Sooner spring practice report: March 14

NORMAN, Okla. — Members of the defense met with the media for the first time this spring, and Sooners Illustrated has the full report.

Members of the defense met with the media for the first time this spring, and Sooners Illustrated has the full report.

  • The biggest news of the day is, of course, that offensive guard Tyler Evans re-aggravated his ACL and will once again require surgery, head coach Bob Stoops announced. That will likely end his career at OU: "Tyler reinjured that same cruciate ligament. So, the expectation now is he's gonna have to have it redone. So yeah, very unfortunate for him."
  • It doesn't sound as if center/guard Gabe Ikard will participate this spring because of his recent broken finger. But he could work in some at guard and not snap the ball if the Sooners so choose: "Yeah, you know, they can put it in a ball. So, it's his snapping hand, so he'd have to play some guard. You know, of anybody I'm not worried about practicing in the spring, it's a guy that's played going on four years now. So, it's probably in an odd way, you know, better those other guys are gonna get more snaps. Not that I'm glad that he hurt his ankle, but you know what I mean. It's just him out of there is going to force those other guys in to more snaps and more pressure on them, and that's good."
  • Defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue, much like David King did last season, has been working some inside and by Stoops' account, he's been effective. Another outside guy has worked in there with him as well: "He's done a good job. He looked good out there today, so he's doing pretty well with it. Rashod Favors has played some in there, too, and looks good. So, we'll keep mixing guys in."
  • Stoops announced that the spring game won't be televised. That is, if he has any say in it: "Hopefully not, but you never know. With these new TV deals, we might have to."
  • All the hype following last year has carried over for Aaron Colvin, who has done his thing so far this spring. But Cortez Johnson is the other corner that's been talked up and a lot on this day by cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright: "Aaron Colvin's going to be as good as he wants to be. He's a guy that's a really good player, as you guys know. He's an accomplished player. He's got a lot of experience, but he's got the drive to even get better. He wants to be as good as he can possibly be, which is a credit to him. You know, he's not setting on his laurels and sitting around with the attitude that, ‘Oh, I'm a starter and I've been here.' He comes to work every day with the mindset that he wants to get better every single day and be the best player he can be. So, [I've been] really happy with him. Cortez Johnson has been a big surprise. Love the way he's been working. His work ethic has been great. He's a guy that cares. He's a guy that wants to be good. He listens. He pays attention. He tries to do everything that we ask him to do, so real pleased with his progress to this point."
  • A surprise guy, though, has also stepped up, Wright said: "Brandon Young, a young walk-on, both of those guys are giving us a lot of vital snaps and they're continuing to improve."
  • Zack Sanchez, too, is progressing in his game this spring. Said his fellow DB and leader, Colvin: "He's been good, man. He's more of a quick twitch guy, and he's been out there. He's been competing. He's doing a lot of good things and, you know, he's one of those guys that kinda gets upset at times so I gotta keep him up. But he's doing a great job, and I'm very impressed with what he's been doing."
  • As for Colvin, he mentioned maximizing his game and potential as one of the main reasons he returned for his senior season at OU: "Of course. If I would have left, I would have been doing the same thing. But yeah, I always want to get maximum effort out of me, so I'm trying to be one of the best there is out here. That's my goal, and I got a lot of high goals and if I want to accomplish some of these goals I've set for myself, I have to try to get better every day and that's what I'm trying to do."
  • Outside of Colvin, another leader has emerged in the secondary and it's Gabe Lynn: "Gabe, he's become a lot more vocal. Gabe's kinda like me. He likes to lead by example, but I can tell that he's making a conscious effort to step up and be more vocal. You know, he also looks comfortable back there at safety, so I think that's helping him a lot."
  • Lynn said he's taken to that role for one main reason: "Yeah, since I'm a senior now and being a safety in the middle, you gotta be more vocal talking to the linebackers and the corners just to keep everything gelling."
  • He's already took to mentoring Ahmad Thomas, who arrived as an early enrollee and is quickly impressing: "He's good. He's physical, and he's got good instincts. Like you really can't tell he just came in. He fits right in."
  • Back to Lynn, he likes the prospect of working at free safety and being the guy dishing out big hits instead of being in coverage all the time: "Yeah, I think it lets me—it allows me to be instinctive again, you know, just playing with more field and being able to come up and make plays. So, I think I'll be able to show more."
  • Many wide receivers' names have come up as having a good first few days in spring ball, but interestingly enough Colvin singles out Lacoltan Bester as his toughest cover out of all of them: "He does a really good job of changing up his gears. He never seems to stay in the same speed, so I like a guy like that. And Coltan's also very, very competitive, too. You know, if I make a play on him, he'll try to come back and make a play on me. So, I like that about him."
  • Another early enrollee that has drawn positive reviews upon his arrival is wide receiver Dannon Cavil. Colvin talked him up: "Oh yeah. Dannon's made some very nice catches. He had a really nice grab last Monday or last time we practiced in one-on-ones. So, I'm impressed with him as well."
  • Colvin also said his fellow defensive back Trey Franks is finally starting to settle in, too: "I feel like he's starting to get very comfortable back there. A lot of the things he was messing up with before he's not messing up with that now. He's one of those guys that kinda gets upset at times so I gotta keep him up. But now, so I'm impressed with him. And he's starting to try to make plays now, you know. You can tell he's starting to get in his groove."
  • On to the linebackers, position coach Tim Kish and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops have tweaked the defense to get them more involved this year. Linebacker Corey Nelson said that was a discussion he and Kish had following the Cotton Bowl in January: "It's just very awesome to see how we just come together and how Coach Kish has his defense and his schemes that he has planned for us. It's very exciting. They plan on using more linebackers, and that's an amazing experience. Just being a part of this linebacking corps, I expect a lot because Coach Kish expects a lot. And it's just very awesome to be able to see how the transition from last year to this year and the improvements that we are making as a linebacking corps as a whole."
  • That's brought them closer, the senior said: "Yeah, we needed to hear that. You know, it was a sign of relief when we heard that because going after the season we didn't know what was going to happen to the defense. You know, we didn't know what was going to happen to the defensive schemes or to the linebacking corps as a whole. But when they said that they were gonna keep two linebackers in there, it kinda just brought back the linebacking tradition. And it's just an amazing experience for them to say that and to be a part of that and for them to keep their word."
  • Nelson even admits to losing some confidence last year but he's gained it back since that conversation with Kish and a good winter: "Last year I got down on myself. I would say just last year not playing as much, I kinda got down on myself and I had to rebuild it up. And I was able to rebuild it up, and it was just an amazing experience to be able to build it up. I know that Coach Kish saw that just in my eyes just as a player and the student athlete that I am. He saw that I needed a little confidence built up and it happened during winter workouts and I got it back. I got my swag back, so it just feels good to be able to get it back. I was down in confidence once upon a time."
  • Having said that, where does he see the linebacker group collectively? "Overall I just see us as a linebacking corps, we're like a team. You know, we can't go one foot without the other. We need one another. We're kinda just a support system as a whole. We can't function if it's not all four of us. That's how we kinda just see it as a linebacking corps and as a group. All four of us together are strong. If we lose just one person, then it kinda just makes us a weak link."
  • With a stronger set of linebackers, he thinks front seven could be better than advertised and especially talks up the new-Jerry Montgomery led front four already: "Yeah, absolutely. I feel like we're handling the run pretty good. We had a mini scrimmage out there today, and man the defense looked solid, both the ones and the twos. The D-line looked good on their stunts. They looked good on their run fits. The linebackers looked good on their run fits, and it just felt good to see that whole linebacker defense, see the whole linebackers and the defense come together. And the D-line [is] our corps, and as small as they are, they're a pretty powerful bunch with our new coach that came in. He's a great coach, and I'm just glad to have him. As a whole the D-line looks great. Without them we wouldn't be the defense that we are and that we continue to plan on being."
  • Finally, Nelson said Tom Wort's decision even caught him by surprise. But admittedly, he thinks the defensive schemes and Wort's frustration with those, which Nelson also admits to becoming frustrated with and reconsidering his future at OU due to, served a major factor in him heading to the NFL Draft: "I believe it did. I absolutely believe it did. We had conversations, multiple conversations just throughout the season just talking about how frustrated he was and how frustrated I was at times. But I just tried to keep him on a positive note. I think I tried to keep him upbeat and let him know just to keep pushing through it."

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