Bears

Golson stays poised against pressure of Oklahoma

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Golson stays poised against pressure of Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. -- Playing in just his second-ever collegiate road game, Everett Golson stood in the face of 86,031 fans and looked as poised as he's been all year.

Golson didn't blow up the box score, completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards and gaining 64 yards on 11 rushes. But the key number for him was zero, as in how many turnovers he committed.

"He's growing up," coach Brian Kelly said.

Beyond the stat sheet, Kelly saw his redshirt freshman quarterback do more than just play with confidence.

"He led -- he actually sensed that he was leading," Kelly said. "He was communicating, he was talking, he was doing things that you hope as you go through this process that start to see. He was confident, he was calm -- all the things that you need to see from your quarterback on the road against a very good opposition in Oklahoma."

That crowd of 86,031 was the largest on Oklahoma Memorial Stadium History. It's a stadium in which OU coach Bob Stoops had only lost four times in 83 games heading into Saturday. In other words, it's not exactly the place a guy making his sixth career start can win with ease. Golson did just that, even if his line doesn't show it.

A little more than a month ago, Golson was coming off a miserable two-interception performance against Michigan in which he was yanked in the second quarter in favor of Tommy Rees. But since then, he's grown, even with the pains of a trio of turnovers against Stanford.

"I don't think I would," Golson said of if he would have handled the atmosphere at OU well last month. "I think that's partially because of the game experience and it's also because of the guys around me. I can admit that six or seven weeks ago I didn't really feel that I was ready."

That growth has been a series-to-series process in games, as Kelly explained two weekends ago following Notre Dame's win over Stanford. Ask any of Golson's teammates, though, and they'll tell you the biggest strides are being made in preparing for those games.

"He didn't just grow up today, he's been growing each week and getting better and improving," tight end Tyler Eifert said. "It's just the way he goes to work, trying to get better and having that as his mindset."

Kelly and Notre Dame designed the Irish to rely on defense for its success as they developed a first-year starting quarterback. But on Saturday, Golson showed his promise -- maybe not statistically, but as a leader.

"Everett Golson led our team," Kelly said. "He had obviously been challenged to continue to grow and it's been a process, but I thought tonight was a big step up for our quarterback, and our offense elevated itself against a great competition on the road."

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

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USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall. 

Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

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USA TODAY

Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

We're counting down the days until the NBA Draft by looking at the best players selected at No. 30, 29, 28 all the way down to No. 1. Check back every day leading up to June 20th for a new player and a new all-time best pick.

No. 30: Jimmy Butler

No. 29: 5/23
No. 28: 5/24
No. 27: 5/25
No. 26: 5/26
No. 25: 5/27
No. 24: 5/28
No. 23: 5/29
No. 22: 5/30
No. 21: 5/31
No. 20: 6/1
No. 19: 6/2
No. 18: 6/3
No. 17: 6/4
No. 16: 6/5
No. 15: 6/6
No. 14: 6/7
No. 13: 6/8
No. 12: 6/9
No. 11: 6/10
No. 10: 6/11
No. 9: 6/12
No. 8: 6/13
No. 7: 6/14
No. 6: 6/15
No. 5: 6/16
No. 4: 6/17
No. 3: 6/18
No. 2: 6/19
No. 1: 6/20