SCRIMMAGE REPORT: White, Rankins have big day

News and notes from Tuesday's scrimmage. Plus quotes from Bob Stoops, Jason White, Davin Joseph, JeJuan Rankins, Tommie Harris and Brent Venables.

NORMAN, Okla. — Jason White to JeJuan Rankins has become a very familiar play for the Oklahoma offense during two-a-days.

And that combination continued on Tuesday night as they connected for two touchdowns in the Sooners' final major scrimmage before the start of the 2003 season.

In all, White completed 17-of-25 pass attempts for 219 yards, while Rankins pulled down seven catches for 115 yards in the controlled scrimmage.

"I feel like Coach Stoops challenged us to get better after the last scrimmage when we didn't look too good," said Rankins. "The offense came out knowing that we have to get better, because the season is coming up pretty fast. I feel pretty good about the scrimmage. I was able to make some plays. I just need to get in and watch more film with Coach (Darrell) Wyatt to become a better player."

"‘Rank' is a great player," said White. "He plays just like Mark Clayton. Both of them always get open, and it's easy to throw to an open target."

White, who took every snap with the first team offense, didn't look too shabby himself. He struggled early, but managed to settle down and have a good scrimmage against the scout team defense.

"He looked good," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops. "He just needs to keep getting reps out there. The more the better. I thought he was calm, ran the huddle well and moved the ball. And I thought he looked good moving our offense off the goal line. I think he continues to improve. However, he needs to sharpen up his deep passes. Once he does that it will really improve our offense."

"This scrimmage was better for the offense," said White. "We didn't have any turnovers and had very few penalties. We cut down on the penalties and the turnovers, and that's what we were shooting for as an offense. But there's still plenty of room for improvement."

In addition to his two TD passes to Rankins (34, 3), White hit Mark Clayton for a four-yard touchdown pass.

Redshirt sophomore Brent Rawls was was OU's second quarterback to take the field and worked with the second and third team offense against the first team defense. Sophomore Paul Thompson and redshirt freshman Noah Allen did not play in the scrimmage tonight so that Rawls and true freshmen Tommy Grady could get more looks.

Rawls played well in his first major scrimmage action this season as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 79 yards against OU's first team defense. And to be honest, it wasn't really a true test for Rawls working with a backup offensive line that was totally dominated by the Sooners' first team d-line.

Rawls did throw one interception of the night when he was picked off over the middle by Pasha Jackson on a first and 10 play. Rawls was nearly picked off again when Eric Bassey jumped on an out route, but dropped what might have been a potential return for a touchdown. The big play for Rawls was an 18-yard completion over the middle to true freshmen Tristen Ross over the middle for 18-yards.

"He looked good," Stoops said of Rawls. "He worked the number three offense against the number three defense and moved right now the field. I thought he looked good in the whole series."

True freshmen Tommy Grady got the first scrimmage action of his career and was off-target for the most part in his brief stint. Grady completed 2-of-7 pass attempts for 43 yards. But while Grady certainly looks the part of a big time quarterback, he threw behind some receivers and had some passes deflected. At this point it he just doesn't seem to be on the same page as his receivers. Grady did hook up with tight end Willie Roberts for nice gain on his first completion. Roberts was the Sooners' third leading receiver behind Clayton and Rankins with 58 yards on three catches.

"He threw a few shots in there and that's good to see," said Stoops on Grady. "It's a little easier going off cards. They even tell you who to throw it to."

The OU running back battle between Renaldo Works and Kejuan Jones took an off night for the most part. Works was the starting running back with the first team, but both backs only carried the ball once on the night and played sparingly.

"We're trying to keep them healthy," said Stoops. "They have been pounded a lot at practice. We're extremely physical in how we practice and scrimmage, but we're also trying to be smart and have our players ready for gameday. We've still got two weeks to go before the season starts and there are still a lot of games left to be played. I don't feel a sense of urgency to found out who we are going to start today."

Donta Hickson filled in for Works and Jones on the first team and looked the best of the OU backs on Tuesday night. Hickson carried the ball five times for 50 yards. True freshmen Jacob Gutierrez ran the ball five times for 17 yards and scored a touchdown. True freshmen Courtney Tennial also scrimmaged for the first time in his career and picked up two-yards on one carry.

One freshmen that continues to impress is walk-on fullback Dan Townsend. Townsend, who is close to locking up the backup fullback spot, had a great run after catching a swing pass from Rawls against the second defense. Townsend caught the ball and ran over linebacker Clint Ingram for a 39-yard gain.

The OU offense also worked on a lot of situational plays like trying to get first downs when backed up against their own goal line.

"It important for our offense to work on certain situations," said sophomore guard Davin Joseph. "For instance, driving out of our own end zone. That's important during games and we got to practice that tonight. It's important that we learn how to do those things and it's important for us to practice those things."

As for the defense, it was pretty much status quo going up against the scout team offense. The Sooners' defensive line pretty much had their way with the offensive line for most of the night.

Tommie Harris and Lynn McGruder started at the tackles in place of Kory Klein and Lynn McGruder, and Harris said it was good to go up a different scheme for a change.

"It's like fighting your brother," said Harris on going up against the first team offense every day in practice. "Both of you are swinging wildly and know what the other is going to do. We're ready to play something different. I liked that about this scrimmage because we got to line up against some different things. I think things are looking great for us, and I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

"Our front four is very very good," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "They are playing as good right now as they have played the last couple of years. We have some real talent up front. And it's more than just four guys. The freshmen have been outstanding as well.

"I thought we were too inconsistent at linebacker, but I coach the linebackers so maybe I'm too critical," Venables continued. "It also helped to get (Antonio) Perkins and (Mark) Bradley back in the secondary. You could tell their spirits were lifted to be back."

One young freshmen who was impressive tonight was Tony Cade. Cade only made three tackles, but they were key tackles as he saved touchdowns with two of the three. Cade stopped Rankins from a TD after converting a third down play and also stopped Hickson from a rushing touchdown on a draw play later in the scrimmage.

"Tony is a very good football player," said Venables. "He always has the right technique on the football. Tony is always in the right spot and that gives him a good opportunity to make the right tackle.

Cornerbacks Jowahn Poteat and Darien Williams led the Sooners with five tackles. And Brandon Shelby continued to make plays with four tackles, including one sack and one tackle for a loss.

Seniors Derrick Strait and Brandon Everage both suited up, but spent most of the scrimmage watching from the sidelines.

As far as the punters go, neither was all that impressive but it seems that Blake Ferguson was a touch better than Cody Freeby again on Tuesday.

Sophomore kicker Trey DiCarlo was perfect from 28, 38, and once from 48, but also missed twice from 48 when they moved the ball to the right hash mark.

Antonio Perkins and JeJuan Rankins were the starting kick returners followed by Mark Bradley and Mark Clayton. Brandon Jones and Antonio Perkins worked as the punt returners.

OU's kick coverage team will consist of the following (from left to right on the field)...Jowahn Poteat, Jared Estus, Mark Bradley, Gayron Allen, Russell Dennison, Smokey Hurst, Michael Thompson, Eric Bassey, Mark Clayton and Brodney Pool.

"Overall, I would say the scrimmage was pretty good," said Stoops. "It was a good scrimmage. We were working on so many different things it was hard to tell at times. But I was pleased with it. I do like a lot of factors of it. I don't believe there was a turnover and we had very few penalties."

"The defense was solid," Stoops continued. "It was good even though they were faced with an offense that was going off of cards. We get tired of going up against our own offense. They needed to see something different."

As for the offense, Stoops still sees some room for improvement.

"I thought Jason looked good," said Stoops. "We had fewer busted assignments, and I would like for our skill guys to make more big plays. We are still coming up short as far as big plays."

"I thought we threw some deep passes that we can polish up and execute better in the future. We can have better timing and better consistency in the future."

The Sooners will return to the practice fields tomorrow morning at 7:45 for the first of two practices on Wednesday.

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