OU spring practice: Week 1 offense

The first week is in the books. So what stood out at OU's spring practice? Who stepped up? Find that out and more.

With the first week of spring practice in the books for Oklahoma, SoonersIllustrated.com is going to recap the week that was and what stood out the most on offense.

Knight's confidence building

The coaches don't see a difference in Trevor Knight, but the offensive players said he is carrying himself a little bit differently this spring.

For the coaches they said Knight is preparing the same way he always has, which in their eyes is a good thing because they've never had a problem with his work ethic.

The players, such as wide receiver Durron Neal and offensive lineman Ty Darlington, said Knight is more confident in the huddle, is more assertive this spring.

Knight even recognized he has to be that guy. From being the plucky young redshirt freshman last year, he is going to be expected to be a sophomore leader going forward. Sounds like he's making that move in stride.

Ross creeping up

The general feeling at running back is sophomore Keith Ford is going to lock down the starting nod and then it will be a wait and see with how five-star signee Joe Mixon does when he gets to campus.

Ford could still end up being the guy, but it was a strong first week for sophomore Alex Ross. His redshirt freshman season wasn't the best, but Ross is turning the corner, according to the coaches and players.

It started with the bowl preparation, and he hasn't slowed down yet. Ford is going to have to prove he can hold onto the ball, which is something he addressed this week. He knows if he puts it on the ground, he won't see time on the field.

According to OU's posted times, Ford actually ran a little bit faster than Ross. Ford was timed at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash with Ross at 4.44 seconds.

Free-for-all at wide receiver

It's Sterling Shepard and crew as expected. The good thing is the crew looks to be quite talented despite the obvious lack of experience.

Wide receivers coach Jay Norvell was quick to point out the first week of spring isn't going to give all the answers they need right now. At this point it's all about consistency.

He said through the month-long practices, and by grading out each player every practice, it actually becomes pretty clear who is starting to stand out among the crowd.

OU has a lot of choices as junior Durron Neal seems to have a new attitude and is making sure he doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Norvell has had plenty of good things to say about Jordan Smallwood, K.J. Young, Dannon Cavil, Austin Bennett and Derrick Woods.

So early in the process, but it was a solid start to spring for Woods and Bennett.

Bell adjusting to tight end role

The talk at tight end is all about Blake Bell making the move. And at 257 pounds, he certainly looks the part. He still has to learn the techniques and proper blocking style, but everybody is optimistic following the first week.

Bell said it wasn't an easy decision. It was something he thought long and hard about and decided it didn't matter where he was playing as long as he was playing at OU.

Sophomore Taylor McNamara is continuing to begin playing the way OU needs him to moving forward. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel mentioned how important the bowl practices were for him, and he has used that as a springboard into practice.

Linemen ahead of pace

Not a true sense of things at offensive line with Tyrus Thompson and Adam Shead both out for spring. Offensive guard Nila Kasitati also missed this week, but Bob Stoops said he should return following spring break.

Injuries aside, junior center Ty Darlington is loving what he is seeing early from his group of guys and is also excited about trying to lead just like former center Gabe Ikard did for so many years.

Darlington said the group, as a whole, is way ahead of schedule this spring compared to last spring. Everybody is familiar with offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and things are going well.

Quotable

"It was a tough decision. Obviously playing quarterback was my dream, but another dream of mine was to play at OU. And I didn't want to leave." – said OU tight end Blake Bell on changing positions


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