NORMAN — OU football coach Brent Venables has always been supportive of Casey Thompson.
But this week is an exception.
When OU take on Nebraska on the road at 11 a.m. Saturday, they’ll face a familiar face in Thompson. The Oklahoma City native and son of former Sooners quarterback Charles Thompson spent the past four seasons as a quarterback in Texas before moving to Nebraska in January.
It was a decision that Venables hoped to take in another direction. He said on Tuesday that he tried to get Thompson transferred to OU.
“I hated it,” Venables said. “We tried to get him here in the offseason and we thought we might have an opportunity. I know he considered us. But I think he saw a big opportunity (in Nebraska), a unique opportunity. Happy for him.
“Wonderful family. Casey is an amazing young man. Just a wonderful family. So really attractive to him, except for this week.”
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Thompson’s decision to enter the transfer portal on December 17 came during a turbulent time for the Sooners.
Lincoln Riley left OU to become the head coach of USC on November 28, and quarterback Spencer Rattler entered the transfer portal the next day before finally landing in South Carolina.
That left OU waiting to see if quarterback Caleb Williams would follow suit. And when he entered the transfer portal on January 3, the Sooners responded the same day by bringing in UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel.
Thompson then committed to Nebraska on January 7, where he immediately became the favorite to start following the departure of Adrian Martinez.
“I was looking for a quarterback opportunity,” Thompson said at a March 9 news conference. “I was looking for a great offense, a great offensive line in the research I did. Honestly it was just a study of film. just trying to watch and see which teams across the country have potential and where are good receivers.
Nebraska is 1-2 this season and is now led by interim head coach Mickey Joseph after Scott Frost was fired on Sunday, but Thompson’s game shouldn’t be lost in the chaos.
The junior passed 62 of 97 through the air for 866 yards and four passing touchdowns in three games. He also ran for four touchdowns.
Thompson threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns for the Longhorns in Red River Rivalry’s loss to the Sooners last season.
“He’s always been great,” OU senior cornerback Jaden Davis said of Thompson. “He’s been consistent. He looks comfortable. So I like that about him, and I really give him props for what he did in his time in Nebraska. I’m just excited for him. challenge.”
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No complaints from Daniel Parker
Missouri transfer Daniel Parker had a mission when he arrived at OU this past offseason.
Follow Brayden Willis.
Parker had the experience from his previous four seasons at Missouri. The senior tight end was coming off a campaign in which he caught a career-high 97 yards and three touchdowns.
But he wanted to learn everything he could from Willis, a fifth-year tight end who spent his entire college career at OU.
“For me, I’m brand new here and everything is new to me,” Parker said. “Wherever (Willis) goes, I go. He took me under his wing.”
Parker’s willingness to learn isn’t always shared by senior transfers.
It can be difficult for some veterans to step back into the student role after climbing the depth chart for the past four years, which was a concern for Venables when Parker joined the team in December.
“I don’t want guys coming in here thinking they’re entitled to something,” Venables said. “I don’t want any rights anywhere in this program. And we’re going to guard against appeasement and entitlement.”
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But Venables soon realized he had nothing to fear when Parker arrived on campus.
The 6-foot-2, 239-pounder had no problem stepping into his role behind Willis on the depth chart.
“One of the most appealing things about him was his humility,” Venables said of Parker. “He’s a badass. Great teammate. Very competitive. And again, it takes a lot of maturity for a guy (Willis) who is like him, you know, practically the same age.
“To look up to his teammate who he just met months ago and now he has to be his quote, without a quote, his replacement. So I was very grateful for DP and what he brought to the team .”
Parker hoped his dedication would pay off in OU’s season opener against UTEP, but he was unable to make his debut earlier due to illness.
Even then, the elder found a way to look at the setback in a positive light.
“It was tough,” Parker said. “I wanted to be there with my brothers. But watching him and just observing him from a fan’s perspective was actually fun because I know every single person on the pitch. It was just a fun perspective.”
Parker was treated to a show that day by his mentor. Willis caught three passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns, matching his all-season touchdown total.
Parker also watched in awe as Willis make an impact with his blocking, which both tight ends are proud of.
“It was amazing,” Parker said. “We talked about the two big touchdowns, but he threw crazy blocks. If you go back and watch the movie, he was blocking unreal. I haven’t seen a lot of people block like that, not even me. I Congratulations on that.”
Parker finally had a chance to contribute in OU’s Week 2 home game against Kent State. He finished with two catches for 21 yards in front of a home crowd who blew him away with his intensity.
“It was exciting,” Parker said. “The Palace is like a place I’ve never been. I love this place and I’m grateful for it.”
Parker believes he has a consistent role with the OU going forward, though that may not translate to the stat sheet. While a few balls will be thrown his way, he’ll mostly be asked to do things like blocking and setting a good example for freshmen Kaden Helms and Jason Llewellyn.
It’s not the most glamorous gig, but it’s the one Parker embraced.
“I’m here to do one thing and one thing only, and that’s the job Coach (Jeff) Lebby wants me to do. it’s that I’m 10 toes tall and I’m behind him.”
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Venables said Tuesday that Wanya Morris will be available against Nebraska. The senior offensive lineman missed OU’s first two games of the season due to what Venables described as off-field issues.
The Sooners will also have junior safety Key Lawrence and fifth-year redshirt offensive lineman Robert Congel. Lawrence missed last week’s game against Kent State with a twisted hamstring.
Venables is also hoping to see Nic Anderson make his OU debut. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman wide receiver has been rated by ESPN as a four-star prospect.