NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma football team returned to the Everest Indoor Training Facility on Wednesday for the second of 15 practices this spring.
And once again, the Sooners only dressed out in shorts, helmets and jerseys for their two hour and 40 minute workout. Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops says the Sooners will wear full pads for the first time on Friday.
"I'm really glad we're going to pads on Friday," said Stoops. "You can just evaluate so much more when guys are in full pads. We will really get after it on Friday."
Stoops also announced that Saturday's workout will be a practice with a mini-scrimmage at the end rather than the full-scale scrimmage that was previously planned.
"I just feel rushed at this point to have a scrimmage so soon after putting on the pads," said Stoops. "I just think it's better if we put it off for a few days. I haven't set a date when we will do it, but I'll make that decision here shortly.
"We'll start practice at 11 (a.m.) and we will be in the stadium," said Stoops on Saturday's practice schedule. "We will work on our drills and team stuff, and then about 12:30 (p.m.) we'll have some semblance of a scrimmage that will run until 1 or 1:15 (p.m.). But the fans are welcome to come out and see what we're doing."
Below for a position-by-position look at the highlights from Wednesday's practice.
With Jason White only participating in individual drills, Paul Thompson and Tommy Grady continued to get most of the work during the 7-on-7 and team drills.
Grady continued to throw the ball really well while Thompson struggled again with his accuracy. But in fairness to Thompson, not playing in full pads doesn't do him justice. He always seems to be a different quarterback in full pads with his ability to move and the threat of the run in the offense. Things should start looking better for Thompson tomorrow when he puts the pads on.
Junior KeJuan Jones continues to run incredibly hard, and it even looks like he has increased his speed in the off-season. One on play up the middle, Jones bounced his run outside and beat Donte Nicholson to the corner for what would have been a big play.
"I've put on 8 pounds, and I think I have improved my speed," said Jones after practice. "I think the reason why you think I'm faster is because I've worked hard with ‘Schmitty' on running harder coming out of my cuts. I might be .2 tenths of a second faster, but I think I'm really faster coming out of my cuts, which makes me look faster."
Redshirt freshman Tashard Choice continued to impress and could end up being more of a factor this fall than most people expect. Courtney Tennial also impressed today and showed that he's more than just a straight-ahead-runner with some nice shifty moves and the ability to make people miss. True freshman D.J. Wolfe also got more reps today than yesterday.
The competition appears to be is already stout at RB and will become much tougher with Adrian Peterson coming in next fall, but Jones says it will only help them get better.
"I think it's great," said Jones. "The competition makes you better. At Oklahoma, you're going to have competition. I'm not surprised we signed the No. 1 running back and the top running back in Oklahoma. All of us were pretty good in high school. We'll see how it goes."
At fullback, it was still J.D. Runnels getting most of the work with the first team. Dan Townsend got a majority of the reps with the second team, while it appears that OU is taking it slow with Dane Zaslaw who is still recovering from some knee issues last season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Two players that impressed yesterday did so again today. JeJuan Rankins and redshirt freshman Tristen Ross both looked good again today catching the ball. Ross struggled early in the one-on-one drills, but rebounded to catch everything in sight during the 7-on-7 drills. Rankins, on the other had, didn't drop a pass all day.
Brandon Jones looked good catching a couple deep balls and Travis Wilson made a great diving catch over the middle from Grady.
James ‘Bubba' Moses continues to work as the first team tight end and he didn't do anything today to make you think that will change. Moses ran hard all day, got open and made three nice catches, including one diving stab over the middle. Junior Willie Roberts also had two nice catches and really seems to be coming on.
Redshirt freshman Antonn Reid looks good and continues to get a lot of work as a reserve guard along with David Walker. Brett Rayl is back practicing again and worked with the third team at guard. Converted tight end Chris Chester continued to get reps at center behind Chris Bush. Vince Carter was held out of practice again.
The o-line seemed to struggle early in the inside drills against the defensive line, but rallied late and managed to hold their own. The best duel of the day was between Jammal Brown and Jonathan Jackson, which ended up a draw.
Jonathan Jackson looked great on Tuesday and followed it up with another great practice again today. Jackson looks bigger, stronger and faster, and was quick off the edge as he batted down another pass in the face of Paul Thompson.
Also standing out today at defensive end was Calvin Thibodeaux, Larry Birdine and Laenar Nixon. Thibodeaux got praise from Bobby Jack Wright for jumping out and stopping a running play outside and sacking Grady on a rollout. Redshirt freshman John Williams also made a nice play when he chased down a scrambling Paul Thompson for a sack.
At defensive tackle, it was Moe Dampeer's day to shine. Dampeer, who is backing up Dusty Dvoracek and Lynn McGruder, continually stuffed the middle and broke through the line several times, once flushing Tommy Grady out of the pocket and chasing him down for a sack.
Russell Dennison (SAM), Lance Mitchell (MIKE) and Rufus Alexander (WILL) continued to work with the first team and were backed up by Clint Ingram (SAM), Gayron Allen (MIKE) and Lewis Baker (WILL). Baker also worked some at the strongside linebacker spot and managed to get an interception off of a Tommy Grady pass.
Wayne Chambers worked as the third team MIKE and Demarrio Pleasant worked both in the middle and at the strongside position.
"This is the University of Oklahoma. They're always going to have good players. Every player here is a good player," said Alexander on the stiff competition at linebacker. "I'm getting a chance to show what I can do, and I have to take advantage of this opportunity.
"I'm about 95 percent," said Alexander, who is almost fully recovered from the knee injury suffered in last year's spring game. "Sometimes I don't trust it (knee), but I have to get to the point where I am trusting it. I think I know what I'm doing out there, but it's great to be playing alongside Lance. I don't wish anybody would've gotten hurt, but I'm happy he's back with us."
At cornerback, senior Antonio Perkins returned today and started alongside Eric Bassey in all of the team drills. Bassey, who is having a great camp thus far, knocked down two passes today.
Chijioke Onyenegecha is still limited with his hamstring injury and worked as the fifth corner today behind Perkins, Bassey, Darien Williams and Jowahn Poteat. Chijioke didn't go through as many drills today as he continues to limp and favor his hamstring, but his quickness is obvious as he was able to make one nice pass breakup in his limited action.
At safety, Donte Nicholson and Brodney Pool continued to work with the first team, but when the Sooners went to their ‘Roy' set Nicholson moved up and Jason Carter replaced him at safety. Tony Cade continues to back-up Carter for that spot, and it will be a great battle to watch between those two this spring. Cade also managed to intercept a poorly thrown deep pass by Paul Thompson today, and Brodney Pool also made a great play when he jumped up from his safety position and stuffed Mark Clayton for a loss on a swing pass.
Cody Freeby and Blake Ferguson both had good days kicking the ball. Freeby was booming them into the rafters early, but once Ferguson warmed up he appeared to be punting the ball as well as Freeby.
The Sooners will take tomorrow off before returning to the practice fields for their first day of full pads on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Spring Football Practice Report (3/24)
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