NORMAN, Okla. — After only practicing once on Thursday, the Oklahoma football team returned to the practice fields Friday morning for a two hour and 30 minute workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.
The field was extremely wet and damp to begin practice, and OU decided to hold quarterback Jason White out of most of the drills for precautionary measures.
With White out, that meant another opportunity for sophomore quarterback Paul Thompson to get more reps with the first team. What's also evident that QB Coach Chuck Long is starting to openly critique his backup QB a little more and demand better throws on certain plays.
For example, if Thompson throws a pass that breaks the wide receivers' stride, Long tells him, ‘C'mon Paul, we ned a better pass than that'. And for the most part, Thompson responded with a pretty good day throwing the football against OU's first team defense.
Thompson connected with Mark Clayton on a great wheel route that burned Donte Nicholson and Eric Bassey, and then he hooked up again with Clayton a post route that spit the OU safeties.
Noah Allen and Brent Rawls also alternated and got a chance to work with the second team. Rawls looked good in his brief action hitting Travis Wilson and JeJuan Rankins on out routes. Rawls also true freshmen Marcus Johnson on a deep flag route. Johnson beat Bassey and Nicholson on the play, who drew the ire of Mike Stoops.
Thompson would later comeback and hit Rankins on a flag route for a touchdown in the red zone drills. Rawls also threw an interception to Matt McCoy in the red zone drills, which was a forced pass because of a blitzing Brandon Shelby.
In the team blitz drills, Thompson did a great job of scrambling. Thompson ran the option and pitched it to Renaldo Works, but it was covered well by the defense. Thompson scrambled quite a bit and also ran the QB draw. Inside the 20, he could really be a weapon because of his running ability.
OU already has a rash of players out with injuries, and one player who is taking advantage of it is JeJuan Rankins. Rankins had another great day and is getting a chance to work more with the first team in Will People's absence.
"He's a very good football player who can make big plays," said OU receiver Coach Darrell Wyatt. "He's similar to Mark Clayton in that the most fun in watching him is after the catch. But he's gotten so much better at running routes, knowing where to go and adjusting a route that he's really becoming an accomplished receiver. He'll certainly play a lot this fall."
The battle for the first team running back spot still seems to be a toss-up between Renaldo Works and Kejuan Jones. Both are getting equal reps with the first team, but today it was Works who was the first back to take the field in the inside and team blitz drills.
Dan Cody appears to be back at full strength after missing two practices earlier in the week, and had a good practice rushing the quarterback. Larry Birdine had a great day at defensive end. It appears that the Sooners will use a three man rotation at d-end this year with Cody, Birdine and Jonathan Jackson.
The Sooners also spent a great deal working on a heated session of protecting the punter from blocks and punting out of the end zone.
Willie Roberts, James Moses, Chris Chester, Lance Donley, Travis Wilson, Brodney Pool, Donte Nicholson and Teddy Lehman make up eight of the key players on the punt team with Lehman serving as the upback. J.D. Runnels also worked as Lehman's backup at the upback spot.
OU coaches Brent Venables, Mike Stoops, Bob Stoops and Cale Gundy really worked this drill hard, and had the scout punt block team throw the kitchen sink at the punt team in terms of blitzes to confuse them. And for the most part, the punt team did well and only allowed one block by Brandon Shelby.
Neither punter really established himslef as the favorite in the punting drills, but Cody Freeby did boot a 48-yarder, which was the longest of the day.
Antonio Perkins was held out of the team drills, but did participate in the kick drills. Perkins was joined by Brandon Jones (replaced the injured Mark Bradley) as the first returners, with JeJuan Rankins and Mark Clayton their backups.
Back to the defense...Lance Mitchell has been limited while nursing a minor injury. With Clint Ingram also out, Pasha Jackson and Demarrio Pleasant have been getting reps with the second team at middle linebacker. OU has also been using Gayron Allen in Lehman's spot and Lehman in Mitchell's inside spot a lot when the defense goes to five DB's and two LB's.
One defensive coach who couldn't be more satisfied with his group is Jackie Shipp. Shipp has a fabulous four man rotation set and the depth behind them probably makes his position the deepest on the team.
"I couldn't be happier with my guys," Shipp said after Friday mornings workout. "As a unit they have great chemistry, and that includes the young guys. I'm really proud of how the older guys have taken the young guys and made them feel like they're part to the unit. They don't take it easy on them. But the young guys get a chance to see how you need to work to be a good football player here at this position.
"Tommie (Harris), Lynn (McGruder), KK (Kory Klein) and Dusty (Dvoracek) are having great camps," Shipp continued. "And the young guys, I couldn't be happier with them. There was all this talk about how two of them were going to move to offense, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. I want to stress that. They are defensive tackles and they're not moving to offense."
The Sooner defensive linemen is also starting to get more of a battle with OU's o-line during two-a-days. OU Head Coach Bob Stoops was asked after practice about how OU's line is holding up better against the defense line this year than in year's past.
"Without question we are doing better," said Stoops on his o-line. "But I still think they can play better. They are better than they were a couple of years ago, but I want them to get to the point where they win most of the battles. Right now it's good to hold your own, but we also lose too many battles. But hey, we are so much better than we were, and this is a great strength on the football team.
Michael Thompson, John Williams, Mark Bradley (sore knee), Wayne Chambers (gunshot wound), Zach Latimer (shoulder), Clint Ingram (back), Rufus Alexander (knee), Ataleo Ford (shoulder) and Will Peoples (knee) and Brandon Everage (shoulder) were held out of practice.
The Sooners will return to the practice fields again tonight at 6 p.m.
8/15 Morning Practice Report
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