Spring practice is over for Oklahoma. The pads have gone back to the equipment room and coaches have hit the recruiting trail. It’s the time of the year when it’s the players making the decisions.
This is when leadership in the locker room is paramount.
The Sooners have guys capable of handling the job. Quarterback Landry Jones is a fifth-year senior. The offensive line is a veteran group that has been through several summers. The front seven has its fair share of veteran players.
But a lot of eyes are going to be on two players in particular over the next four months. Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills are no longer youngsters in the Sooners’ scheme of things. The time has arrived for them to lead.
“I know if you’re a playmaker and you make plays on the team — the captains have always been the best players on the field,” Jefferson said. “We knew since we stepped on this campus that if we were gonna make plays one day we were going to have to be leaders, too. We knew this time would come.”
That leadership vacuum occurs every year. It’s college football, and players can only be around so long. Eventually, they all move out and others step up.
Jefferson and Stills are naturals for the added responsibility. Both have been starters since they were freshmen. Neither has minded being available with the media or being in the public eye. They’ve taken very active roles in hosting recruits since they’ve arrived at OU. Now they want to go from being mentored to doing the mentoring.
Stills may have the toughest job. The Sooners have four more receivers arriving on campus when summer school starts in June. They’ll be looking for someone for help in offseason workouts and those player-run, seven-on-seven pass drills.
“All the receivers that are coming in — I hosted them, I took them out, I hung out with them — I’m trying to get the best players in our receiving corps,” Stills said.
They know they’re being watched.
Freshman receiver Trey Metoyer was the breakout star of the spring and he admitted studying with Stills was part of the reason.
“It’s the small things that get you open, and I really didn’t know,” Metoyer. “He’s teaching me things and it makes it a whole lot easier.”
There’s going to be a lot of freshmen looking for that attention in June. The Sooners have 19 more players arriving in the summer. The coaching staff is counting on a lot of them to be major contributors in the fall. To do that, they’re going to need examples to follow.
“You’ve got younger guys coming in. You can’t do the things you used to do when you were younger. You have to be more mature. It’s part of life. You have to accept the role you have on the team,” Jefferson said. “I think we’ve done that and are doing that. We have a big class coming in this summer. We have put those guys to work and show them how.”
What happens in the fall will likely depend on what they do this summer. All eyes will be on them.