🏈 Riley has trust in OU's running backs
Plus, how OU's offensive line is shaping up and Sooners nearly fully vaccinated
✌🏽 Happy Wednesday, friends. Let’s ride.
🤔 Trivia: How many OU football games have been played on Sunday?[Answer in footnotes]
🎙 Riley at the podium
OU head coach Lincoln Riley met with reporters Tuesday for his first weekly news conference of the year. Here are three key takeaways:
1. Not panicking over RB room
Riley expressed confidence in OU’s shorthanded running back group, despite the offseason departures of Tre Bradford, Mikey Henderson and Seth McGowan. OU is also expected to be without Marcus Major due to academic issues.
What Riley said: "We got four that we feel good about. I think that’ll be primarily what we use.”
Riley was unable to provide an explanation as to why Bradford, who transferred from LSU to OU this offseason, abruptly left the program this past week but acknowledged OU “made a mistake” taking him.
So, what now?: Walk-on running backs Jaden Knowles and Todd Hudson will backup Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray.As for who else could contribute to OU’s rushing attack, Riley said the team hasn’t moved anyone over but receiver Brian Darby and h-back Jeremiah Hall were mentioned as possibilities.
2. Offensive line coming together
The Sooners’ offensive line still has a few ongoing battles, but Riley provided an update on who might start where:
Left tackle: Wanya Morris, Anton Harrison or Erik Swenson
Left guard: Marquis Hayes
Center: Andrew Raym or Robert Congel
Right guard: Chris Murray
Right tackle: Tyrese Robinson
What this means: OU must really like Murray, who was also in contention for the starting center position, to go ahead and ensure his place on the field. Same with Robinson, who’s primarily played at guard but has made major strides this offseason after a disappointing 2020 campaign.
As for center, I’d still bet Raym there. He’s been the subject of much praise this fall camp but it isn’t unreasonable a veteran like Congel could be pushing the younger lineman.
At left tackle, it’s a shame the coaches don’t seem to be ready to put Wanya Morris and Anton Harrison on the field at the same time. Morris, the incoming Tennessee transfer, was a major pickup in the transfer portal, while Harrison showed promise as a freshman last season.
3. Sooners close to fully vaccinated
OU’s football team is over 95% vaccinated, Riley reported Tuesday. His staff is also almost entirely vaccinated.
Why this matters: The Big 12 isn’t going to work with its member programs to reschedule games like it did last season. Any team that doesn’t have enough players to compete because of a COVID-19 outbreak (or really any reason) will forfeit the contest, taking a loss in the conference standings and handing a win to their opponent.
Riley on Caleb Kelly earning captain status: “It was really cool to see him announced as a captain. Because in some way, it was kind of like not the end of the journey, but in some ways it was kind of like, you know what, this is why I [came back for a sixth season]. … They were excited when everybody was announced, the other three captains, but there was a little bit different reception for Caleb, which is pretty cool.”
🤕 Injury report
Walk-on defensive back Ryan Peoples is the Sooners’ lone player out as of Tuesday.
🍔 Tailgating is back
OU is reinstating on-campus tailgating for the 2021 season, as well as returning to its regular pregame festivities after cancelling most of them in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic.
Fans can set their tailgate equipment up at noon the day prior to an OU home game.
OU’s “Walk of Champions” to the stadium will once again be accessible to fans.
The university’s premium tailgating options (Boomer Bash, Tailgate Guys, Sooner Club Champions Tailgate, Varsity O Tailgate) will not return, however, until OU’s game on Sept. 11 due to the short notice.
More information? 👉🏽 Click here to visit OU’s website for their updated guidelines.
🎮 OU in Madden
We’re still waiting for a new college football video game but EA Sports’ Madden NFL 22 has a new feature that might pique your interest.
Say hello to “Superstar KO: Campus Legends,” a limited-time online feature that runs from Aug. 31 through Sept. 27.
What is this?: It’s really just a way to play a super quick game on Madden but with college teams. (Polygon has a good explainer on how the game mode works, 👉🏽 click here to read)
Are these current college rosters?: No, they’re better. Madden NFL 22 made each team’s roster a collection of some of the school’s best players. If you’ve ever wanted to see Baker Mayfield and Brian Bosworthon the same team, this is your opportunity.
How many teams are there?: 10 — OU, Texas, LSU, Clemson, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oregon, Florida and Southern Cal
Where can I see the rosters?: 👉🏽 Click here to go to EA’s website
👀 Eyes elsewhere
Proving himself: Former Oklahoma defensive back Tre Norwood, who went undrafted this past spring and signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, made the team’s initial 53-man roster, the Steelers announced on Tuesday.
Landing the job: Jalen Hurts will start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Nick Sirianni revealed on Tuesday. He combines with Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) and Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) to give the Sooners’ three former quarterbacks starting in the NFL.
How strange: Former Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland, who torched OU’s defense for a career-high 360 passing yards in 2018, is going to be South Carolina’s starting quarterback this weekend. Noland originally went to South Carolina as a graduate assistant but has one year of eligibility. [via ESPN]
⏰ On this day
20 years ago today, defending national champion Oklahoma opened its 2001 season against Air Force. The Sooners prevailed 44-3.
Four. OU played Penn State on Dec. 31, 1972, in the Sugar Bowl, Virginia on Dec. 29, 1991, in the Gator Bowl, LSU on Jan. 4, 2003, in the Sugar Bowl and a regular-season game against Houston on Sept. 1, 2019.
Riley went as far as to say Knowles and Hudson were going to get carries, regardless of OU’s recent exits.
I’ll be honest, I thought Hall might be a little too big to play running back. Perhaps he hasn’t had enough chances to show off his athleticism, but I think he leans more tight end than fullback at his hybrid position.
It was expected Morris and Harrison might be OU’s starting left and right tackles, which still could end up being the case. OU has four relatively easy games to start the season, allowing offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh plenty of time to tinker with his lineups and ease in the new group before big tests against Kansas State, Texas, and TCU in October.
I also just want them to co-star in a buddy cop film.