IRVING, Texas — Sometimes, maybe most times, it’s not about what they say but how they say it. So one pays attention amongst the monotony that is Big 12 football media days, in some ways more a people watching event than a gridiron primer.
As for people watching, Oklahoma brought defensive end Jeremy Beal, linebacker Travis Lewis, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Ryan Broyles to the DFW Weston.
A fine selection.
Beal might be the nation’s best at his position, Lewis may finish his time in Norman as OU’s all-time leading tackler, Murray will finally begin a season as electric as ever and no lingering injury, while Broyles could become a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate the way Mark Clayton did the year Jason White won it, especially if he can add an Antonio Perkins-like return season to the spectacular grabs he’s bound to make.
But for Murray, you know what you’re getting from those guys. As for Murray, Bob Stoops may have made a little news when he intoned the Las Vegas product might resemble an every-down back, getting more touches, running and receiving, than he’s ever enjoyed.
Yet the only time Stoops’ cadence and manner changed, he was talking about a player left in Norman. He was talking about quarterback Landry Jones.
He was asked about the difference between Jones then and now, only to buzz in before the question was complete.
“It’s like night and day,” Stoops said.
Night and day.
At least until reality comes crashing down, the Sooner Nation never tires of things to believe in. So maybe it’s time to believe in Landry Jones.
Let Stoops begin the discussion.
“Coming into the season and even walking into spring ball, you can tell he’s just in command. You can tell how confident he is and sure of what he’s doing,” he said. “So he’s progressed well … He’s every similar to the guys we’ve had that have had success. Very grounded guy, very confident, great worker.”
That doesn’t mean grabbing Jones in your fantasy Heisman draft, or placing him alongside White and Sam Bradford among Stoops era quarterbacks, is a great idea.
What it does mean, however, is it’s fair to imagine Jones with all of his strengths and few of the weaknesses he exhibited a season ago that had thrown-into-the-fire-too-fast written all over them. Really, that might have been all of his weaknesses.
It’s easy to forget we’re talking about a guy who completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,198 yards for 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t too far off Josh Heupel’s 2000 stat line: 64.2 percent for 3,606 yards, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions.
“The fear of the unknown is what gets a lot of people,” said Broyles, sounding like an old sage, a million miles away from the Norman High senior who couldn’t choose between Bedlam rivals. “Now he knows what he needs to do.”
It was easy a year ago to focus on Jones’ interceptions or to not like him just because he wasn’t Bradford or White. Hard was realizing his body of work, for a first-year quarterback, was much nearer extraordinary than good enough.
Murray spoke of Jones “leadership, he’s become more vocal, his mechanics are a lot better.”
“He’s reading defenses a lot better,” Broyles said.
Broyles said one other thing, too. For good or ill, even like night and day, Jones may still carry a component from his maiden voyage that won’t go away.
“Landry’s the kind of player who takes chances,” Broyles said. “That’s what a receiver likes because receivers like to take chances.”
Jones still needs to be protected and his defense must get him back on the field. Still, there’s no reason the guy behind center shouldn’t be a real strength for the Sooners.
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org