NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma Football team returned to the practice fields in full pads Monday afternoon for the first time since Saturday's mini-scrimmage.
And for the first time this spring, practice got heated heated with several big hits, big plays and trashtalking between players.
"This was by far our best practice of the spring," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "It was a great day weather-wise and the team responded to it. There was tremendous energy on both sides of the ball. The guys really got after it."
"Even though we weren't tackling to the ground, we saw some big hits on defense and some big plays on offense. If we can continue to have practices like this, this is going to continue to be a fantastic spring."
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Monday's practice.
Paul Thompson by far had his best day this spring throwing the football and executing play-action passes, draws and bootlegs.
One one play, Thompson faked a hand-off on a bootleg and had Brandon Jones wide open on a post as the defenders bought the fake. And on another play, Thompson handed the ball to Kejuan Jones, but his post hand-off fake was so good the defenders chased him, which set up a nice run from Jones. Thompson also looked great running the draw, and if the coaches would have let him one draw play, he might have ran forever.
Jason White only participated in the individual and 7-on-7 drills, but had a great day throwing the football. White hit Brandon Jones for a 30-yard post and then hit James Moses over the middle on a crossing rout for a 15-yard gain. He also made a great throw on crossing routes to Mark Clayton for a 23-yard gain.
All of Oklahoma's running backs continue to run hard, but Kejuan Jones continues to be the back that stands out over everybody else.
Jones had a very good day today running against the first team defense. And on one series, he picked up chunks of 5-6 yards on four different carries. Jones also talks a good game. He even got under redshirt freshmen Tony Cade's skin so much that Cade finally jawed back in a nasty tone, "Shut up. I'm going to get you."
Tashard Choice is the third back and he has just seemed to struggle to get something going since the beginning of spring practice. Junior Donta Hickson, who had a couple nice runs today, is working with the second team, while Choice is backed up by Courtney Tennial, Jacob Gutierrez and D.J. Wolfe. Wolfe continued to get limited work in the team drills today.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
If there was a star of today's scrimmage, it has to be senior receiver Brandon Jones. Jones and Eric Bassey were locked into a battle of skill and trashtalking most of the day, and it was Jones usually came out on top.
Jones and Bassey talked back and forth after just about every play. Jones would tell Bassey, "You can't hold me. You can't take me. I'm going to pancake you." And Bassey would fire back, "I can hold you. You can't block me."
But in the end, it was Jones who got the last word, as he ran some tremendous routes for eight great catches and laughed at Bassey afterward.
"Bassey's trying to hold me, and he' can't hold me," said Jones after practice. "He's a good player, but he's not good enough to hold me. You have to give him credit though, because he's going to try and push me every step of the way."
Jones also agreed with the notion that concentrating on football and not baseball is making him a better receiver.
"I can feel it," Jones said. "I just feel real good. I'm competing and having a great time. This is fun. I miss baseball a great deal. I can't lie, because I'm just getting a lot more reps here without baseball. The more reps I get the better I am. I'm not worrying about racing off to baseball practice or batting practice at 8 a.m. in the morning. I miss it and I wish those guys the best."
"Brandon had a really good practice," said receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "Probably his best practice of the spring. I have no complains about BJ. He's got all the talent in the world and he's trying to get better at it."
Also impressive today was Will Peoples. Peoples had his best practice of the spring and is was fearless today catching three big gains over the middle in traffic.
James Moses continues to run with the first team and caught everything in sight again today. Willie Roberts did a nice job blocking off the edge in the team blitz drills, and even pancaked Alonzo Dotson on one play. Willie Roberts also got some work with the first team and caught some play-action passes from Thompson.
The major story of the day on the OL was the injury to center Chris Bush.
Bush, who is filling in for the injured Vince Carter, was hurt during the team blitz drills and was carted off the field. The word late Monday night was that he has a bruised back and his status is uncertain for OU's next practice.
Filling in for Bush and doing a nice job was converted tight end Chris Chester. John Flynn backed up Chester at center. Brett Rayl got some reps with the second team competed well. Chris Messner also competed well and Akim Millington had his moments.
Oklahoma's starting defensive line appears to be set with Jonathan Jackson and Dan Cody at the ends and Dusty Dvoracek and Lynn McGruder at the tackles.
Redshirt freshman Moe Dampeer continued to establish himself as the third-team DT. The ‘big cat' is just too hard to block at times along with Dusty Dvoracek, who was his usual dominant self today.
With the starters being pretty much settled at DE, we talked to Bobby Jack Wright about what else he has to work with this spring.
"Dan Cody and 'JJ' are still a step above everybody," said Wright. "Both are building on the great off-seasons that they had. Both are practicing and playing very well, and they're providing great leader ship for the guys behind them."
Wright said that Larry Birdine and Calvin Thibodeaux are running with the second team, while John Williams, Alonzo Dotson and Laenar Nixon split time with the third team.
"I would say that Calvin Thibodeaux is making the biggest push among the group," Wright said. "He knows what' he's doing and he's always been a good athlete. Larry Birdine is still struggling to learn what to do, but he's got all the physical talent in the world. He just needs to concentrate on learning his assignments.
"And then we have the two young guys, and they just need to play some football. I know that's not always easy, but they just need to get out and play. They both have tremendous talent, and once we can get them a few more reps everyone will start to see it.
"And Laenar Nixon just needs to learn how to to play. He has great quickness, but is playing a new position and just needs to learn it.
Senior DE Dan Cody said he's gone back to the basics this spring to try and become a better player.
"All of us have our signature moves and things we do well," said Cody. "You've got to go back to the basics though to get better. I'm working on everything trying to get better, even things I learned four years ago. You build that up and then you work on your specialty stuff."
The biggest move this spring has to be that of Clint Ingram from middle linebacker to strongside linebacker. The junior from Hallsville, Texas is beginning to emerge as the starter at the strongside linebacker position over Russell Dennison.
"Clint has always been a guy who I've said a million times has been the most explosive player we have defensively," said OU linebacker coach Brent Venables. "That's better than Torrance (Marshall). That's better than Rocky (Calmus). And that's better than Teddy (Lehman). We're just trying to find a position where we can turn him loose, and we may have found it."
Redshirt freshman Lewis Baker was nicked up early in practice and held out of most the team drills.
One of the major battles to watch in the secondary is getting a little more interesting.
The battle for Oklahoma's fifth defensive back spot (when Oklahoma moves Donte Nicholson up to the 'Roy' in their nickel set) between Jason Carter and Tony Cade appears to be going Carter's way ... for now.
Carter is very active and gets the majority of the snaps with the first team in this set, while Cade is now splitting time on the second team with senior Darren Stephens. But don't count out Cade, as he had another big hit at practice and continues to learn the system.
Eric Bassey and Antonio Perkins continue to work as the first team corners, and despite Bassey's troubles mentioned above, the junior from Garland had of of the best cover plays of the scrimmage when he blanketed Tristen Ross and knocked away a Tommy Grady pass.
Speaking of big defensive plays, Nicholson had one of the biggest hits of the scrimmage when he leveled Brandon Jones on a crossing route. The defensive players were excited about the hit, but Jones quickly got up and let them knew he just picked up 'three first downs' on them.
Juco transfer Chijioke Onyenegecha seems to be specializing on the corner blitz. Chijioke blitzed again today from his corner spot and forced a Grady incompletion.
Trey DiCarlo started the practice kicking field goals and was excellent hitting on all his attempts but one.
Blake Ferguson and Cody Freeby punted again this race is still too close to call. Ferguson seems to punt a better spiral, while Freeby kicks more of knuckle ball, but always seems to get good distance out of it.
Antonio Perkins, Travis Wilson, JeJuan Rankins and Mark Clayton worked on returning kick-offs.
One more note: ESPN College Gameday analyst Kirk Herbstreit was in attendance at practice today. Herbstreit is in Norman to do get information and interviews for ESPN's upcoming spring football special.
Spring Football Practice Report (3/29)
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