8/13 Morning Practice Report

News, notes and quotes from Wednesday morning's practice

NORMAN, Okla. – Less twelve hours after completing their first major scrimmage of the 2003 season, the Oklahoma football team returned to the intramural practice fields for the first of two workouts on Wednesday.

The Sooners worked out in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads only and several plays were held out of the practice while nursing injuries.

Junior receiver Will Peoples did not practice and OU Head Coach Bob Stoops re-iterated that they don't think the injury was serious. Peoples was on crutches, but was putting weight on his left leg and catching passes on the sideline from strength coach Mark Hill.

Brandon Everage suited up but did not workout out after suffering a shoulder stinger on Tuesday night. Everage told us after practice that he will be fine.

Ataleo Ford has a separated shoulder and was at practice with his shoulder in a sling. Antonio Perkins, Courtney Tennial (shoulder), Clint Ingram, Wayne Chambers (gunshot wound) and Aaron Miller were also held out of this mornings practice. Dan Cody also didn't practice and has a pulled oblique muscle, which could be a problem. Jason White suited up and went through the early passing drills, but was held out of the team drills to rest his knee.

Freshmen quarterback Tommy Grady was not at practice this morning and Stoops doesn't expect him to arrive in Norman until later today.

As for the practice itself, it was a relatively light workout with limited contact and a lot of teaching going on with both the offense and defense.

Oklahoma's offense continued to work it's package of playactions and bootlegs, while the defense worked on defending them. If there is a chink in the mighty OU defense, it's defending the playaction and ‘boot' plays.

Senior linebacker Teddy Lehman talked about doing just that after practice this morning.

"It's simple," said Lehman. "It's a total matter of understanding your keys and what your reads are. You just cannot go crazy and fly to the football. You have responsibilities. We have somebody assigned to each offensive player on every play, so there shouldn't be any reason why a running back or receiver should be open because we're overpursuing or being aggressive.

"Whoever is on that player needs to cover that player no matter what is happening in the rest of the field. You have to be sure that your player is not going on a pass pattern, and only then you can fly to the football. We need to just continue to work on reading the offense and getting our keys down. If we do that we will stop those plays."

Lehman also talked OU's defensive performance on Tuesday night.

"We did alright," Lehman said. "We can play better. I felt we did a good job of tackling and it seemed like we were always around the ball. We need to continue to work on our sets and our reads."

With Brandon Everage being held out of practice today, the defense got a chance to work on their lineup for the North Texas game. It appears that Brodney Pool will play safety in OU's base set, but when the Sooners go to their five-DB look, Matt McCoy will come in at safety and Pool will be the fifth defensive back or ‘royback'.

Defensive end Laenar Nixon had a great day at practice with two great rushes off the edge for a sack and forced an incompletion.

OU defensive end Coach Bobby Jack Wright talked about Nixon and OU's promising young freshmen d-ends in John Williams and Alonzo Dotson.

"What we've tried to recruit for is speed," said Wright. "We're never going to sacrifice size for speed, but what we have in those three players are guys who can really run and have the potential to be 250-260 pound players. We're not going to let them get so big they can't run. If you look at Jackson, Cody and Birdine, you can see that.

"Williams and Dotson are tremendous athletes who can really move," Wright continued. "When they're flying around they can make plays. They have so much to learn that they're like a fish out of water out there. But because they're aggressive they made plays last night."

"Laenar is in a different situation because he's been an offensive player all his life. He's having to learn everything all over again. He has a good upside for him in that he can run and he's still a very young player. However, his upside is really, really good. I thought Calvin Thibodeaux made a few plays last night too, and that was good to see from him."

Also on the defensive line, it appears that DT coach Jackie Shipp could decide to rotate two sets of tackles. Right now, it looks like Tommie Harris and Lynn McGruder are one pair and Dusty Dvoracek and Kory Klein the other.

Senior linebacker Pasha Jackson has also been getting more work with the second team at middle linebacker along with Demarrio Pleasant. The prevailing thought here is that OU would like to redshirt Pleasant, and are grooming Jackson for backup time at MLB and in case something should happen to Lance Mitchell.

As for the offense, it was another great day for sophomore Paul Thompson. With Jason White sitting out the team drills, Thompson took all of the snaps with the first team and has continued his impressive streak of practices.

Bob Stoops has also taken notice to Thompson's improvement in recent practices, despite the fact that several members of the media are whispering that he's not the answer.

"It's been great," said Stoops on Thompson's development. "The last few practices he's really come on. This is just a matter of him getting reps. The more reps he gets the better he's going to get. We know that, and nothing he's doing right now is a surprise to us. He may have the best release on the team. It's quick. He can really get rid of it."

Another aspect of Thompson's game that is starting to show is his running ability. Oklahoma has spent the last couple of practice installing quarterback draws, options and leads, and those are plays that Thompson does very well.

Thompson threw the ball great this morning and hit Brandon Jones, who got behind Eric Bassey and Donte Nicholson for a perfectly thrown 50-yard touchdown strike. Thompson also hit Mark Clayton and Brandon Jones for touchdowns in the red-zone drills. The only mistake Thompson made was a forced deep pass off a playaction fake that was picked off by Nicholson.

Thompson has had trouble so far with his short passes and screens, and the Oklahoma coaches purposely ran more of those plays today so that Thompson could get a better feel for them. And he did just that on Wednesday morning hitting the receivers in stride off of screen passes. It's amazing the progress he's made over the last two or three days.

OU's first-team defense worked a lot on defending the deep slant and playaction in the red-zone drills. Noah Allen hit Travis Wilson for a slant for a touchdown, and Brent Rawls threw a pass behind Donley that was caught, but stopped at the 4-yard line.

Neither of OU's top two tight ends did much last night and that could open the door for juco transfer Willie Roberts. Roberts is getting more looks and even took some snaps with the first team today. It's obvious that the more he gets acclimated and into shape, the better he looks.

The Sooners spent more time on the run game, but there was not a lot of contact. Renaldo Works and Kejuan Jones got most of the carries, but Donta Hickson is beginning to get a few more carries with the first team.

Perhaps the play of the day came from true freshmen Tristen Ross. Ross made a great leaping catch on a high pass from Thompson over the middle. And Ross really got up to pull it down.

On thing that's been noticeable in the kick-off department is the added leg strength of Trey DiCarlo. DiCarlo was impressive last night booting the ball into the endzone and did so again today. Every kick from DiCarlo was in the endzone, or no shorter than the 5-yard line.

Oklahoma will return to the practice fields tonight at 6 p.m.

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