8/8 Practice Report

News and notes from Friday's practice.

NORMAN, Okla. — I wish I could say that as Publisher the guys allow me to post one practice report a year. In this case, the untimely death of J.D. Runnels' mom altered all of our schedules today, including the OU practice time. Mrs. Runnels' funeral this morning was attended by most players and coaches and you do feel the bearing of this event and it's emotional impact on this team. She was only 47 and still a beautiful lady when cancer prevailed. J.D. is one of the most popular, personable players on the team and perhaps its best recruiter. But today, none of that mattered as everyone mourned the loss of his mother.

The practice, originally scheduled for 8 a.m. this morning, got underway on the intramural fields in humid and very hot, (101 and probably 60%+ humidity), conditions.

Sauna or not, just before practice was well underway, a pleased OU coaching staff secured the commitment of one of the best linebackers in the country, Chris Patterson (6-3, 225), of Hubbard High School in Chicago. The commitment insured that Brent Venables would be in a great mood no matter how many busts he would witness today.

The preliminary stretching ended abruptly at 2:10 when Chuck Long stood on the north field and shouted, "Balls in the air, let's go!" and immediately the quarterbacks and receivers gathered and broke into a drill where the quarterbacks threw 15-yard lob passes to the receivers. As they were performing their drills, several groups of position players rehearsed their technique, almost like a philharmonic orchestra tuning up, at opposite ends of the field.

At 2:25 p.m. Long shouts; "Here we go, mix it up drill!" And that's exactly what it looked like as the quarterbacks performed foot drills face to face up, back and throw 10 yards. (This drill could have given Arthur Murray two left feet!).

Meanwhile, off to our right, Wayne Chambers struggles under the watchful eye of three trainers. First walking on all fours, all kinds of torturous agility drills, then side-ways squat moves, quickly. Ouch. (Man, it pays to be healthy on this team. Gee, what happens when they're mad at you)?

Finally, a drill I can describe as the one defense lines up to scrimmage the one offense. This should be good. White at QB hands off to, (who was that?), as all you see is a mountain of crimson jerseys swarm the ball carrier. Next a pitch to Donta Hickson who shows some moves and a 12-yard gain. But that's rare as the defense dominates. Courtney Tennial showed a great move to slip a tackle and get swarmed by at least 20 red jerseys for no gain. (Just a hunch, but Glenpool probably didn't see guys this good on D).

Offense switches to perpetual third downs. Primarily passing, no one can run on this group. Jason White looks more than adequate, and actually better than I expected, going 11-of-14, but mainly finding success on the short outs and dump patterns. Paul Thompson (4-of-7) looked pretty good as well, and Noah Allen was 1-of-3. What about Brent Rawls? Yes, he was there, also hitting 1-of-3, a spectacular pass to Willie Roberts, who to me looks like he can play.

Receivers doing well? Give credit to Travis Wilson, Mark Clayton and Will Peoples. Is it the heat or did I pass out and miss some plays? Probably both, but the defense dominated and that sums up that drill.

Oh, another drill I can describe. (That's two in a row for those counting). Punt practice with Bob standing maybe 18 inches from the punter. Talk about pressure kicks! Blake Ferguson goes first and well, looks like Ferguson. Just after getting off five very poor kicks, none going more than 35 yards with maybe two seconds of air time (hang time would be a totally inappropriate description here), Blake busts loose a ‘beaut' for maybe 45 yards. About that time the imaginary crowd is chanting "Freeby, Freeby when low and behold, number 18 (duplicate number, never a good sign), steps up to offer his best in front of Stoops. More disappointment. Same distance, more hang time. Well folks, for now this team has a weakness, although on Cody Freeby's part it maybe stage fright or lack of technique.

Returning was Antonio Perkins, Brandon Jones, Clayton and JeJuan Rankins, although the lack of distance allowed no real returns. Gee, maybe 35 yard kicks are good?

I'm on a roll as the teams go into full scrimmage mindset at 3:30. (Three in a row for those still counting). The offense and defense both break into separate (but equal), groups to chant and psyche the other out. (Although the defense won this psychological scare show, the offense turned in a good, ‘Miami ‘Cane' like performance). Enough theatrics, now it was time for reality.

White is the first QB on the field as the ‘one' units both growl and chatter prior to the first snap. It's almost like Texas, (without the hate and the drunk Texas students shouting ‘OU SUCKS'. GameDay was not there either).

Back to the action: 1st down: Snap, collision, no gain. 2nd down: Snap, collision, same. It's basically more of the same for the next 30 minutes with success totally dependant on who was occupying the crimson ('D'), jerseys. White held his own and Paul Thompson showed that honestly, we could be OK with him behind center. Different, but OK - as he made the defense pay every time they left him an opening. Noah Allen and Rawls both got several snaps and neither embarrassed. Rawls had an excellent 14 yard throw but followed it up with a near interception. Did he do well enough to move up, or bad enough to get criticized? No. The fact is that the Sooners have four very adequate quarterbacks, and any of the four could probably play and do well. A far cry from the days of no back-up and no depth at the most important position on the field.

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