Spring Football Practice Report (3/31)

Bob Stoops, Bo Pelini, Cale Gundy, Jackie Shipp and James Moses talk about Wednesday's practice.

NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma football team worked out in full pads again on a cool, chilly day Wednesday in Norman.

And once again, it was another spirited workout with great contact, especially near the end of the workout during the goal line situations.

"It was a really good, physical practice," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops. "As I've told you a million times, that's the way we do it here. The only way you can get better as a football team is to hit. Good solid tackling, hitting a guy in the mouth, good solid blocking hitting guys in the mouth, inside battling. You could hear the pads pop.

"The running backs were running hard and we had some good tackles as well. Our receivers and DB's are getting after it as well. That's the way we are always going to practice at Oklahoma."

QUARTERBACK
Wednesday was a great day throwing the football for Jason White and Tommy Grady, while Paul Thompson was inconsistent for most of the practice throwing behind and overthrowing receivers on several different attempts.

White did a nice job hitting the out-routes and hit Mark Clayton on a great flag route to beat Chijioke Onyenegecha and Donte Nicholson. Grady looked really good in the short passing game. Grady has also formed a nice combination with walk-on receiver David Robinson.

Despite is terrific day throwing the ball, White did have the one interception of the day when Jowahn Poteat jumped on out-route to Mark Clayton to make a diving interception.

In the goal line drill, White hit JeJuan Rankins in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, and Grady hit Willie Roberts for a TD as well. Thompson overthrew an open Joe John Finley on one attempt.

RUNNING BACK
KeJuan Jones has been OU's most impressive back this spring and that continued to be the case today.

The junior from Tulsa had the run of the day when he broke a 60-yard run off the left side with great blocks from Kelvin Chaisson and Wes Sims. Jones was caught behind by Eric Bassey, and both drew praise after the play from Bob Stoops.

Tashard Choice got off to a slow start but had his best practice yet this spring. On one series, Choice ran three straight times for a first down, and then picked up a fourth and short with a one-yard gain.

Tue freshman D.J. Wolfe also got some snaps and took advantage of his chance excelling in the goal line portion of practice.

Wolfe picked up four yards on his first run and then scored on an 11-yard yard run, carried Lewis Baker for 2-yards as he ran into the end zone. Wolfe also ran it on a fourth and goal play from the one that spawned an argument between the offense and defense.

Kevin Wilson yelled 'touchdown' while Brent Venables said 'his knee was down'. Both eventually looked to Stoops, who laughed, 'Don't get me involved in this.'

"D.J had a good day," said running back coach Cale Gundy. "He' s beginning to feel comfortable and learn the system. He's just a really good football player. He can be a real good football player here."

Wolfe also caught a potential touchdown pass on a wheel route from Thompson. Poteat gambled on the play and missed an interception attempt, which would've gone for a touchdown.

Despite the tough competition, Gundy says it's going to be hard for someone to beat out Jones with the way he's running this spring.

"It is," said Gundy on how it will be difficult for someone to unseat Jones. "He's going to be a three-year starter here. He almost rushed for 100 yards last season, but everybody seems down on him. We're not down on him as a staff, we think he's a good player. He proved that in the Sugar Bowl in the fourth quarter and he had the big run against Kansas State. There's no question he has stepped it up a notch."

Redshirt freshman Jacob Gutierrez also had a few carries and he always seems to move the pile. Gutierrez also always seems to have runs of 4, 5, and 6 yards when he gets his chance.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
It was a good day for Bubba Moses blocking in the team blitz and inside drills. Moses, who appears to be distancing himself as the first team tight end, talked about his improvement after practice.

"I worked hard in the off-season to get bigger and stronger in the weight room," said Moses. "I think it's paying off out here. I just feel stronger. I feel like I can control my man more. But that's not easy because I'm going up against Dan Cody and ‘JJ' every practice."

When the Sooners went to their two tight end formation it was Moses and Joe John Finley who ran with the first team. But don't count out Willie Roberts. Roberts is a great pass-catcher and drew praise again using his length to block on the inside drills.

Brandon Jones, Mark Clayton and JeJuan Rankins lined up as the first team receivers today in the skelly drills. And as if the Sooners don't have enough depth at receiver, you could make an argument that walk-on receiver David Robinson was one of OU's best receivers today.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Chris Chester worked with the first team line at center for the first time in the absence of Chris Bush and Vince Carter. Chester struggled most of the day with his snaps, and had a special meeting with OL coach Kevin Wilson after practice.

"Chris, you're doing fine, but the most important thing is the snap," said Wilson. "If you have to concentrate on snapping and getting a draw with your man, we'll take it."

During one series, Chester had trouble with three straight snaps. Chris Bush is expected to be back this weekend.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Jonathan Jackson continued his great spring on Wednesday with another great practice. Jackson is tough to block rushing off the edge, and he showed some finesse today with some nice spin moves inside to beat his man. Dan Cody also had a great day stopping the run penetrating the backfield underneath.

Dusty Dvoracek is developing into a man among boys this spring, and today was no different. Dvoracek was a force at DT and made several nice stuffs in the team goal line drill.

"Dusty is really stepping up," said DT coach Jackie Shipp after practice. "He's just improving every practice, and he made some great plays for us during this practice."

Steven Coleman also had nice practice and stood out above the other redshirt freshmen DTs on this day. Redshirt freshman DE John Williams also had a nice day with two sacks.

LINEBACKER
If you didn't think Lance Mitchell was 100 percent, then you had your chance to see it for yourself today.

Mitchell was all over the field and had one of the best hits of the day when he stuffed Donta Hickson for a 2-yard loss on a third and goal situation from the four-yard line.

In fact, the hit was so vintage Mitchell, that his helmet popped off as he made the big hit, similar to several of his big hits a year ago.

"Lance is amazing," said Stoops. "Shoot, to be honest I didn't think he would go on the inside and team drills, but I looked out there and there he was. And then he was playing so well, you can't take him out. He's just a real solid football player that knows how to play the game."

Mitchell and Rufus Alexander were OU's two starting linebackers today as the Sooners worked a lot on their nickel package.

SECONDARY
The man in charge of OU's secondary this spring is former Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. Pelini talked about his secondary and the adjustment to coaching at OU after practice today.

"This has been an easier adjustment for me here than it was at Nebraska," said Pelini. "We were installing a whole new defense at Nebraska. Here, I'm just fitting in to a great defense. And it's a defense that I have long admired.

"I think they're coming along great. There is an adjustment period as guys are getting used to me and I'm getting used to them. There's more of that on me than them because they know what they're doing in this system.

"I think our talent level is tremendous," Pelini continued. "I like how the guys are playing. (Eric) Bassey is stepping up and having a great spring. I think our safeties — Donte (Nicholson), Brodney (Pool) and Jason Carter — are playing really well. And so is Tony Cade."

Speaking of Cade, the redshirt freshman had one of his better practices of the spring today. On one play, Cade read the play nicely and knocked down a great play-action pass from Grady to Willie Roberts.

Oklahoma's first team secondary today in the team skelly drills consisted of Antonio Perkins and Eric Bassey at the corners, Donte Nicholson at the 'Roy' and Brodney Pool and Jason Carter at safety.

Juco CB Chijioke Onyenegecha, who had a so-so day, is still learning the system and had a conversation after practice with Pelini about what he needs to do to adapt to the college game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
The first team punt unit today was...Pool, Russell Dennison, Jacob Rice, Moses, Zach Latimer on the front line; Lewis Baker and Rufus Alexander on the wings; J.D. Runnels as the upback and Blake Ferguson punting.

Most of Ferguson's punts were end-over-end, but he was also facing a pretty good rush. Cody Freeby had a couple punts with nice hang time, but also line-drived one that would've set up a big return.

OU's first team kick return team looked like this...Jonathan Jackson, Gayron Allen, Clint Ingram, Demario Pleasant and Rufus Alexander on the front line. Joe John Finley and J.D. Runnels at the 20-yard line, Travis Wilson and Tashard Choice at the 10-yard line, and JeJuan Rankins and Antonio Perkins returning.

Other Notes: The Sooners will take Thursday off and return to the practice fields on Friday for a 3:30 p.m. workout.

Bob Stoops also said after practice that the Sooners will start Saturday's practice with some special teams work and then go through a full-scale scrimmage inside the stadium.

Saturday's practice is set to begin at 11 a.m.

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