NORMAN, Okla. — The Oklahoma football team took a day off from full pads on Friday in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage.
The Sooners, who worked out in shorts, helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads this afternoon, hosted an estimated 650 high school coaches at practice today who are in town for the Sooners' weekend coaching clinic.
But despite not being in full pads on Friday, OU Head Coach Bob Stoops, had nothing but positive things to say about the workout.
"We had a great practice today," said Stoops. "I am so happy with how we are practicing. We are playing at a great tempo. On both sides of the ball people are making plays, challenging one another and getting after it."
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights during Friday's practice.
Junior quarterback Paul Thompson had a great day in just about every facet of the game.
Thompson seems to be more accurate throwing on the run and on play-action passes, and he was nearly perfect again doing just that today. On one series, Thompson connected on three straight play-action passes. The Oklahoma defense worked a lot on blitzing today, and Thompson passed the test with flying colors calling the right audibles at the right time to find his tight ends over the middle.
Redshirt freshman Tommy Grady also did a nice job at times calling audibles, but also threw two interceptions. Jason White looked good, but not great. White threw the ball short a bunch, but was also intercepted on a great diving play by Zach Latimer.
"I'm so happy with our quarterbacks," said Stoops. "They're really throwing the ball. Our receivers are catching it, yet they are being covered. So on each pass play I don't know who has the advantage."
Friday was a great day for KeJuan Jones, Tashard Choice and D. J. Wolfe, who all had big runs off tackle behind Wes Sims.
What will be interesting to watch for in Saturday's scrimmage is how much playing time Wolfe gets. Wolfe got some reps with the second team on Friday and did not disappoint. In fact, Wolfe looked like OU's fastest back today.
"I'm really impressed with DJ Wolfe," said Stoops after practice. "He is running hard and looks really talented, just like we knew he was."
Wolfe showed his speed on one play bouncing a run outside for what would've been a 40 to 50-yard gain. Wolfe also had several other tough runs and one nice catch out of the backfield for an 8-yard gain.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT ENDS
The usual suspects (Clayton, Brandon Jones, Will Peoples and JeJuan Rankins) continue to look good, while Travis Wilson was limited on Friday limited with a broken middle finger.
Redshirt freshmen Marcus Johnson and Tristen Ross both had good days on Friday and continue to impress.
OU's tight ends are getting a lot more action this spring and got some extra looks today on audible calls catching the ball over the middle against the blitz. Both James Moses and Joe John Finley did a great job getting over the middle and making plays, while Willie Roberts dropped a pass over the middle from White.
One lineman who hasn't been mentioned much, but is having a great spring is senior left tackle Wes Sims.
Sims is getting better every day going up against OU's tough defensive ends, and today he led the way on several of the Sooners big runs.
"It's my senior year and last chance to help this team win," Sims said after practice. "Last season we had a bad taste in our mouth, and I just want to do everything I can to help change that. This is it for me. I can play better than I did last year.
"I don't know, it just feels better right now at left tackle," said Sims on the reason for his improvement this spring. "Left tackle is more difficult than playing right tackle, right or left guard, at least that's the case for me. It just seems like all of the sudden things are coming together for me. I feel pretty good out here. I'm a little quicker, a little stronger. And let's face it, I'm getting better every day trying to block Dan Cody, Larry Birdine and Jonathan Jackson."
Chris Bush and Antonn Reid are doubtful for tomorrow's scrimmage, which means Chris Chester will get the start at center.
The defensive line has been fairly dominating all spring, but did get a good fight today from the o-line. However, Dusty Dvoracek is still a man among boys on several plays and Lawrence Dampeer continues to make an impression at defensive tackle.
Dampeer and offensive lineman Brett Rayl got into a little tussle at practice when Rayl pulled Dampeer to the ground after a play. Dampeer got in Rayl's face and the two had to be separated by the coaches. From that point on, Dampeer played with an extra spark and created havoc inside forcing force ball carriers to bounce outside.
Defensive end Laenar Nixon also had a sack today.
Reserve linebacker Zach Latimer had a great interception when he dove in front of a curl route and picked off Jason White. The light seems to have come on for Latimer, as he earning time on special teams units and making more and more plays at linebacker.
The plot also thickened in the battle for the strongside linebacker spot, as Gayron Allen moved there and received some work with the first team today. Russell Dennison and Clint Ingram had been going back and forth with the first team at the strongside spot before today. But this is not totally unexpected, as Brent Venables has said he will be switching up the linebacker rotation this spring to see who fits where.
Rufus Alexander and Gayron Allen also got some in-your-face attention from the coaches for not making plays on the big runs off tackle by Jones, Choice and Wolfe. Dennison and Lance Mitchell recorded sacks on blitzes today for the defense.
Today was a great day for the secondary as they were very active and intercepted several passes.
Eric Bassey had a great day in coverage and Brodney Pool continued to have his nose around the ball intercepting two Tommy Grady passes. Stoops praised both Pool and Bassey after practice for their efforts today.
Also drawing praise from Stoops after practice was juco Chijioke Onyenegecha. Chijioke looked good today busting up a screen pass on one play and whipping a wide receiver and forcing Mark Clayton out of bounds for only a short gain on a reverse.
"Chijioke showed us that he can be more than just a sprint guy," said Stoops. "He was very physical today and he's not afraid to stick his head in there. We thought that he would do that. What most people don't know is that he has tremendous strength, and of course he has the size. We just need to get him healthy."
"I was pretty pleased with how my guys competed today, but tomorrow's going to be the telling story," said secondary coach Bo Pelini. "I'm looking forward to seeing how my guys compete and get after it. I'm pretty impressed with Eric Bassey, and Chijioke had a good day. I just want to see how my guys get after it."
Redshirt freshman Darien Williams got a wake-up call today when two long runs broke outside on his side of the field. Both Brent Venables and Bo Pelini jumped on Williams for not fighting through his blocks and urged him to be more physical.
The Sooners kick return team lined up like this: (left to right) James Moses, Lewis Baker, Clint Ingram, Russell Dennison and Rufus Alexander on the front line. J.D. Runnels in the middle flanked by Willie Roberts and Joe John Finley. Tahsard Choice and Travis Wilson as the upbacks and Antonio Perkins was the lone returner standing in in the middle.
The punt team lined up like this (left to right): Pool, Moses, Jacob Rice, Dennison, and Latimer on the front line, with Baker and Rufus Alexander on the wings.Runnels was the upback, and several players, including Chijioke, Eric Bassey, Darien Williams and Jowahn Poteat worked as the gunners. Mark Bradley will also be a factor as a gunner once healthy.
Stoops said after practice the the team will begin stretching at 10:45 a.m Saturday morning and then go through pass skell drills. The actual scrimmage isn't expected to get underway until about 11:15 a.m.
Spring Football Practice Report (4/2)
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