Spring Football Practice Report (4/14)

Bob Stoops, Kevin Wilson and Brandon Shelby talk about Wednesdays's practice and mini-scrimmage.

NORMAN, Okla. — With just two practices left before Saturday's Red/White game, the Oklahoma football team used the last half of practice on Wednesday to conduct a mini-scrimmage.

"We just try to take our opportunities and this seems like a good opportunity to get into one of these mini-scrimmages," OU Head Coach Bob Stoops, who acted as the lead official placing the ball at the line of scrimmage. "It worked out good for us. Friday we're going to be in no pads and Saturday we'll have our game. We didn't really go too long, but it was good."

Overall, there were three touchdowns scored in the scrimmage. OU's first team defense started out strong holding the first team offense without a first down in the first two drives, but the offense got it going in their third drive and Paul Thompson eventually found J.D. Runnels for a 4-yard touchdown catch out of the backfield.

Tommy Grady connected with tight end Joe Jon Finley for the biggest scoring play of the scrimmage on a 25-yard one-handed touchdown catch against the second team defense. True freshmen D.J. Wolfe scored the last touchdown on a 2-yard run on a drive that started from the defenses' 15-yard line.

Afterwards, Stoops said the scrimmage was another chance to get a look at the younger players.

"Basically, it's the young guys learning how to play and watching the guys who haven't played as much doing things right and playing well," Stoops said on the scrimmage. "Our QBs played well, and you see a guy like Joe Jon make a one-handed catch in the end zone. That was great.

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

Once again, Thompson and Grady were solid in the scrimmage leading their units to scoring drives.

Thompson threw the only interception of the day, but was great on the first team O's scoring drive against the first team D. In the drive, Thompson completed a 3rd and 8 with a 18-yard pass to Brandon Jones. Thompson then hit Will Peoples for 19 yards and Clayton for another 15 to get the ball to the 15-yard line. The offensive line then opened up a gaping hole for Jones who carried the ball to the four to set up Thompson's TD pass to Runnels.

Grady also led the second team to a scoring that started on the offenses' 48-yard line and ended with a touchdown pass to Finley.

Jason White only participated in the individual and skelly drills before practice. White had a nice day throwing the ball and concentrated on his third and fourth reads. It was also announced today that White will not participate in the spring game.

KeJuan Jones looked strong on his 11-yard run up the middle against the first team defense, but we also saw a flash today at just how deep OU really is at running back.

Jacob Gutierrez and Courtney Tennial got a few snaps and didn't waste any time showing their stuff. On one play, Gutierrez was stopped at the line, but spun out and picked up 9 yards. Tennial was also stopped at the line on his big run, but cut outside and picked up 16 yards.

"They're good players too," said Stoops, on Tennial and Gutierrez. "And they seemed to do a nice job today. It was good to see them make some plays."

Donta Hickson had the only fumble of the scrimmage, but to be honest it was a great play by Wayne Chambers to make the stop and strip the ball.

Tashard Choice and D.J. Wolfe rotated on the first team on the offenses' red zone scoring drive, but it was Wolfe who got the ball and showed his toughness again scoring on a 2-yard run.

J.D. Runnels was once again a manchild at fullback. If there was an all-american honor for knocking the $%#$ out of people, it would go to Runnels. Runnels blocked great all day long and also scored on a the screen pass from Thompson in which he dove into the end zone.

Oklahoma's receivers are always impressive, but today it was Will Peoples and Mark Clayton who stood out once again.

Peoples had a catch and run when Antonio Perkins gambled and missed an interception on a short out route. Peoples made the catch and darted 35 yards before being run down by Zach Latimer. Peoples also had a 9-yard gain after catching a nice slant. And Clayton had the big 15-yard gain on the first team's O's first scoring drive.

As for the tight ends, they continued to impress. Finley made the nice one-handed stab for the touchdown and James Moses made some nice catches and blocked well on the edge.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN Chris Bush suited up once again, but OL Coach Kevin Wilson still doesn't feel he has the flexibility to to play at this point. Bush and returning starter Vince Carter's absence has given Chris Chester a chance to run with the first team at center, and Wilson is now starting to see some improvement.

"Chester is getting a lot of work," said Wilson. "He's playing better. That's one good thing about the spring, is we're developing some guys who continue to get better."

As for the the line play in the scrimmage, Wilson was pleased.

"I think we had a good practice. There was a scrimmage at the end, but it was really a practice," Wilson said, because of the 45 minute practice beforehand. "It wasn't like you were fresh during the scrimmage, so early we got behind the chains the first drive or two.

"For the most part, we did OK. We'll be talking about that. We did pretty well last year too, but we just didn't finish. We're talking about this spring how we're going to finish the season and about now how we're going to finish spring ball. We have two good work days left. It will be nice to have an off day tomorrow.

"We want to finish Friday good and we want to finish Saturday good. We're not doing bad, we're still 0-0. Like I told them today, we're not going to be razor sharp. That's fine and dandy, but we can go play hard and I thought we did that today."

One lineman who hasn't been mentioned much this spring but made a great play today was true freshman J.D. Quinn. Quinn made a great block down field on a screen pass on Tony Cade.

It's becoming old hat, but Dusty Dvoracek was dominant again at defensive tackle today. Dvoracek had a big sack on 3rd down of a goal line stand that would've forced a field goal.

Jonathan Jackson and Dan Cody did not go at defensive end in the last scrimmage, but did start today and played well. Other standouts on the defensive line were redshirt freshmen ends Alonzo Dotson and John Williams.

Lance Mitchell was held out of the scrimmage, which left the door open for Zach Latimer to start at middle linebacker next to Clint Ingram and Gayron Allen. And he played well, saving one touchdown when he chased down Will Peoples who was off to the races after catching an out route.

Backing up Latimer at middle linebacker was Wayne Chambers. Chambers has been struggling to stay healthy this spring, but was a force today. Chambers forced a fumble and made a great hit to stop Willie Roberts from a big gain over the middle.

Antonio Perkins made the best play of the day for the secondary when he used his tremendous speed to catch up with JeJuan Rankins and make an over-the-shoulder interception in the air to stop a potential first team offense scoring drive.

Brandon Shelby continues to start as OU's nickel back, and the senior from Missouri talked about his emergence this spring after today's practice.

"Whatever I can do to help the team," said Shelby on his new role as OU's nickel back. "Right now they've got me in the nickel and in both those packages. They need somebody that can step in there and know what they're doing. I've been out there the last four years and I have the system down pat. We have a coach who is bringing in some knew schemes in the system, so it's great to be learning and great to be out there."

Shelby also talked about the fact that he's had to wait for years to finally earn his starting spot.

"It goes to show if you work hard things are going to happen for you. Just stay positive and do the things you're supposed to to do, and then great things will happen."

Also vying for Shelby's nickel spot at safety is Jason Carter and Tony Cade. Carter recovered the fumble forced by Chambers, and Cade bounced up from his knockdown by Quinn and showed his toughness to make a great stop on the next play.

Chijioke Onyenegecha was in and out of most drills favoring his recovering hamstring injury at times.

The major news to come from today's practice on special teams was that punter Blake Ferguson is now officially on scholarship.

Oklahoma's punt team was the same as reported yesterday, but the punt return team today consisted of: Marcus Johnson, Brodney Pool, Travis Wilson, Jason Carter, Demarrio Pleasant, Brandon Jones and James Moses on the front line, with several vying for the two outside slots and Perkins returning.

One last note: Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden and several members of his staff were in town today observing OU's practice. And if the last two teams to visit Norman (LSU and Ohio State) are any indication of who will win the national title this year, then Clemson might be your sleeper pick next season. Also in attendance was Bob Stoops' brother Ron.

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