. What I take from this is I need to correct the little things - that's what I learned from Landry, too. From his freshman to sophomore year, (his completion percentage) went from 58 to 66 percent just by correcting the little things."
Bell filled in for Jones on the White team, then alternated between Red and White in the fourth quarter "just to get him more work," Heupel said.
He completed just two of his first nine throws for seven yards, but finished 12-of-28 for 84 yards with one touchdown (17 yards to Trey Franks) and one interception (by Demontre Hurst). He also threw a 2-point conversion to Austin Haywood and directed two scoring drives (one touchdown - again, after a turnover - and one field goal), and had a couple of nice runs.
"I started out a little jittery, but I feel like I came through and made some plays at the end," Bell said. "That's when I started getting my momentum and playing my game instead of worrying about things, just cutting it loose."
For Allen, the hardest thing about Saturday was getting his mind around the game plan and the play calls while at the same time trying to make plays against a strong defense.
"It's a game-management situation," Allen said. "You've got to manage yourself as well as the game. You've got to play quick without playing out of control. In this offense that we run, there's no slapping each other high five, good job. The play's over, it's done. You hit a 30-yarder, here we go. We're going. You hit a 2-yarder, we're going again. Eyes back to the signals. That's our offense."
For Bell, the hardest thing was reining himself into the play, trusting himself and the offense, and making his playmakers work for him.
"Just slowing down," Bell said. "Sometimes I can get too fast in my drop and things like that. Slowing down and making the reads and delivering the ball, hitting your check-downs. Things like that. At times, I'd see one thing and just throw it."
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Original Print Headline: The backup plan: Allen emerging as OU's QB after Jones
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384
OU quarterback Drew Allen celebrates with Dejuan Miller (left) and Ben Habern in the end zone after a touchdown pass during Saturday's Red-White game. Allen completed 16-of-29 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. STEVE SISNEY/The Oklahoman