Spring Football Practice Report (3/26)

Bob Stoops, J.D. Runnels, Dusty Dvoracek and Jonathan Jackson (pictured left) talk about Friday's practice. The Sooners, who worked out for the firs time in pull pads on Friday, will hold a 45-minute scrimmage tomorrow inside the stadium beginning around 12:15 p.m.

NORMAN, Okla. — After taking Thursday off, the Oklahoma football team returned to the practice field for their fourth of 15 workouts this spring.

The Sooners dressed out in full pads for the first time, and as you might expect the intensity picked up quite a bit.

Oklahoma started out on the practice fields and then moved inside the stadium for their 7-on-7 and team drills for the last half of practice. The Sooners also went full squad on some Red Zone situations, but the defense was not allowed to take the offensive skill players down to the grown.

Below is a position-by-position recap of today's practice.

Quarterback
For the first time this spring Jason White did more than just participate in the individual drills. White took part in the 7-on-7 skelly drills and looked like the Jason White we saw last season.

White hit Brandon Jones for a touchdown over them middle, and also hooked up with Travis Wilson who made a diving catch in the end zone in the red zone team drill. White also was great finding Jones and Clayton on several slant routs.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Grady continues to look great throwing the football. He seems to be able to throw every pass well, and even some passes that the other quarterbacks on the OU roster can't make.

One one play, Grady threw a dart to Will Peoples on a post pattern that split four defenders and had the fans in the stands excited. Grady also threw a great sideline rout to Marcus Johnson that just got past the gambling Brandon Shelby and into Johnson's hands for an 80-yard touchdown.

Paul Thompson looked better on Friday, but was the only quarterback to throw an interception when Chijioke Onyengecha blanketed his man and picked off a pass in the endzone.

Thompson did throw two curl routes well to Moses and Wilson and also threw a nice slant to Clayton. He also underthrew Brandon Jones on a deep post, but Jones was so wide open on a busted coverage he had time to come back and get the ball.

Running Back
Even though the Sooners were in full pads, the OU coaches still frowned upon much contact or tackling of the running backs.

KeJuan Jones continues to run with the first team and broke a couple of touchdown runs. One back that did get to make contact was fullback J.D. Runnels. Oklahoma wants to become more of a physical running team this year and the key to that might be Runnels.

"Now that we've put pads on you'll see more development," said Runnels, who had a great day blocking. "We're just trying to get more cohesiveness. We're really trying to work on our running game this year, and I'm very much involved with that. We just need to become more of a very physical football team."

Wide Receiver/Tight End
The question here is who hasn't looked good this spring?

James 'Bubba' Moses had another great day at tight end and is starting to distance himself from the other prospects. Moses caught several tough passes again today, but did have one tough drop in the red zone drills when White threaded a ball between several defenders, who obstructed the view right until the ball got to Moses.

At receiver, you already know about Clayton, Jones, Rankins, Bradley, Peoples and even redshirt freshman Tristen Ross. But today was the coming out party for redshirt freshman Marcus Johnson. Johnson had a great day with two touchdown catches -- one 80-yard catch and run on a sideline rout and a deep catch over Onyenegecha from Grady.

Back to Ross, the Shreveport native continued to impress on Friday with several tough catches. Ross caught one pass during the red zone drills from Grady, and was able to make enough moves to score on his own. He also showed great hands on another play with a tough catch in the corner of the end zone.

Offensive Line
The linemen got a chance to flex their muscle today in full pads and nobody was better than senior Jammal Brown. Brown is so good he's gotten to the point where he doesn't get beat anymore in the one-on-one drills. Brown either wins, dominates or draws, but never loses.

Junior Davin Joseph is where Brown was the last couple of years, in that he either dominates his opponent or gets beat. Center Chris Bush, filling in for the injured Vince Carter, had some nice moments and Kelvin Chaisson struggled during the one-on-one drills, but always does a better job blocking in the team drills.

Defensive Line
Redshirt freshman Mo Dampeer made the most of his first day in full pads as he blew up several plays during the inside drills. Dampeer is still playing behind Dusty Dvoracek and Lynn McGruder, but the big cat from Illinois has been hard to block for most of the spring.

Speaking of McGruder, the senior from Las Vegas is making the most of his chance to start this spring. McGruder doesn't make a lot of plays sideline-to-sideline, but he was a major force in the middle today jamming up the line.

But the cream of the crop of the Sooner DTs is still Dusty Dvoracek. Dvoracek has been very business-like this spring and become a leader to the other tackles in the absence of Kory Klein and Tommie Harris.

"I'm still trying to develop some things," said Dvoracek after Friday's practice. "I take the spring and try to work on some things. I know it's a time to get after it, and I'm trying to do that. I feel things are going about as well as they can go right now."

OU head coach Bob Stoops has also been pleased with Dvoracek and his defensive tackles this spring.

"I think we're pretty good here," said Stoops. "There were many times last season Dusty was our best defensive tackle. Lynn has had a great off-season, and I really like our young players. Mo has had a real good camp thus far."

Defensive Ends
Dan Cody was held out of most of the contact drills today and was replaced on the first team by Larry Birdine, who has managed to keep his No. 3 DE spot despite tough competition.

But the star of this unit this spring, and maybe the entire defense, has been Jonathan Jackson. Jackson, who has batted down several passes this spring and been tough to block off the edge, talked about his motivation to show up this spring a better player after practice today.

"It's not because of the NFL draft or anything like that," said Jackson on his newfound determination. "I just really want to close out my career on a great note. I want us to be a really good football team, so I have to take my responsibility and become a better player.

"The only way I'm going to get better is if I work at it. So, I'm working harder than I ever have in my life. We have always worked hard here, but I personally am trying to take it up a notch."

Linebackers
Russell Dennison, Lance Mitchell and Rufus Alexander continue to start on the first team defense, but it appears that Dennison and Clint Ingram are in a major battle for the strongside spot.

Ingram, who has moved to the strongside after playing middle linebacker, is making a major move this spring and looks much more comfortable at his new spot. Ingram made two great plays on Friday, once jumping in front of the tight end to knock down a pass and then read a screen to Tashard Choice in the flat and forced Paul Thompson to throw the ball away.

Secondary
Antonio Perkins and Eric Bassey continue to work with the first team, while Chijioke Oneyenegecha is hit or miss in his performance because of his hamstring.

Bassey is having a great spring covering receivers, and he showed great quickness on one play today sacking Tommy Grady on a corner blitz.

Onyenegecha, who is still nursing his hamstring injury, showed glimpses of the great cover corner he was built up to be coming out of junior college. Chijioke had the only interception of the day when he intercepted a Paul Thompson pass in the end zone. Where he struggles is covering receivers on deep routes when he has to turn and really use his speed.

Donte Nicholson and Brodney Pool continue to start at safety, and when Nicholson moves up to the 'Roy' spot Jason Carter (alternating with Tony Cade) takes his place at safety.

Senior Darren Stephens had a nice practice today batting down a couple passes in the skelly drills.

Special Teams
The Sooners worked a lot on their punt and punt return teams on Friday. It wasn't a great day for the punters, but we did see for the first time today who the Sooners are looking at on their punt teams.

On the punt team, the front line consists of Lewis Baker, Brodney Pool, James Moses, Jacob Rice, Russell Dennison, Zach Latimer and Rufus Alexander. J.D. Runnels was calling the signals from the upback spot, which was once occupied by Teddy Lehman and Rocky Calmus, and Chijioke, Darien Williams, Eric Bassey and Jowahn Poteat all rotated at the two gunner spots. Brent Venables feels that once healthy Chijioke is destined to be a great gunner.

On the punt return team it was Chijioke, Poteat and Nicholson rotating for the two spots blocking the gunners. And on the front line it was Baker, Nicholson, Dennison, Brandon Shelby, Carter and Zach Latimer.

The Sooners will return to the practice fields tomorrow for a practice and a mini-scrimmage inside the stadium.

"Scrimmages are always fun," said Dvoracek. I always look forward to scrimmaging our offense because it's a good challenge. I look forward to seeing how we stack up. We usually stack up pretty well. We know what they're doing."

"I plan to get after our defensive ends tomorrow," said Runnels, with a snickering Jonathan Jackson listening on in the background. "We always love to scrimmage against our defense because I like to knockdown our opponents defensive ends."

"We look forward to seeing where we're at because, let's face it, we're playing the best defense in the country."

Stoops said after practice that the team will practice from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the South practice fields before moving inside the stadium for a 45-minute scrimmage.

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