Spring Football Practice Report (4/13/04)

Bob Stoops, Brent Venables, Gayron Allen and Will Peoples talk about Tuesday's practice. Allen (pictured left) talks about his move to weakside linebacker.

NORMAN, Okla. — Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma football team returned to the practice field Tuesday in full pads for the first time since Thursday's scrimmage.

Today's workout is the first of three practices this week, and with the Spring game set for Saturday, the OU coaching staff focused a lot on fundamentals on Tuesday.

"It's not as if we're working for a certain aspect that we're trying to improve, it's that we just want to become a fundamentally better football team," Stoops said after practice. "I think it's important that we close on a good note. It's important for us heading into the summer and double sessions. I want to see good practices, and we got another good one today."

"I have been very pleased this spring with the quality of practices, quality of effort and the tempo that we have been practicing at. This team is a mature team and they practice at a great tempo. And that always makes the practice better."

One quick note ... in attendance for the practice, was Ada, Okla. offensive line recruit Craig Roark.

Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Tuesday's practice.

Once again, Jason White only worked during the individual and skelly drills. There was also no word after practice as to whether White would participate Saturday's Red/White game.

White, Paul Thompson and Tommy Grady all had good days throwing the football. White and Grady stood out more in the skelly drills, but Thompson looked great once again on play-action passes and rollouts off of fakes. Thompson was part of one of the best plays of the day when he hit James Moses on a flag route off of a play-action pass for a big gain.

As for Grady, he continues to improve and the OU coaches have been 'pleasantly surprised' with his play this spring. Grady is reading defenses better than expected and is really starting to make some strides starting with the last scrimmage.

Along with KeJuan Jones, Tashard Choice and Donta Hickson seem to be distancing themselves from the other backs and got a majority of the work today. J.D. Runnels also continued his strong spring blocking well and catching the ball out of the backfield.

Brandon Jones, Mark Clayton, Will Peoples and Tristen Ross all stood during Tuesday's practice. Both Jones and Clayton clearly have the talent, but now they're both working harder all spring to run more precise routes.

Peoples has been healthy all spring, and that has been a key to his tremendous performance over the last two weeks.

"This is where I need to get better in the offseason and during the season," said Peoples on needing to stay healthy because of his record of nagging injuries. "I need to stay in that weight room. I get a little laxed in the weight room, especially during the season. I need to change my workout habits. It's nobody's fault but mine. If I can stay in the weight room throughout the season, I'm not going to get hurt."

Peoples also talked about his performance this spring and the need to step it up this week.

"I think I'm developing some consistency," Peoples said. "My problem has always been to stay consistent in all aspects of the game. I've always found I can do that I have the talent to be successful.

"We have a number of guys vying for playing time, and I realize probably everybody is going to get some reps, but the reality is some guys will get a little bit more than others. I've been around long enough to know that how you close makes a big difference. I know if you play well in the final scrimmage it makes a big difference."

Travis Wilson returned to practice today after sitting out the scrimmage with a broken finger. Tight end James Moses continues to work as the first team tight end and caught the ball well on Tuesday and make a few big plays. Redshirt freshman Tristen Ross had another great practice, and made one great diving catch.

Chris Bush dressed out in full pads, but is not yet full speed and was held out of the team drills. Chris Chester worked with the first team at center and is improving everyday. The offensive tackles also had a great day containing OU's defensive ends coming off the edge.

Dusty Dvoracek was dominant once again on the DL, but what's new? Lynn McGruder returned to practice 100 percent after being banged up early on in the scrimmage and is still the starter alongside Dvoracek. However, OU's trio of defensive tackles continue to impress, and all three had their moments again today.

Linebacker coach Brent Venables said after Saturday's scrimmage that Gayron Allen and Lance Mitchell had secured two of the three starting spots at linebacker heading into the spring game. And today, Allen talked about his performance this spring and the fact that people tend to overlook him.

"I don't look at it that way," said Allen, on being overlooked. "I'm always going in thinking I'm going to be the guy. I think the fact that I can play two positions gives me a little bit of an advantage over some. I think I'm a pretty good football player and I'm just trying to be that everyday.

"I'm not the biggest or the fastest guy, so I have to play with good fundamentals. Whether that is lining up where I'm supposed to be or tackling, I need to be fundamentally sound. That has been the case with me all the way back to Pee Wee football."

"When you look at Lance and Gayron right now they are our two most consistent players," said Venables. "Lance would be the starter in the middle and Gayron has emerged as the leading candidate at the weakside. He consistently lines up right, consistently reads the offensive alignment right and consistently makes plays. He's a good, sound fundamental tackler, and at that position we need someone that will for sure be able to make the tackle."

Venables said that the race to backup Allen at the weakside spot is currently too close to call between Lewis Baker and Rufus Alexander. Russell Dennison and Demarrio Pleasant are in a battle to backup Clint Ingram, and Zach Latimer has the slight edge over Wayne Chambers backing up Mitchell at middle linebacker.

Latimer, who has been one of the biggest surprises this spring and always seems to be around the ball, and he made another great play today knocking down a pass backing up in coverage.

Brandon Shelby continues to be the starter in the nickel package when OU moves Nicholson up to the line and takes out a linebacker. Jason Carter is still backing up Shelby in the nickel at safety, and Carter had the only interception of the day today when he picked off Paul Thompson. Antonio Perkins and Eric Bassey continued to be the starting corners, backed up by Jowahn Poteat, Darien Williams and Chijioke Onyenegecha.

Today was a great day for both Cody Freeby and Blake Ferguson, as both boomed several punts and looked impressive.

Protecting the punters today on the punt team were: Brodney Pool, James Moses, Jacob Rice, Russell Dennison and Zach Latimer on the front line. Lewis Baker and Rufus Alexander on the edge. J.D. Runnels as the up-back, and Chijioke Onyenegecha, Darien Williams, Jowahn Poteat and Will Peoples rotating at the two gunner spots. Mark Bradley will also be a major factor as a gunner once he's fully healthy in the fall.

The Sooners will practice again on Wednesday beginning at 4 p.m.

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