NORMAN — ESPN’s Greg McElroy cites former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s departure, the subsequent leadership void in the team’s locker room and McElroy’s own perceived history of OU “disappointing” as his reasoning for calling the Sooners overrated in a recent television appearance.

OU is ranked No. 5 in

both the Amway coaches and Sports Illustrated preseason rankings. The Associated Press preseason poll comes out Aug. 21.

“I haven’t seen a lot of growth on the defensive side of the ball, still concerned about that side,” McElroy continued. “In an improved Big 12, I just don’t see Oklahoma sitting there at 11-1 or 12-1 as Big 12 champions this year.”

ESPN’s Lee Corso called the Sooners “pretenders” before the 2017 season, which ended with OU in the College Football Playoff.

Linebacker Caleb Kelly is calling it a trend.

“We’re at Oklahoma and every year you see this happening,” Kelley said. “We’re getting used to it, but we love the motivation. Nobody likes Oklahoma and really Oklahoma doesn’t like anybody else. That’s how it should be and they’re just doing their job I guess.”

• QB race rolls on: There is no leader in the quarterback competition between Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall, OU coach Lincoln Riley said.

Both players have exhibited positive and negative signs, but the Riley wouldn't get into specifics.

“Their command of what we’re doing has definitely improved. The competition has absolutely made both of those guys better,” Riley said. “We’ve tried to emphasize – like we did last year with our guys – of really understanding that we have some new weapons at places and they have to get on the same page with them, understand them and what they do well and how they do things.

“They are improving quickly. … A lot of good plays. We still have a few too many negative plays.”

• Extra protection: Many players wore a foam pad that wrapped the outside of their helmets for OU’s first few practices, before full pads were introduced this week.

The protective measure helps thwart concussions early in fall camp. Redshirt senior H-back Carson Meier remembered the pads were used sparingly two seasons ago, but they were rarely seen in 2017.

“We’d wear them whenever we’d wear our alternate helmets for practice to protect them from getting scratched,” Meier said. “That’s the really the only time we’d wear them last year, but coach Riley was saying they’ve done more studies and found out it helps against concussions.

“Some of the guys don't like it because it looks goofy. I absolutely love it. Counter blocks throwing your head around, it helps out a lot so I love having that thing on there.”

• Rattler on TV: Those interested can catch OU 2019 quarterback commit Spencer Rattler in action without driving all the way to Arizona.

On Friday, Oct. 19, Rattler’s Pinnacle (Ariz.) High School will face Chaparral at 9 p.m. on ESPNU in Phoenix. OU plays at TCU the following day.

Class of 2019 commits may sign letters of intent beginning Dec. 19. Rattler is likely OU’s quarterback of the future, ranked as the nation’s No. 25 overall player and No. 1 pro-style quarterback according to the 247sports composite rankings.

• Quotable: Jonathan Alvarez knows he or Creed Humphrey won’t win any popularity contests, no matter who claims the starting center position.

“It’s something you grow up with playing offensive line. You get used to it,” Alvarez said. “Our faces are never in the paper but our a**es usually are.”