NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma football team spent the first half of Saturday's workout indoors at the Everest Training Center before moving inside the stadium for a mini-scrimmage.
"It was a good scrimmage," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops. "The best thing is nobody got hurt. We just ran 60-65 plays. We didn't really keep down or distance. We were just looking for execution. We had some guys make some plays on both sides of the ball."
For the most part, it was the defense who got the best of the offense. The only notable scoring play came on a crossing route from Paul Thompson to Brandon Jones. Jones caught the ball, juked a couple defenders and was off to the races.
As with every scrimmage, the offense couldn't use certain types of blocking techniques and the defensive players were not allowed to cut the offensive ball carriers.
"We're not trying to get anybody hurt," said OU defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Brent Venables. "We make guys tackle fundamentally sound. In a game you might try to go low, but we're not trying to bang up any knees and ankles. We're trying to test our manhood. If you come up on a running back it's man-on-man. We expect them to be better on defense."
"It was a tough day out there," said fullback J.D. Runnels. "Our defense is really good and they're physical. It was like a boxing match between two good boxers, but I think we did OK today."
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Saturday's practice and scrimmage. Please note that Dan Cody, Lance Mitchell and Jason White were held out of the scrimmage for precautionary measures.
Once again, Jason White went through most of the individual and skelly drills, but once the scrimmage began he gave way to Paul Thompson and Tommy Grady.
Thompson was the first QB to work with the first team. Despite getting off to a slow start, he heated up toward the end of the scrimmage hitting Peoples on a 15-yard crossing route and 16-yard curl, and then finding Jones on a crossing route for the offensive play of the day. Thompson also looked good in the play-action game.
Grady, who is now wearing Brent Rawls old #15 jersey, was still impressive and showed that he has a great arm with several nice completions despite throwing the only interception of the scrimmage.
"Tommy is throwing it well," said Stoops. "He's got a great arm and good feel in the passing game. But Paul Thompson threw it well too, and Jason White threw it well when he was in there."
"My big thing is getting my footwork set," said Grady. "When I do that I can throw it pretty good. I'm getting a lot thrown at me right now and sometimes I don't feel comfortable, but I'll get better as the spring goes along."
There wasn't much running room today for the backs as OU's defensive line and secondary did a great job tackling.
KeJuan Jones was the first running to get snaps with the first team offense and was followed by Donta Hickson and Tashard Choice, Jacob Gutierrez and Courtney Tennial.
Donta Hickson and Choice split most of the reps with the second team and got a few snaps with the first team. Hickson had one of the best runs of the scrimmage on a 9-yard gain. Hickson emerged from the pile and carried Gayron Allen with him for the last two yards of the run on the play. Choice made a few nice runs, but gave up one sack when he failed to pick up a blitzing Chijioke Onyenegecha. D.J. Wolfe did not receive any carries.
The Sooners also continue to throw to the fullbacks. Both J.D. Runnels and Dan Townsend had catches during today's scrimmage.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
Oklahoma's receivers continued to impress on Saturday and even drew some much-deserved praise from Bob Stoops after the scrimmage.
"The receiving corp has been one of the big pluses this spring," said Stoops. "It's basically the same guys we had last year. Coach Darrell Wyatt is doing a great job. They're catching everything in sight. And as you know, I always want us to make big plays. I think we're doing a good job. Brandon Jones' run was a good example."
Jones' catch on a crossing route from Tommy Grady was the offensive play of the day and would've resulted in a touchdown had the coaches not blown the whistle after Jones broke free.
Tristen Ross also continued to impress with a great catch on the sideline from Grady. The pass was high and away, but Ross used his great hands and concentration to make the catch as he was falling out of bounds.
James Moses continues to work with the first team at tight end, but Joe John Finley made a nice 25 yard catch from Jason White in the 7-on-7 drills, and Willie Roberts did a great job sealing the end on several blocks in the scrimmage.
OU's first team offensive line group of Jammal Brown, Wes Sims, Kelvin Chaisson, Chris Bush and Davin Joseph played well for most of the day under the circumstances.
"Things went OK. My guys are fighting hard, they're competing hard," said offensive line coach and running game coordinator Kevin Wilson. "We're restricted some on the ways we can block."
"I wish we had Vince (Carter) in in here because he's an experienced player and I want him to continue in his leadership role. Chris Bush is doing a great job. Chris Chester (now wearing #65) is doing a good job. He's still learning the position and still has to work on his snaps."
Wilson already knows who his top six lineman are, so he using this spring to find his 'tackles for the future' to replace Sims and Brown after next season.
"We're working with Akim (Millington), who's really played well and is coming along. Chris Messner is doing the same. Messner is now at 289 and is beginning to look more like a tackle. We also threw Davin Joseph and Chris Bush out there at tackle. Somehow, someway we have to determine who our future tackles are going to be. Since we have an abundance of guys and center types we're going to try them out there. I'm hoping Akim and Messner can show us they can do it."
A few other notes, junior Brett Rayl has moved into the second team rotation at guard. Jammal Brown had the best block of the scrimmage when he leveled Calvin Thibodeaux to clear the way for a nice gain by KeJuan Jones. True freshman J.D. Quinn also worked out for the first time this spring.
One of the major focuses this spring has been on replacing Tommie Harris and the 'three-technique' position at defensive tackle. Both Dusty Dvoracek and Lynn McGruder are getting their shot there, and Defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp talks about the change.
"With Tommie gone guys are getting more opportunities to play the three," said Shipp, on Harris' three-technique position. "It's more of a playmaking position. However, I 'm more concerned if they get off the line and use their feet and hands right. You want them to make tackles, but with both Lynn, Dusty and the young guys, if they line up well they can make the plays."
"I'm playing more of a three-technique so it's different than what I've done in the past," said Dusty Dvoracek. "I know people think us big guys just have to run over people, but I'm going up against good athletes too. They know how to use their leverage, so I have to use technique. It's a war no matter who you're facing. The more technique you can use the better. You've got to line up right. Why do you think I'm always standing up looking at the backfield before the play? There's more to this than just lining up and bull-rushing. I can't remember the last time I just lined up and bull-rushed somebody."
Two redshirt freshmen, DT Steven Coleman and Alonzo Dotson also showed some promise today teaming up to sack Tommy Grady on one play. Coleman, who had at least two sacks by our count, also showed some quickness on the inside drills and made some plays in the scrimmage.
At defensive end, it was Larry Birdine playing alongside Jackson and filling in for Cody. Laenar Nixon, Calvin Thibodeaux, Alonzo Dotson and John Williams all rotated with the second team DE group. Birdine made a nice play in the team drills batting down a Jason White pass.
The only major change to the first team today was Clint Ingram running with the first team linebackers rather than Russell Dennison. Ingram has made major strides this spring since switching to the strongside spot from middle linebacker, but Brent Venables says battle is just getting started.
"We're just trying to run a bunch of guys out there," said Venables. "You've probably seen different guys at different spots. I'm not going to say Clint's not playing well, because he is. But it's still too early for me to say we have a depth chart. Next week you're liable to see a different group out there. The only thing I can guarantee you is you will see Lance Mitchell at middle linebacker."
One player who stood out today in the absence of Lance Mitchell from the scrimmage was Gayron Allen. Allen, who always seems to get overlooked, continues to play hard and was all over the field again today making plays. Lewis Baker also made a nice tackle running down Dan Townsend after catching a swing pass. Backup linebacker Zach Latimer disrupted a 13-yard curl route and picked off Tommy Grady.
Russell Dennison, Wayne Chambers and Lewis Baker worked with the second team.
Antonio Perkins and Eric Bassey each started at the corner slots, but all eyes were on juco transfer Chijioke Onyenegecha. Chijioke actually played more than expected in the scrimmage and looked very good at times nearly picking off a passing and blowing past Tashard Choice to pick up a sack.
Along with Allen, Venables was pleased with how well the safeties played and tackled on Saturday.
"Donte Nicholson and Brodney Pool are practicing well. I really like how Donte and Brodney are tackling. And Jason Carter and Tony Cade are really getting after it to see who's going to be our third safety."
Venables also noted Bassey as having a great day in coverage in pass coverage and tackling. But Nicholson had the hit of the day when he took out Will Peoples shortly after catching a post rout. And for now, it appears that Carter has an early leg up over Cade for the third safety spot.
Both Blake Ferguson and Cody Freeby did a better job punting the ball today. However, the distance between the two right now is consistency. Freeby seems to boom two and then shank one, whereas Ferguson was pretty consistent booting the ball close to his normal average.
ONE OTHER NOTE
Prized QB recruit Rhett Bomar watched the entire practice and scrimmage and was always around Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach Chuck Long.
Also in attendance were Remi Ayodele and OL recruit Cameron Schacht. Throughout the day many fans were wondering who was spending so much time with the OU coaches. And it turned out to be Ayodele, who has already signed with OU, but who is trying to get some early knowledge.
Thompson 13-20, 158 yards
Grady 12-17, 99 yards, 1 INT
B. Jones 2-41
M. Johnson 4-16
Onyenegecha 3 (1 sack, -7 yards)
Dampeer 1 (1 sack, -6 yards)
Nixon 1 (1 sack, -4 yards)
J. Williams 1 (1 sack, -5 yards)
Allen, Bassey, Chambers, D. Williams
Spring Football Practice Report (3/27)
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