Not all tight ends/H-Backs are created the same way. There were times watching Oklahoma last season where you could sense things Austin Stogner did were not things Mikey Henderson could do and vice versa.
But you could also tell that whenever Henderson touched the ball, it felt like something special was bound to happen.
As OU began spring practices a couple of weeks ago, Henderson’s position has officially gone from H-Back to running back. It’s not a drastic change, but it’s one some fans have been clamoring for because of what Henderson does with the ball in his hands.
“He played in the backfield a lot for us last year too, so in a lot of ways, what we’re doing with him right now is just an extension of that,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “So, he’s doing a nice job. We’re trying to push him to make that jump from being a guy that was a role player for us and did an outstanding job his first year but, you know, that jump from becoming a role player to becoming a guy that plays a bulk of snaps, is not an easy jump.
“You’ve got a no-huddle offense and you got to be able to execute a wider variety of assignments. Understand game plans, understand different defensive looks, and so that’s the push right now, but I think he’s doing pretty well with it. Making some plays as he’s always done and getting more consistent with his and becoming a more consistent player without the ball.”
In talking with offensive players earlier this week, it is apparent Henderson is handling the early part of the transition as well as possible.
Riley mentioning consistency without the ball is a big thing. It always felt like if Henderson was in the game, he was going to get it because he didn’t have the nuances of other parts of his game down pat yet.
That should change in 2021 and allow him a much bigger role.
Stogner’s road back
It was a great story with Austin Stogner recovering from the staph infection in his leg to be able to play in OU’s win vs. Florida in the Cotton Bowl.
The full road to recovery, though, didn’t just complete that night in Arlington. It’s still a battle for Stogner, even midway through spring practice.
“He’s been a little limited for us throughout spring. It’s been a slow return,” Riley said. “I wouldn’t say really a slow return off of his injury but there’s just some natural ups and downs that you’re going to have with that thing that he’s going through right now. So we don’t have him full-go for every practice or some days where he feels really good and does the full deal and then there’s some days where it’s just not right and we’ve got to back it off and even shut him down for a period of time.”
Whenever Stogner can’t be 100 percent, nobody is crying for OU with guys like Brayden Willis and Jeremiah Hall healthy and fully capable of producing big things themselves.
Former Vols answering the call
Everybody is still excited about adding the Tennessee trio in running back Eric Gray, offensive tackle Wanya Morris and safety Keshawn Lawrence. Nearly three months later, though, it’s more about the work they’re doing compared to being happy they’re in Norman.
Gray has earned rave reviews from his teammates and someone who truly can be something special and not just someone who provides depth in the room.
Lawrence, of course, was a major OU target for the 2020 class, so Alex Grinch feels at home having Lawrence in the fold in the secondary.
There have been some academic hiccups for Morris, SoonerScoop.com learned this spring, but his attitude doesn’t seem to be an issue whatsoever.
“I would say all three of them have done a great job fitting in with the team. I give them and our team credit. I mean, that transition feels pretty seamless, which is not always easy on both sides and so I think that’s been great.
“As far as on the field. I would say both Eric and Key have done a good job. They’ve been able to practice each day, Wanya was a little limited with just a minor nick coming down, and so he’s just now getting able to be able to go through the bulk of the reps in practice, so haven’t been able to see quite as much of him yet. But all guys have done a nice job.”
Mid-year guys making the grade
You can’t keep their heads from spinning when discussing the mid-year enrollees, but what you hope is that physically they can start asserting themselves.
OU brought in 10 mid-year guys from the 2021 class. There are definitely ups and downs in terms of making a great play one time and a mistake the next, but Riley made it pretty clear that this group physically is ready to work.
“I’ve been pleased with the group so far as a whole,” Riley said. “I think physically it’s a group that has come in and majority, or if not all of them, will be ready to come in and help this team win football games next year. Now they still have a lot of development physically to go. There’s not really, to me, anybody in the class where you say there’s no way they’re physically gonna be ready.”
Guys like defensive backs Jordan Mukes and Latrell McCutchin and quarterback Caleb Williams have been some of the names mentioned to SoonerScoop.com as having solid starts to their initial spring practices.