The Oklahoma Football team returned to the practice fields bright and early on Saturday for their first morning workout of the fall.
"No big deal. It went well," said Bob Stoops on how the Sooners adjusted to the early start time. "Football players have been practicing in the morning for a long time. Today was really no different than the past couple of days."
Saturday also marked Day Five of fall practice, and several Sooners were held out of the workout with minor injuries: Antonio Perkins (ankle), Dane Zaslaw (knee) and Tashard Choice (hamstring). KeJuan Jones also didn't practice after cutting his tongue and lip during a big hit yesterday.
Lance Mitchell missed the practice because of personal reasons. Please put Lance and his family in your prayers. His father is very sick and it's a tough battle right now.
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Saturday morning's workout.
Jason White looked great again on Saturday morning spreading the wealth to several different receivers and dumping several screens to the running backs and receivers.
White also brought back another dimension of his game from the past when he pulled the ball down on one play and picked up some yardage on the run.
Several of OU's coaches were actually pleased with the effort, but linebacker Rufus Alexander saw an opportunity to joke with White, who also ran out of his knee brace on the play.
'Don't run Jason. Don't run Jason. Jason stop," joked Alexander while in pursuit of White. "Damn, he's running out of his knee brace. That's fast."
Paul Thompson had one of his better passing practices of the fall. On one play, Thompson hit tiny receiver David Robinson deep in between Donte Nicholson and Brodney Pool.
The minor injuries to Choice and Jones left the door open for Donta Hickson, D.J. Wolfe and Adrian Peterson to get more snaps.
Hickson was the first back to work with the first team followed by Wolfe and Peterson, Gutierrez and Tennial.
Peterson continued to look great running with the football, but one minor weakness might be hanging on to the football. He fumbled twice early in practice and spent some extra time running through the 'gauntlet fumbling machine' during practice. Wolfe carried the ball five straight times to end the practice.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mark Bradley looks to be more and more confident following his injury and had another great practice on Saturday.
Brandon Jones, who has been know as more of a deep threat, looked great today running out routes and catching everything in sight. Jones said that his primary focus in the offseason was to improve his hands.
"I'm happy with how I'm catching the ball now," said Jones. "I think my hands have become better. I'm concentrating no matter where the ball is and I'm trying to keep proper distance with my hands and eye on the ball."
The Sooner tight ends caught the ball well today on several short routes. Bubba Moses pulled in two catches, while Willie Roberts and Joe John Finley each had one grab.
The Sooner offensive line didn't waste any time as they were the first unit to take the field this morning to get some extra work with Kevin Wilson before the rest of the Sooners showed up.
"We just don't have enough time in the day to get to where we need to get," said OL coach Kevin Wilson, whose line group took the field at 7:30 a.m. "It's not because we didn't practice well or we're punishing them. We just got out here and worked on some little things, mental things.
"We're just trying to pick it up a little bit. When practice starts we just have so many things to do that we can't work on these little things (techniques). My guys are a dedicated group, and we got after it this morning."
One part of the offensive line that hasn't received enough praise this fall has been the interior linemen.
It's not easy task to block Dusty Dvoracek and crew day in and day out, but Davin Joseph, Kelvin Chaisson, Chris Bush and the rest of the guards have more than held their own under the circumstances. And that was no more apparent than today, as they opened some nice holes for Donta Hickson to run through on several occasions.
Wilson was also heard stressing the Sooners' team motto 'Finish' several times today to his linemen.
'Gotta finish," said Wilson. "Remember Kansas State? Remember LSU? Guys, you gotta finish!"
One player who is trying to make a move this fall is Laenar Nixon. If there's one thing Nixon does well, it's rush the quarterback. He recorded a sack for the second straight practice in full pads.
One of the main points of emphasis for Brent Venables' linebacker corp this fall is getting better in pass coverage. And Venables has been pleased with what he's seen so far this fall.
"At this point, I think we're doing a good job of that," Venables said. "We're getting our hands on lots of footballs and doing a good job of covering.
"You're never going to be totally happy with it, but we're doing a good job overall. I like what our secondary is doing, and that's important because we're the front line of defense for the secondary. If we do our jobs right, they'll do their jobs right."
Senior linebacker Gayron Allen was given a starting job last spring by Venables, and he's not having any troubles holding it this fall. Allen, who was a backup for most of his first three years as a Sooner, says he's finally glad to get his shot.
"I don't feel bad about what's happened here," said Allen. "Shoot, I've been backing up All-American after All-American. When you're backing up Lehman, Calmus and Lance Mitchell, it's hard for me to see where I'm supposed to be playing. But you have to be confident in your abilities because there's always a spot somewhere. I never lost confidence in myself."
With Mitchell held out of practice, junior Zach Latimer got the start at middle linebacker alongside Allen and Clint Ingram.
When the full pads go on it usually means it's time for Donte Nicholson to stand out. Nicholson is the Sooners best tackler, and his game is somewhat hampered by the no-tackling rules enforced in most practices. However, Nicholson has showed just how good a tackler he can be over the last two workouts.
"I've always tackled like this," said Nicholson. "I've been doing it since little league."
So what's the key?
"Every coach I've had talks about being in balance when you strike an offensive player. Have your form and back in the proper position, and then when you lock them up make sure your hands are strong and get them to the ground. I thought Roy Williams did that better than any safety I've ever seen. Sure, he wants to hit you hard, but most of all he just wants to tackle you."
Nicholson's running mate at safety - Brodney Pool - was all over the field on Saturday morning.
Pool showed his quick instincts when he intercepted a slant pass thrown by Rhett Bomar that went through Quentin Chaney's hands on one play, and teamed with Nicholson on several other plays with great coverage.
With Perkins out, Jowahn Poteat started along side Eric Bassey at corner. Darien Williams, Chijioke Onyenegecha and Marcus Walker all split reps with the second team and continue to look better with each practice.
"I think we're coming together pretty well," said Nicholson on OU's defense. "We seem to be covering well. I think our corners are doing a good job. Our defensive line is putting together a pretty good pass rush."
Trey DiCarlo and Garrett Hartley each kicked the ball very well. Punter Cody Freeby is looking better than ever booming several punts.
Chijioke Onyenegecha may not be a factor at corner early in his career, but look for him to make quite an impact on the kick-off team. Onyenegecha looked great today using his pure speed on the kick-off coverage team.
The Sooners will practice again at 5:15 p.m. tonight before Sunday's scrimmage.
"We're looking forward to it," said Stoops on tomorrow's scrimmage. "There's a few guys that I don't need to see out there because I know what they can do."
Brent Venables talked about what he'll look for during tomorrow's scrimmage on defense.
"I'm going to be looking for cohesiveness and consistency. It's important that our guys know there assignments and adjust accordingly to what the offense is doing. So, when the offense throws something at them, we want to see them recognize it and make the adjustment."
Saturday Morning's 8/14 Practice Report
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