Spring Football: Six things to watch

James Hale takes a look at the six key positions to watch this spring. Senior cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha (pictured above) will be battle for the other starting cornerback spot opposite Marcus Walker this spring. Spring practice, originally scheduled to begin today, will now officially kick-off at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Sooners will also practice on Wednesday and Thursday this week. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

Due to the weather, OU Head Coach Bob Stoops has decided to start spring practice tomorrow. The Sooners will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the workouts beginning at 3:30 p.m. Once it does get underway, here will be some key factors to watch as the spring unfolds.

1) Quarterback: The QB position is the key for any football team, and the Sooners have to replace Jason White, who played as well as anybody in college football the last two years. OU has three outstanding prospects in Paul Thompson, Tommy Grady and Rhett Bomar. None of the three have any real significant playing time, but the fact that Thompson has been in the system longer gives him the slight edge going in. All three will get equal reps with the top unit, and all three will be given a chance to win the job. The best man will win the job.

2) Secondary: Sophomore Marcus Walker is the only starter returning and he is out for the spring with a shoulder injury. Senior corners Chijioke Onyenegecha, Eric Bassey and Jowahn Poteat will get another chance to impress new secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright. Neither of the three has been able to establish any consistency during their career, but once again Bassey has been a leader in the off-season workouts and he will get a hard look from Wright. Sophomore D.J. Wolfe, who moves to corner from running back, will be given every opportunity to win a starting job. At safety, Lewis Baker moves to strong safety from linebacker and will start the spring as the starter. Tony Cade and Jason Carter will compete for the starting free safety spot. Brett Bowers will get his first chance to compete and Darrien Williams will move back to safety to see if he can find a home in the secondary.

3) Offensive line: Starting guard Kelvin Chaisson will move to center and starting right guard Davin Joseph moves to left tackle. If those moves pan out, then the rest of the offensive line will take shape. Akim Millington moves to right tackle, and he will battle Chris Messner for the starting job. Millington is the favorit to win that job. Chris Bush will settle in at left guard and Chris Chester will be at right guard. Chester will also back-up Chaisson. Brandon Braxton has a ton of promise and he starts the spring at left tackle. The hope with Braxton is that he can study under Joseph through the spring and through next season, and then be ready to step in and start as a sophomore. Senior Brett Rayl gets one last opportunity to impress Coach Kevin Wilson at right guard. A great physical athlete, Rayl has never been able to take that great athletic ability to the field. Redshirt freshman J.D. Quinn will be a factor at guard along with Cameron Schacht. Ben Barresi will get a long look at both tackle and guard.

4) Wide Receiver: OU graduated one of the top wide receiver corps in the country last year and finding replacements will be a key this spring. Travis Wilson returns and is ready to become one of the best receivers in the country. Wilson had a breakout year last season and he has the athletic ability to work his way into the first round of the 2006 NFL draft. Jejuan Rankins has been a solid receiver for the Sooners, and a starter before. He brings valuable experience to the slot positions. Who else steps up is the key this spring. Lendy Holmes is a tremendous athlete that wide receiver Coach Darrell Wyatt is very high on. Quentin Chaney is a unique prospect at 6-foot-6, and it will be interesting to see how he uses that height this year. Fred Strong is a super athlete and he will get a chance to jump in and make his mark this spring. Also, watch walk-ons David Robinson and Jermaine Hardison, who always seem to make plays.

5) Running Back: With Adrian Peterson out and D.J. Wolfe now at corner, sophomore Jacob Gutierrez will finally get a chance to get some significant reps to prove that he deserves to be a factor.

6) Special Teams: Garrett Hartley has the place kicker duties to himeslf and Cody Freeby steps into the punting duties. Hartley has a chance to be a great one, while Freeby has been very inconsistent thus far during his career. When he hits it good he has a very strong leg and can boom it. When he does his leg strength still saves him sometimes, but he can also miss-hit and punt one 10 yards. Gaining consistency will be very important for Freeby this spring. Who holds on field goals will be interesting to watch and this point it is anybodies guess. Travis Wilson is back for kick-off returns, but D.J. Wolfe, Rankins, Gutierrez and Holmes will also get a look. Rankins is also back on punts where he will compete with Holmes and Onyenegecha for those duties. However, the Sooners will try a lot of players at both positions.

There are some quick things to look for, but in the spring so many things can develop. Stay tuned to OUInsider.com for our daily practice reports beginning Tuesday.

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