2019-03-29 sp-emigcolumn Hurts

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, throwing a pass as coach Lincoln Riley observes during the first day of spring practice, is considered the front-runner for the starting job, but Riley isn’t tipping his hand yet. Alonzo Adams/for the Tulsa World, file

NORMAN — The upcoming two months will be critical for Oklahoma’s football program.

It has been the same in years past, but there’s just a different feel this time, coach Lincoln Riley said Thursday during a Q&A session with beat writers.

Riley pointed out the defense got a taste of new coordinator Alex Grinch’s style during the spring. The offensive line needs to take shape. And, of course, expectations remain high for the next quarterback.

“I’m excited about our potential, but as we’ve seen the last few years, so much has to come together to be the team you want to be,” said Riley, entering his third season as the Sooners’ head coach. “Each kind of phase just has to be fantastic. I’m excited about what we did in the spring. I think, for us, in so many ways, it’s one of the more important summer periods that we’ve ever had.”

He also gave an injury update on Jalen Redmond, a redshirt freshman who saw limited action before being sidelined with blood clots. The linebacker is expected to be released this summer but will be monitored closely.

Linebacker Caleb Kelly had successful surgery for a lower-leg injury. He’s expected to be evaluated in September to see if he’ll be available for four games, which would allow him to maintain redshirt status.

The defense took steps during the spring, but it will be important to continue to get traction in June and July.

“Now they know what’s expected. They’ve got a chance to feel that and really be coached the way that we want them to,” Riley said. “It’s no different than lifting a weight to get stronger, no different than watching film to learn a system better. It’s the way that you carry yourself in everything that you do.”

The offensive line’s leader will be the only returning starter, redshirt sophomore Creed Humphrey. Riley said he also expects returners Tyrese Robinson and Marquis Hayes to provide leadership, and he’s curious to see how Virginia graduate transfer R.J. Proctor will fit in as a fifth-year player.

“We were excited about (Proctor). We liked his versatility. He’d been over there with a couple of coaches that several of us had some experience with. It was good to get to talk to them about his skill set and mentality,” Riley said.

Riley said following the spring game that he didn’t have a timeline for naming the starting quarterback. Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts is the expected favorite, but Riley made sure to lump Tanner Mordecai, Tanner Schafer and Spencer Rattler in the conversation.

Riley is counting on the QBs to better themselves this summer.

“This is a time when you put in that extra work, that stuff that’s not on the books, that stuff that you do on your own because you’re a competitor and you want to be the best that you can be,” Riley said. “This is the No. 1 time of the year when guys can separate. I expect somebody will do that in that room.”

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Eric Bailey



Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391