Sooner coaches got their first game-like look at the OU football offense and defense going against each other as the team held its first full-scale scrimmage of training camp earlier this week.
The scrimmage was held under the lights at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Tuesday evening, a couple of hours beyond the high humidity and searing August temperatures indigenous to late summer on the Oklahoma plains.
The scrimmage was originally scheduled for last weekend. On Saturday, however, it was heavy rain and not the air temperatures that resulted in a rescheduling.
It took Baker Mayfield and the potent Oklahoma offense several possessions against the Sooner defense before the wheels really got rolling. The offense was held scoreless on its first four possessions, before Mayfield connected with Mark Andrews on a 35-yard touchdown strike.
The defense forced three three-and-outs in the first six offensive possessions, which is an excellent sign for a defensive unit that was much maligned for most of last season.
Mayfield also led the offense on a 70-yard touchdown drive during the scrimmage.
The defensive play dominated early in Tuesday night’s scrimmage. The offense picked it up and moved the ball better in the middle portion, and the scrimmage ended on a defensive note with the D-unit forcing and recovering a fumble after a 42-yard drive by the offense.
Head coach Lincoln Riley said there was good energy and excitement on both sides of the ball and he was pleased with the effort. The first-year Sooner head coach told reporters after the scrimmage, “The biggest thing you see with this that we haven’t seen is guys running live.
“We had some broken tackles with some (offensive) guys who ran through stuff,” Riley said, “and then I thought there were some guys who made some really nice open-field tackles, too, and did tackle well.”
What we’ll really be looking for in reviewing the video plays from the scrimmage, the OU head coach said, is guys running well with the ball and breaking tackles and who are our best tacklers.
One big takeaway from the team’s initial scrimmage in training camp is how well the defense played early on, and conversely the slow start by the offense. That give-and take normalized after a few possessions, with the offensive team finally exerting its will and talent advantage.
But should Sooner fans be concerned that the missing offensive weapons from a year ago are going to be a bigger issue this season than first thought? Or could it be that the OU defense has stepped it up and has improved more than we anticipated.
It is probably unfair as well as unrealistic to draw any conclusions from one scrimmage a little over a week into fall training camp. I think we can say, however, that the offense, with veteran Mayfield at the controls, is going to advance the ball and put up points.
An improved defense that tackles well and can consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks would be icing on the cake and a recipe for a strong inaugural campaign under the new head coach.