NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma football team returned to the practice fields Wednesday night for a two hour and 45 minute workout at the intramural practice fields in their retro helmets, shorts, shoulder pads and black shoes.
The Sooners' new look was all the rage this morning, but tonight the buzz was about junior Mark Bradley's move from cornerback to receiver, and Wes Sims demotion from the first team offensive line.
Bradley, a walk-on from Arkansas, came to Norman last fall as a receiver but was moved to corner last spring.
"We're just trying to find the best way to get Mark on the field," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops. "He's been bothered by a knee injury. We just feel because of his knee problem it would be better if he's playing wide receiver than defensive back. He's got a lot of natural ability. We're just trying to find the best way for Mark to get on this field and help this football team."
The Sooners look a bit thin now at corner without Bradley and senior corner Derrick Strait sitting out most of the drills to rest a minor injury. Eric Bassey and Antonio Perkins got most of the reps with the first team today followed up by Jowahn Poteat and true freshmen Darien Williams.
But Stoops says he's not worried about OU's depth at corner.
"We're still fine there," smirked Stoops. "We still have players. It's a case where (Eric) Bassey and (Jowahn) Poteat have to step up. But they've been playing well. We've got good players there."
On the offensive line, redshirt freshmen Chris Messner is now running with the first team at left tackle in place of returning starter Wes Sims.
OU line coach Kevin Wilson says the move may not be permanent, but that Messner has earned the right to start.
"It's not really any big deal," said Wilson. "It's just that Messner has deserved to run with the first team the last couple of days. We're trying to get Wes going again, because we know how good he can be. Messner has played really well this camp and he's proven to me that he can play. Messner is at 279-280 pounds and he's proven that he's athletic enough and has good enough spirit to fight hard and hang in there."
Messner's emergence could also mean that true freshmen Akim Millington is now a redshirt candidate.
"Akim's hit the wall," said Wilson. "He's a freshman who's been playing harder against better guys then he's every faced in his life. He's tired and beat up, but he still keeps coming."
"In a perfect world we would redshirt him, but this is not a perfect world," Wilson continued. "Right now Chris Bush is playing at a higher level and he will get some playing time at those positions (center and guard). Brett Rayl has moved inside to guard and we can play him at tackle as well. Like I've always said we'll go with eight guys. We may travel Akim, but we'll just have to wait and see."
So right now it looks as if Wilson's eight man rotation will consist of Jammal Brown (RT), Chris Messner (LT), Wes Sims (LT), Brett Rayl (T/G), Chris Bush (C/G), Vince Carter (C), Kelvin Chaisson (LG) and Davin Joseph (RG).
Senior QB Jason White returned to practice this evening and took most of the reps with the first team offense along with Paul Thompson.
Mark Clayton was the standout for the receivers as he made two diving catches on post patterns. Travis Wilson also did well in the short passing game. And as always, sophomore JeJuan Rankins got open and continues to make plays.
And if you haven't already noticed, it wouldn't be a normal practice report without a quote on the talented sophomore from North Carolina. OU receiver coach Darrell Wyatt weighs in with his two cents on Rankins.
"JeJuan is one of the guy we think can make big plays for us," said Wyatt. "He was injured last year or fans would've seen this kind of play out of him last year. By the time the end of the season rolled around he was one of our better receivers, but things just didn't work out for him to get a lot of playing time. He's worked hard on his routes and he's got that kind of ability that can make defenders miss."
Running backs Renaldo Works and Kejuan Jones looked refreshed after some time off and ran well. Donta Hickson also continues to run well as he's trying to work his way into some playing time this year.
The Sooners worked on a variety of screens to the running backs Wednesday night. They also worked on their slip screen package to the receivers and a variety of trick plays.
Paul Thompson had a good night throwing the ball and looked good throwing out routes. Thompson hit Wilson for a 20-yard gain on an out route and Clayton for 16.
Senior safety Brandon Everage is apparently back at 100 percent as he went through most of the drills. Everage is suspended for the opener against North Texas, but he still spend some time the first team.
True freshmen Lewis Baker is a player that you probably won't see on the field this year with OU's LB depth, but one OU coach said behind the scenes that Baker can be ‘really, really special'. The plan is to redshirt Baker this year and bulk him to to 220 pounds by the start of next year and eventually top out at 245.
OU Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops has also commented recently that thinks every defensive recruit might redshirt. But of course that could change tomorrow morning after the moves that occurred tonight.
The Sooners will return to the practice fields for one workout on Thursday beginning at 5 p.m.
8/20 Evening Practice Report: Bradley moves to WR
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