NORMAN, Okla. — Just two days after their second major scrimmage of the spring, the Oklahoma football team returned to the practice fields Monday afternoon for the final week of practice before Saturday's Red/White game.
Senior linebacker Teddy Lehman was once again sidelined sporting a boot cast with a sprained ankle, but that didn't stop the defense from dominating during the majority of Monday's practice.
The Oklahoma offense worked a lot on their running game and short passing game and the Sooner defense was up to the task today lead by defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek and linebacker Lance Mitchell, who shut down the running game most of the afternoon.
Harris, who was slowed last season by a nagging growing injury, says he finally feels he's getting back to full strength.
"I feel the best that I have felt since my freshman year," said Harris. "I think all football players are sore and I don't want to make excuses, but I was sore in an area that was hard to be effective."
Now I'm to the point where I can run as fast as I can forward and backward, and I'm getting most of my side-to-side speed back as well," Harris continued. "The good thing is I haven't missed any practices or drills, and I haven't missed a down.It got to the point last season where I hardly practiced at all."
Sooner running game coordinator and offensive line coach Kevin Wilson marveled at Harris and the ability of his fellow defensive tackles after practice.
"They're really good," said Wilson. "They may be the best we play against all year, but we play against other good defenses too. We have to get where we can block them. Jackie (Shipp) toys with us inside. He runs four high quality tackles in there and I don't rotate at all. Lynn Mcgruder and Kory Klein could start for most teams. It's not fair sometimes, but it's not fair sometimes in games against other teams with good tackles and we have to block them."
"Not only is that defense good, fast, mean and tough, but they know what we're going to do," said Wilson. "So when we call out a check those guys no where it's coming. But that's okay with us because if we can block when they know what's coming, how well do you think we can block when they don't know what we're going to do? To be honest, it helps us more to go against them than it does them to go against us. They're are that good."
Tommie Harris agrees, and is ready to make another bold statement about teammates.
"I'm just going to go ahead and say it...I think we have the best defensive tackle group in the country," said Harris in a serious tone. "I think we have four guys who can play at the next level. We all practice very hard and have a brotherhood about the way we go about our business. We pick each other up and we make each other better players."
In addition to OU's defensive line having a a great practice, junior cornerback Mark Bradley continues to play well this spring. Bradley, who had two interceptions in Saturday's scrimmage off of Noah Allen passes, was back again today picking off Allen again on a deep sideline route intended for Will Peoples and nearly had another one on a Paul Thompson throw. Antonio Perkins also got an interception on a Thompson pass.
Senior quarterback Jason White returned to action after sitting out Saturday's scrimmage, but it was Sophomore Brent Rawls who looked the best again today. All four of the Oklahoma quarterbacks rotated evenly today with Noah Allen getting the first snaps followed by Rawls, Paul Thompson and White in each drill.
Rawls continues to improve his overall game and looked good today hitting the short routes, while Thompson connected on the only long bomb of the day when Mark Clayton beat Michael Thompson deep on a post route.
The OU offense continues to evolve as we've seen some new formations and skill players lining up in different spots. Travis Wilson, Brandon Jones, Clayton and even Donta Hickson each lined up in the slot at one point or another on Monday.
Clayton was one of the lone standouts today for the offense. Clayton caught the long bomb from Thompson and took a reverse and outran Calvin Thibodeaux to the corner for what would have been a big game. Bobby Jack Wright quickly yanked his backup defensive ends in disgust and a few plays later Travis Wilson beat the OU defense and Dan Cody on a reverse, which drew the much deserved ‘told-you-so' speech by Kevin Wilson for constantly overpursuing in the series before.
Another player emerging at a position that needs someone to step up is James Moses at tight end. Moses was open a lot today and had a nice 17-yard gain on a seam route from Rawls and had another nice catch on a pass from Thompson.
The big news on Monday was that the Sooners' talented running back corp lost junior Jerad Estus. Estus, a senior from Wichita Falls, Texas, informed the coaches on Sunday that he was leaving the team and wanted to transfer to another school in an attempt to get more playing time. Estus was slated as the Sooners' fourth-team running back behind Kejuan Jones, Renaldo Works and Hickson.
"He's decided to leave the football team,"said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops after practice. "He talked to me about it over the weekend. He just wants to go to a place where he can get some playing time in his senior year. Jerad's been a great individual to have on this football team and he's been nothing but a class act. We wish him the best and we'll do everything we can to help him find a place to play."
The Sooners will return to practice field on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
PRACTICE REPORT: Healthy Harris makes D better
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