Oklahoma prepares for Coors Field game

With a number of questions answered during last week’s scrimmage, but with just as many remaining, the Roughnecks travel to Denver to face the Utah Raptors at Coors Field. As Oklahoma has an affiliation with the D-League Colorado Scramblers, and numerous former Scramblers are still fighting for a roster spot, the Roughnecks expect a supportive crowd at the home of the Colorado Rockies this weekend.

The week that was: intra-squad scrimmage

On the home turf of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, where many a raucous Bedlam Game has been played, it was an Oklahoma Sooner who solidified his roster spot and depth chart position. Former OU QB Landry Jones had quite an afternoon, completing 30 of 37 passes for 315 yards and a quarterback rating of 102.1, while leading his team to a 17-6 victory. Landry is in a battle with Ryan Mallet for the backup position to James Franklin, and based on the results of the intra-squad scrimmage, the former Pittsburgh Steeler appears to have locked up the position.  QB coach Garett Riley was keeping a close eye on his signal callers and echoed the sentiments of those in attendance, “We told both of them that this was their chance to prove to us they deserved not just a roster spot but also the #2 position behind James. Landry made the most of the opportunity. Ryan had a decent game, I don’t want to throw him under the bus. I think we leave Stillwater comfortable we can count on either of those guys if we need to.”

Quarterback wasn’t the only position that saw a player shine, as running back Terry Williams turned heads gaining 70 yards and 2 TDs on 17 attempts. The CFL signee showed his versatility, impressing coaches in his role as kick returner. Experts believe Williams has done enough to beat out fellow CFLer Alex Green for a roster spot and could find himself handling kick return duties come opening day against Houston.

Other impressive performances included 3rd round draft pick Bilal Nichols, who notched 8 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 stuffs for the afternoon. Unlike many Roughneck rookies, Nichols was not sent to the D-League so this was the first opportunity many had to see him play. The former Delaware Blue Hen’s performances through training camp and the scrimmage were impressive, enough to beat out a crowded group of players fighting for the few DT roster spots.

The career resurrection of Zach Sanchez continued forward, as the former Sooner lead the team with 9 tackles, 1 stuff and a forced fumble. Sanchez was acquired by the Roughnecks in the off-season and sent to the D-League on a veteran allocation. He played well for the Scramblers and showed on Saturday  that his performance in Colorado was not a fluke. Sanchez is battling his former Sooner teammate Jordan Thomas and expansion selection Rod Isaac for a roster spot. His D-League campaign and training camp/scrimmage outcomes saw him take the lead in that corner battle.

Look ahead: Pre-season game v. Utah

Final cutdowns loom, giving a sense of urgency to the pre-season matchup against the Raptors for many players. Nowhere is this urgency felt more than the center position. James Stone, acquired via free agency, has won the starting position, but the fight for the number two spot continues between 6th round draft pick Brad Lundblade and veteran Colorado Scrambler Anthony Fabiano. At this point, the Harvard grad Fabiano has the inside track. However Lundblade, a former walk-on at Oklahoma State who rose to become all-Big 12 as a Senior, is used to overcoming adversity and will have a chance to show offensive line coach Steve Marshall what he can do this weekned.

At the defensive end position, another former Oklahoma State Cowboy is in a battle to earn a roster spot, as Jimmy Bean’s D-League performance and strong camp have earned him a shot at one of the defensive end roster slots. Bean lead the Scramblers with 8 sacks and has impressed defensive line coach Chris Wilson with his athleticism.  To earn a roster spot Bean will have to hold off Joe Kruger, acquired via free agency in the off-season, and Kene Onyeka, a D-League standout for Calgary. All will see significant playing time against the Raptors.

News and notes…The Roughnecks released eight player this week, including 6th round draft pick Marcell Ateman from Oklahoma State and territorial draft selection Du’Vonta Lampkin….Oklahoma went back to its favorite trading partners, the Houston Wranglers, to acquire additional depth in the defensive backfield. The Roughnecks acquired veteran safety Major Wright in exchange for offensive tackle Justin Renfrow and a 4th round draft pick…Coach Morris has announced that Landry Jones will start this week’s pre-season game…Former Oklahoma State standout Rashaun Woods has joined the staff as wide receivers coach.