Stoops says Saturday's scrimmage 'was much better'

See inside for a complete position-by-position breakdown of Saturday's scrimmage with quotes from Bob Stoops, Chuck Long, Cale Gundy, Paul Thompson, Kevin Wilson and Jackie Shipp. Junior CB Chijioke Onyenegecha (pictured left) had a great day in coverage with two pass breakups.

The Oklahoma Football team returned to Owen Field on Saturday morning for their third major scrimmage of the spring. And this time, OU Coach Bob Stoops was pleased with what he saw.

"It was much better," said Stoops, who was not happy with the Sooners' effort during Thursday's scrimmage. "I liked the fact that we played cleaner. We had very few penalties, very few busts. We just played in a more solid way. It was good way to end to get ready to start a full week of camp. I felt good about the way we finished here."

The Sooners, who used the 83-play scrimmage as an opportunity to take a look at their younger players, held out Jason White and Mark Clayton from the scrimmage on offense. Dan Cody, Jonathan Jackson, Lance Mitchell and Dusty Dvoracek started for the defense, but played played sparingly throughout. J.D Runnels started at fullback, but didn't see action after the first series.

"The old guys got a good number of reps as well," Stoops said. "They got just about the same number of reps they got the last scrimmage. I think they're pretty close to the number of snaps comparatively (as last fall)."

Players who missed the scrimmage due to injuries were: Linebacker Wayne Chambers (ankle), Cornerback Antonio Perkins (ankle), Defensive Tackle Lynn McGruder (hamstring), wide receiver Brandon Jones (shoulder), Running Backs Adrian Peterson (shoulder) and Courtney Tennial (hamstring).

"We're only running about 20 percent of our offense," said Quarterback Coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long . "I think practice has gone real well without all our guys. We do a lot of things with different motions and formation variations, and conceptionally they've picked it very well."

"We still need to work some more red zone. That's one of the things we wanted to work on today and in camp this week."

Below is a position-by-position recap of the highlights from Saturday morning's scrimmage.

With Jason White held out of the scrimmage, backup Paul Thompson got a chance to work solely with the first team offense, and was impressive in doing so.

Thompson led the offense to a scoring drive on the first drive of the scrimmage against the No. 1 defense, but stalled with a field goal. But Thompson would later lead a 9-play, 70 yard drive that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradley. Thompson, however, did throw one interception that was returned for a touchdown by Brandon Shelby.

"Looked awfully good," said Stoops on Thompson's play. "Was very pleased. He made the one mistake, but that's why we're out here doing it. He'll learn from that, but he did a lot of good things. That's why we wanted to set Jason out and give the other guys a lot more snaps."

"I thought we did pretty well," said Thompson, who finished the day 10-of-18 for 76 yards. "We need to finish some drives better. And I am the only one that made a mistake today. If I could take that ball back I definitely would."

Thompson also showed the other dimension of his game during one crucial third down play when stepped up in the pocket to avoid a blitz and then took off for a nice 15-yard run.

"That's what I'm able to do," Thompson said. "When I see something break down I can still make a positive out of the play. That one play was third and short, but I just ran and made the play with my feet."

Tommy Grady had another impressive scrimmage completing 9-of-17 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Grady hooked up with D.J. Wolfe and Russell Dennison during the red zone drill for two touchdown passes.

True Freshmen Rhett Bomar worked mainly with the third team offensive line and freshman and walk-on receivers, but still managed to show a glimpse of how good he might be in the future completing 11-of-21 passes for 74 yards. However, what the stat line doesn't show is that Bomar had three passes dropped that would have been in the neighborhood of 15-25 yard gains.

"Rhett is really a good player," said Stoops. "You ought to see him out here every day at practice. He has so little practice time, yet he's out there throwing some great balls. We're really excited about the way he's playing."

Quarterback coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long was also pleased with the progress made today by his group.

"I thought our game situation was really good," Long said. "Paul drove us down the field. Our first drive was good. We just need to finish. I thought our guys did a much better job of protecting the football. We only had one interception today, as opposed to several from the last scrimmage. The things that we can control, we did a much better job on."

Running Back
For the first time in a scrimmage this fall, the running backs showed some flashes of breaking a big run. KeJuan Jones set the tone with a 32-yard run on the opening drive, and D.J. Wolfe broke a nice 20-yarder over the left tackle late in the scrimmage.

Jones led the Sooner running backs with 47 yards on 11 carries. Wolfe finished with an impressive 38 yards on eight carries. Donta Hickson had 26 yards on 10 carries.

Redshirt freshman Jacob Gutierrez once again showed some flashes of 'Q' and drew some chants of 'Gooooo!!!' from the crowd. The San Antonio native, who finished with 24 yards on six carries, even managed to look Barry Sanders-esque on one play when he was stopped seven yards in the backfield, but spun off of his hit, reversed his field and managed to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Back to Wolfe, the true freshman impressed with not only his running, but his pass catching ability. Wolfe took a screen from Grady and scored on a 13-yard run, and earlier in the scrimmage caught a screen and juked and jived his way for a 10-yard gain.

"The intent of the scrimmage was to be physical and take great care of the football," said Running back coach Cale Gundy. "With AD (Adrian Peterson) being hurt and with Tashard (Choice) being out, these guys have gotten more reps. We're trying to watch and make sure KeJuan does not get hit too much."

Gundy was also once again impressed with the play of Gutierrez.

"Guys like Jacob play hard. They want to play too. He's a very good football player. There's a certain way he can help us this year, and he'll help us in the future."

Wide Receiver/Tight Ends
The major story of the day from this group, without question, was the play of the tight ends.

The offense got into several third and five or shorter situations. And when they did they went to the tight ends, and they answered the challenge running nice curl routes underneath and on the outside to make the catch and keep drives going.

Joe John Finley led all receivers with five catches, while Willie Roberts added four and Bubba Moses finished with three. In fact, the trio finished the day as the top three receivers (in catches).

With Mark Clayton and Brandon Jones out, Travis Wilson, Mark Bradley and Will Peoples got another chance to show their stuff and they didn't disappoint. Peoples had one nice catch and run for 29 yards, and Wilson was steady as usual with two catches for 25 yards. Mark Bradley had two catches, one of which was a four a touchdown. Bradley now has touchdown catches in each of the last two scrimmages.

Junior JeJuan Rankins was back for the second straight day and caught one pass for six yards.

Offensive Line
Senior tackle Jammal Brown was back in camp for the first time this week and started at tackle, thus giving the Sooners a look at the line with all five starters back.

"I thought we had a pretty good day," said Offensive Line Coach Kevin Wilson. "I think we need too continue to work on our red zone. We had a couple plays down there where we've got to do better. I know it's inside the five and our defense is pretty good, but we've got to be able to execute and get a yard. There's going to be times when we're playing and they know we're going to be run, so we've got to be better there. Overall, I think we're making progress. I thought we did pretty well in the run game today."

Junior Chris Bush was back at 100 percent and also saw time with the first unit at guard.

Wilson also said after today's scrimmage that he will experiment more next week with Davin Joseph at tackle and Wes Sims at guard. Wilson thinks that Joseph may be the second best tackle on the team, and he wants to experiment with that option more next week. Stay tuned.

Defensive Line
Carl Pendleton returned to the practice field for the first time since his injury scare earlier in the week and was immediately thrown into the fire.

Pendleton started alongside Dusty Dvoracek at defensive tackle, with Lynn McGruder sitting out the scrimmage. And despite only making one tackle, Jackie Shipp is more than excited about the young freshman's future.

"He's going to be a heck of a defensive player," said Shipp. "Carl had missed a couple days and he's played nose guard most of the camp. But we started to play him at the three-techique today. We were going to make the move before he got hurt, but here he is he is after only playing it (three-technique) a coupe of days, and does a great day. He blew one call, but outside that he did a heck of a job."

Shipp says the fact that Pendleton was a state high school wrestling champ has helped him make a bigger impact than expected.

"I want you to really think about it. Kelly Gregg was a heck of a wrestler. Jerry Sherk was a heck of a wrestler, and he played at OSU. Look at the great d-linemen, they know how to use their hands and use their weight to get position. So, you know if a d-lineman has wrestled before, he has a chance to be a good d-lineman.

Shipp also talked about the repeated rumors that Pendleton would be moved to the offensive line.

"That's your buddy Al Eschbach saying he was going to be on offense," Shipp joked. "Tell him he needs to stick to radio and let us be the football coaches."

Overall, Shipp was encouraged with the play of his entire unit on Saturday.

"Steve Coleman made improvement getting to the quarterback," said Shipp. "And I watched Moe (Dampeer), and as the scrimmage went on he started making some plays right at the pressure points. When you're 340 pounds, it's hard to move you. But when you're 340 pounds, it's hard to be out there more than five or six six plays."

"Cory Bennett is young, but he's going to be a heck of a player. We made some progress today. We made better progress today than we did the last scrimmage."

If the season started today, it looks like Pendleton and junior college transfer Remi Ayodele would joining Dvoracek and McGruder in Shipp's four-man tackle rotation.

Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson started at tackle, but they were backed up by Larry Birdine and Calvin Thibodeaux for the most of the day on the first team.

It's amazing that the guy you generally don't come to watch among this group ends up making the most plays. And that was the case again today as Gayron Allen tied for the scrimmage high with nine tackles.

Lance Mitchell was also impressive with five tackles, including one stuff of tight end Joe John Williams to keep him from picking up a first down after one catch.

Demarrio Pleasant and Clint Ingram were also very active and impressive. Pleasant seems to have a great knack for getting into the backfield off the blitz.

Jowahn Poteat and Eric Bassey still worked primarily with the first team at corner, but it was their backups who came to play today. Redhsirt freshman Darien Williams and junior college transfer Chijioke Onyenegecha clearly had their best days as Sooners on Saturday.

Williams, who showed a great ability to break on the ball on out routes, finished with a Derrick Strait-like line of nine tackles and two pass break ups.

Onyenegecha didn't record a tackle, but he was step-for-step with his receiver all day in coverage. He finished with two pass break ups in the short-yardage situations, and had blanket on Will Peoples on one fly pattern that was incompleted because of his tight coverage.

Brandon Shelby was the nickel back, and his big play ability showed again when he picked off Paul Thompson and returned it for a touchdown. Shelby actually fumbled the ball after the catch, but picked it up in stride and ran into the end zone from about 25 yards out.

Tony Cade and Jason Carter backup up Brodney Pool and Donte Nicholson at safety.

Special Teams
True freshman kicker Garrett Hartley was perfect again today kicking field goals, while Trey DiCarlo struggled. However, Bob Stoops said after the scrimmage that there isn't really a battle yet due to DiCarlo battling a minor leg injury.

"Yes and no," said Stoops, when asked if there was a battle for the starting kicker spot. "First of all, Trey has some bad shin splints that are bothering him, and he's a little worn out from camp.

"If there is any story, they're both very, very talented," Stoops continued. "Garrett Hartley is very good. And right now, Trey is really sore. I realize that. It's not that he's a great kicker, because he is. We'll wait until he gets rested up and then let those guys go compete some more."

DiCarlo finished the scrimmage 6-of-11, while Hartley hit 8 of his 9 attempts. Hartley boomed kicks of 54 and 52 yards, but his lone miss coming from 52. DiCarlo's long was 37 (three times).

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories