Intra-squad scrimmage: storylines to watch
With training camp concluded, all eyes now turn to the Roughnecks intra-squad scrimmage this weekend at T. Boone Pickens Stadium on the campus of Oklahoma State University. The team held their training camp in Stillwater, and while a number of positions were settled, there are still some interesting battles to watch as the SFL regular season draws near. Here’s what to look for when the team takes the field for its scrimmage this weekend:
Who will back up James Franklin?
James Franklin clearly cemented himself as Oklahoma’s opening day starter. The Roughneck’s staff is hoping he improves on last season’s impressive campaign with the Six Shooters. Franklin threw for 2477 yards, had 12 TDs to only 1 interception, for a QB rating of 94.7. During their time in Stillwater, neither Ryan Mallett nor Landry Jones did much to claim the backup QB spot to Franklin. The intra-squad scrimmage will go a long way towards determining who sits in that #2 position. Ryan Mallett goes into the scrimmage with a slight edge but former OU star Landry Jones is still in the running. In 2011, Jones was quarterback as the Oklahoma State Cowboys downed the Sooners 44-10, led in large part by two early interceptions he threw. Jones will need a much stronger performance in his return to T. Boone Pickens Stadium if he hopes to win a spot on the depth chart.
Fight among the wide receivers:.
Marquise Wilson is looking for a rebound season following a sub-par campaign with Utah in which he caught 21 passes for 258 yards and 1 TD. Wilson appears to have quickly developed a chemistry with QB James Franklin, leading to an impressive training camp and coaches penciling him in as an opening day starter. Likely starting opposite of Wilson will be another expansion draft pickup, former Columbus Explorer’s wideout Eli Rogers. Rogers did not factor into the Explorer’s offense last season, hauling in a disappointing five receptions. A solid training camp shows Rogers is ready to put last season behind him. Former NFLer Tanner Gentry will likely rotate in on three receiver sets, with the 6’2, 201 lb former Wyoming Cowboy a lock to make the roster. After those three, there’s a fight for the remaining roster slots as no one particularly stood out to coaches. Oklahoma State rookie Marcell Ateman has solid potential and will need a big game on the field he called home. D-Leaguer Ed Eagan has impressed with his return ability and bringing one to the house this weekend would go a long way to helping him stick around the main roster. Expansion selection Nate Behar is another player who needs an impressive weekend. Former Sooner Jeff Badet was given every opportunity to shine in the D League but wasted those chances and is not a realistic choice to make the final roster.
Does anyone want to start at outside linebacker? Anyone?
While the middle linebacker position is set with Jake Ryan and JC Scheritt comprising an impressive duo inside, the outside linebacker positions are up for grabs. Although a number of players were impressive, no one flat out did enough to win the position in camp. Among those who are still in contention for the starting spot on opening day are former Orlando linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who served more as a role player for the Rockets but hopes to prove to Roughneck coaches that he is ready to step up to a starting role. Free agent signee Kasim Edebali is also making a strong push for a starting role, having come to the Roughnecks following a journeyman career in the NFL that saw him play for six different teams. Territorial draft selection Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has made a case for early playing time, as the former Sooner has shown flashes of brilliance catching Defensive Coordinator Jackie Shipp’s eye. The final contender, and the player entering the scrimmage with a slight lead for a starting spot, is another former Sooner, Devante Bond. Bond was acquired via trade with the Wranglers in the off-season, coming of an impressive campaign that saw him record 70 tackles and 7 stuffs. Bond has a slight lead for the starting role but the contest is close enough that any of the contenders can still claim a starting nod.
How may new faces will we see?
Following an exhaustive review of personnel following training camp, the Roughneck’s front office is feverishly working the phones as they try and shore up some glaring positions of need. The main area of concern is defensive tackle, as expansion pick Gabe Wright and former CFL player Fabion Foote did not impress in training camp. Coaches were hopeful that one of them would emerge as the clear starting nose tackle in Coach Shipp’s 3-4 scheme, but that was not the case. The FO is working to try and bring in another quality player at this spot who can fight for a starting role immediately. As mentioned above, there is some concern after the top 3 wideouts, and don’t be surprised to see the team make a move for another receiver. With a number of quality players available through the veteran’s combine, and those who will be released through cuts over the next few weeks, there is no doubt some new faces will be brought into the franchise before the season opener against Houston.
News and notes…Former Roughnecks head coach Mike Stoops and current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy will serve as honorary coaches for the intra-squad scrummage…Country music star Dierks Bentley will perform a free concert after the game…the team travels back to Norman after the scrimmage to begin preparations for the pre-season game against Utah, which will be held at Coors Field in Denver.