Dean's Blog: Q&A About Oklahoma Sooners' Quarterback Situation
OKLAHOMA CITY - News 9 Sports Director Dean Blevins is answering a few football questions from viewers who posted them on his Facebook page. As you might imagine, the topic du jour is Oklahoma's quarterback situation in the wake of news that Kyler Murray may opt for the NFL and backup Austin Kendall could opt for greener pastures.
*** BREAKING (5:36 p.m.) *** Update on Jalen Hurts:
I spoke this afternoon with a friend/contact from Alabama about what Jalen Hurts might be thinking. He said Hurts is taking a visit to Maryland this weekend, and that Hurts is especially close with their new coach, Mike Locksley, who happens to be Alabama’s offensive coordinator this past season. So, Maryland is a strong candidate to be a landing spot for Hurts. I asked about Miami, since I’ve gotten lots of information about Hurts being very serious about a transfer there. I’m told Hurts is also very close to his Alabama QB coach, Dan Enos, recently hired by Manny Diaz, the new head coach of Miami. Enos was instrumental in the significant improvement Hurts enjoyed in their one season working together in Tuscaloosa.
When I asked about Oklahoma, my contact basically said there’d not been much mention of the Sooners but that Hurts would be crazy to not go to OU if they wanted him And with the transfer portal status of Austin Kendall, it looks like the interest in Hurts to QB the Sooners is there. And any pro aspirations would certainly could be maximized if Hurts played his final season under Lincoln Riley.
Rickey: What’s going on with the Austin Kendall name being in the NCAA Transfer Portal?
Dean: Well, it means all the speculation that he was considering transferring was true. And it means most likely the Jalen Hurts-to-OU possibility indeed exists. First, on Kendall: He’s heretofore been a victim of bad timing, both with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
He’d have been a three-year starter at most places. four-year at some others. But OU’s elite depth chart at QB along with the timing have been a double whammy for Kendall, the 6-2, 215-Pound RS sophomore out of North Carolina. Every high-level recruit – Kendall was a sought-after 4-star – has dreams, & often expectations, of playing in the NFL. Kendall is no different. His thinking in part is no doubt that he can transfer to a place where he can start one or two years, show off his skill set and get a shot a t the NFL. That, versus the growingly possible battle situation in Norman, where he’s not handed the keys to the Rolls Royce. He could have to compete with Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, along with Tanner Mordecaii and incoming 5-star Spencer Rattler – the probable future of the program.
Losing Kendall would hurt OU more than people might think. The Sooners have been lucky to have escape the injury bug the past four seasons with Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Even if Hurts does wind up OU’s one-year starter, if he goes down, the Sooners would be without the veteran and all-of-a-sudden very valuable and experienced back-up in Kendall.
Let’s talk Hurts, whom I mentioned a dozen times since the Orange Bowl as a legitimate possibility to transfer to Oklahoma. I was told by two sources with decades in the business in SEC country with direct knowledge of Hurts and his situation, that it is reasonable to believe Hurts has interest in Oklahoma. These people told me he has people familiar with OU’s situation and that Hurts would strongly consider the possibility of a transfer. I’ll just leave that element of the story at that for now.
The other question is, "can he succeed in OU’s Air Raid system?" I was both told and believe that he is a much-improved thrower and that his running sills are exceptional. I have no doubt that Lincoln Riley could take a player with this skillset and modify his offense to maximize the strengths of Hurts. Never gonna be a true drop-back passer. But skilled enough to win games. And as importantly, sources and I believe that he has an incredible maturity and team-first spirit that has allowed him to co-exist and contribute behind Tua at 'Bama and that those and other attributes that could be extremely helpful in a season after the Heisman winners and before a possible beginning of the Rattler Era.
In sum, although Kendall is not necessarily leaving OU just because he’s put his name in the portal, it is a sign of his wavering. And not believing that a potential Hurts transfer is not part of the equation would be like burying your head in the sand. I’ve tried that. It’s hard to breathe!
Rene: Do you like the idea of Jalen potentially coming to OU & starting and Spencer Rattler being redshirted?
Dean: Rene, I’d say in general that yes, I do think that’s a proposition that could be successful. Not the only one, but one of them. I also believe that having a guy with the knowledge of the system and arm talent of veteran backup Austin Kendall is valuable. OU can win games with Kendall next season, but could they win more with Hurts? One thing I am absolutely sure of is that they don’t need to see QBs transferring and leaving the Sooners without winning depth. There is speculation that if the Alabama QB were to transfer to OU that Kendall would leave—as mentioned above -- and that would not be good. But it’s a reasonable thought. Back in the late 18-hundred’s I walked into Coach Switzer’s office basically threatening to transfer. Without boring you with antiquated details, one thing was similar to where Kendall might end up being. I felt disrespected, that I wasn’t being treated fairly, and that I was considering the move, despite the fact that, back then, I’d have to sit out a season, whereas most of today’s QBs have graduated and would be eligible immediately due to the NCAA’s fairly new transfer rule. I’m sure I’ll be able to share more info as I answer more questions. So, thanks, Rene!
Justin: It took Grinch three years to bring the Washington State to a top 50 defense. In your opinion, what do you think he can improve OU D in his first year with this talent? Realistically?
Dean: Justin, I just pulled up the final NCAA Total Defense Rankings to make sure and be correct. Here’s a few that jumped out: OU finished an astonishingly woeful 114th out of 129 teams – UConn being the worst. Dana Holgerson inherits a Houston defense that opens in Norman in 2019 that’s ranked 126th. OSU 112. Texas Tech 108. UCLA 102. Nebraska 94. Baylor 85. Kansas 81. Tulsa 76. West Virgina 74. Kansas State 71. Texas 67. USC 60. Iowa State 33. Texas A&M 32. LSU 25. TCU 24. Alabama 16. 13. Georgia. Clemson 5. Mississippi State No. 1.
But back to your question, I’m not sure where Grinch can lead this defense in terms of final rankings, but I do believe a new culture can be established in the first year and that recruiting should produce a larger number of high-quality defensive players. There’s a core of young talent that got on the field a lot this season that will be a cornerstone of the future – DE Ronnie Perkins, LB DaShaun White, and DE Jalen Redmond. There are redshirt freshman expected to play at a high level moving forward in players like DL Ron Tatum and DL Michael Thompson. And there are freshman like Bookie Radley-Hiles who came in highly touted but for whatever reason didn’t play to the level expected.
Grinch will be expected to get more out of those kinds of players, and add in a good number of highly recruited defensive players who will have signed into the 2019 class. The long-term answer to your question will be answered in large measure by the recruiting in classes beginning in 2020. Yes, I do believe significant improvement is possible. The numbers won’t necessarily show it with playing Big 12 offenses nine times (not including B12 Title game). But Grinch and new assistants not only can make a difference in Year 1, but they’ll be expected to. Remember the 2000 defense Bob and Mike Stoops and Brent Venables trotted out in the national championship season? They weren’t exactly the ’85 Bears in 1999. And they held the hottest offense in the country to zero points in the BCS title game. Schemes will change. A lot of personnel will change. Most importantly, the mindset/culture/toughness will be expected to change. As much fun as fans have cheering explosive offenses, the great OU defenses of the past got Sooner faithful just as excited when they continually got offenses off the field with three-and-outs. Right now, fans were hoping to get 3-4 stops against 'Bama. In three years, fans could be expecting their defense to allow offenses only 3-4 scores.
I’m taking these questions together and will attempt to answer them.
Blake Hunter: Even If Jalen Hurts transfers to OU, will Austin Kendall transfer and will Spencer Rattler redshirt?
Joey Wallace: Any chance Hurts will join? What is the current QB situation. Would Lincoln ever use duel QB Hurts/Rattler combo?
Jamie Determann: Is Kyler making the decision based on money he can make or love of the sport?
Brett: Dean, what’s your bottom line thinking on Kyler’s situation? You’ve been accurate all along – and with Hollywood not being close to healthy enough to play Bama – and curious about
Dean: Thanks, guys. Kyler loves football over baseball. I’m sure the 12-to-16-hour bus rides in Class A ball, the overall difficulty of making it to the really big money in baseball, and the expected number of years it’d take to reach that point, are major negatives – or at least 'concerning’ to KM. Especially if he has any question about hitting curve balls or having the personal satisfaction he thinks he could have by playing football.
I’ll have more, later. Some breaking news just hit.