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March 27, 2012

Landry Jones uses spring break to find his QB guru

Ask any Oklahoma football fan and they'll tell you Landry Jones has limits. But guess what Sooner fans? Jones knows he has limits too.

Those limits are the reason Jones and his father took off for Palo Alto, Calif., to train with renowned quarterbacks coach George Whitfield during spring break. Whitfield is one of those guys people are starting to associate with the term "guru" after he helped Cam Newton tighten up his delivery just before the 2011 NFL Draft.


GEORGE WHITFIELD WORKING THE NIKE ELITE 11 CAMP THIS WEEKEND IN ARLINGTON

Last week, Whitfield was in Palo Alto working with his latest client, Andrew Luck, as he was holding his pro day at Stanford. So Jones and his father packed up two bags full of athletic gear and booked a flight to Palo Alto to work on his limits.

"I said spring break is spring break," Whitfield recalled when Jones told him he wanted to come work with him during spring break. "You can go to Cancun, Daytona, San Diego or Palo Alto.

"So he came to Palo Alto in the cold, nasty weather and we're outside, working his drops, working his escapes, working his footwork and just working on the small things to get more consistent. It's cold out there and he's got heavy sweats on where his buddies are on a warm beach doing something better."

While OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel can be fairly guarded with his opinion on anything surrounding his quarterbacks, a look into Whitfield's work with Jones in Palo Alto sheds some light on where Jones wants to get better.

"I know what he wanted to work on was his ability to work within the pocket," explained Whitfield. "Not just presence but throwing from different foot platforms. If you're going to get flushed to the left, can you still make the shot? If you're not going to be on base all the time, can you still make the shot?"

Some of Jones' biggest gaffs as a Sooner have come while rolling away from pressure. There was a late fumble against Texas deep in OU's own territory in 2010 that almost put the Longhorns back in a game they had no business winning.

Then there was last year's inexplicable first-half fumble against Oklahoma State where Jones was so uncomfortable under duress, he literally dropped the ball . It's a play that Sooner fans would love to forget, but just can't.

Jones' desire to go outside his own coaching staff, and look for other ways to eliminate those plays in the future might say something about how much he can't forget the very same things.

"At Oklahoma everybody knows they have some of the greatest offensive linemen come out every year," said Whitfield. "But they also play in a pressurized conference where the only way to create pressure is to bring heat off the edges. His ability to kind of work in there and one, get comfortable in all that chaos, and to throw with four or five phone booths stacked around you - can you get that kind of comfort and can you deal with that close of proximity? That's what we were working on."

According to Whitfield, Jones worked hard too. Landry arrived in Palo Alto on Saturday, and went to work immediately, going through his first workout that same day. Jones ended up working with Whitfield for six straight days for about two hours each session.

After Jones would finish, he'd hang out and watch as Whitfield put Luck through his paces.

"I know he was knocked out sleeping with all the training we did," said a grinning Whitfield. "That's how he spent what little free time they get."

Whitfield's star is bright because of his clientele over the last few years. He's worked tirelessly with Newton and Luck the last two years.

So what was it he could do for Landry Jones that made Oklahoma's star quarterback seek him out?

"You get better at diagnosing from my standpoint. You can sift through it faster," said Whitfield. "You look at Cam Newton and how big this dude is and you get desensitized by all that and then you say, 'Hmm, he still has a stutter step.' And a stutter step on a dude built like LeBron James is still a stutter step.

"A bad habit for a guy with Andrew Luck's resume is still a bad habit. If his hips don't go through, it still comes down to his hips not going through. You can get past everything else."

After working with Newton and Luck, and now Jones, Whitfield might be the most qualified voice yet to give an informed opinion on where Jones' potential lies in the NFL.

Whitfield says he believes Jones made the right decision to come back to school. But after working with him last week, he thinks he can be right where Luck is now.

"Landry's going to be right there with those two," he said. "He's going to be right there. I was so excited watching him out there and his throwing power and his footwork. He has incredible feet. I didn't know he had feet like that. You just don't always see it. We worked from under center, in the gun, ball-handling, throwing - but he's just a grinder."

A grinder with limitations, but maybe fewer after a week in Palo Alto instead of Cancun.




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