Is Oklahoma close to naming a starting quarterback?
Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall took turns auditioning in the Sooners’ first major scrimmage on Monday. OU coach Lincoln Riley’s hasn’t seen much separation between the two QBs, but now has a better idea about his timeline for announcing a starter.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be soon — but maybe.
“I’m not gonna tell you guys [when] and I’m also not going to nail it down myself and say I’m absolutely doing it on this day,” Riley said. “I want to be fluid with it. I want to be open with it. I want to see how it continues to progress.”
OU has three more practices and a scrimmage this week.
“I wanna see where we’re at [then],” Riley said. “I think after the scrimmage Saturday we’ll sit back and take a look at it and see if we’re ready to name somebody. But I’m not gonna marry myself that we’re gonna do it that day.”
It appears all options are open. The strategy of announcing a starter just before the Sept. 1 opener against Florida Atlantic would have its advantages, Riley admitted. He won’t shut the door on playing both Murray and Kendall, either, but said the likely scenario is a one-quarterback system.
Murray completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns as Baker Mayfield’s backup last season. Kendall redshirted, but played behind Mayfield in 2016, going 16 of 22 for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think for us, [the difference maker is] a trust level from the coaches probably more than anything,” Riley said. “Trust on the field, off the field, sometimes it's really close and you have to go with your gut feeling. Most of the time, though, there's enough of a separation at some point that as coaches you understand it.
“And then if it's that close, [there’s] potential where you could play multiple guys early in the season and kinda see where you're at.”
The pressure continued for both players Monday while scrimmaging in Owen Field’s soggy conditions. Their passes weren’t as crisp in the rain, which was fine with Riley; he seemed tickled about the weather scenario, which is a rare gift from Mother Nature during late summer in Oklahoma.
OU’s offense is still finding itself in a post-Mayfield world. Sophomore tight end Grant Calcaterra said things improved during Wednesday’s workout in the Everest Indoor Training Center.
“Offensive side, we haven't been doing well collectively as a group,” Calcaterra said. “Obviously the weather was a big factor — passing game wasn't as effective. We didn't have a great scrimmage offensively. The defense kind of handled us a little bit, but we got in the film room and made some corrections.”
Said Riley on Wednesday: “The roles kinda reversed today and the offense got the better of the defense.”
Whether it was Kendall or Murray — or both — lighting up OU’s first-team defense is uncertain. The Sooners don’t delve into many specifics about their quarterbacks and the signal-callers themselves aren’t saying much either.
Kendall hasn’t spoken since the start of fall camp. He was requested during Wednesday’s session with media, but declined the opportunity.
The competition maintains its slow progression.
Coaches have begun tapering repetitions for third- and fourth-string quarterbacks Tanner Schafer and Tanner Mordecai.
“We were already giving [Murray and Kendall] a pretty big chunk of the reps, but they’re getting even more now,” Riley said. “We'll just kinda see how it goes. Eventually, you're gonna get to game week and have to do something by then. We'll certainly do something before the first game.”