3/22 Spring Practice Report

Bob Stoops, Chuck Long, Kevin Wilson and Bobby Jack Wright talk about Tuesday's practice. Senior receiver Jejuan Rankins (pictured above) was impressive on Tuesday working with the first team Sooner receivers. OU will practice again on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Rainy weather forced the Oklahoma football team's first practice of the spring to move indoors to the Everest Indoor Center on Tuesday.

"It was a good, solid practice," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. "The guys hustled around, but it's hard to evaluate a lot of things when you don't have pads on. The guys had a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of good effort. It was a great start. I felt good about it.

"I'm am always amazed at how much they all retain," Stoops continued. "I shouldn't be, I guess. It hasn't been all that long since we played in the Orange Bowl. We came out and called a lot of of offense and defense, and for the most part they executed decently."

Stoops also talked about how the focus of this spring will be for finding people to replace the several departed starters on both offense and defense.

"There will be a lot of good battles," Stoops said. "There are a lot of good, young talented guys that are at similar positions that have played. They've started some and played some, but haven't started on a full-time basis. I like the fact they are talented guys that feel good about the opportunities for them."

Stoops closed the workout to the public, but did allow the media into practice for the final 25 minutes.

See below for several notes and quotes on Tuesday's practice. Please understand that we only viewed practice for a short period of time and didn't get a chance to watch or see everyone at every position. If we didn't mention a player, it doesn't mean they weren't there or did not stand out.

In the short time we viewed practice Paul Thompson, Tommy Grady and Rhett Bomar each rotated with the first team at quarterback, which has been the coaching staff's plan all along.

"They're going to get equal reps," said Chuck Long, on how the quarterback race will shape up this spring. "That's the fair way to do it. We think the competition will go throughout the summer. I would say this race is going to be very close.

"We know they can throw the ball, but the biggest key is going to be how they command the huddle, lead the team, and if they have a bad play how they get the team to move on to the next play. That's going to be one of the biggest keys we're looking for because none of these three guys have had a chance to do that."

One thing that is apparent is that the quarterback run game will be a major factor with all three. However, it was interesting to see Thompson, not Bomar or Grady, be the quarterback who seemed to be focusing on staying in the pocket moreso than taking off on the run.

In the brief time we watched the quarterbacks, Bomar was impressive with his speed on the run and Thompson looked great throwing the football. Thompson hit Jejuan Rankins on a streak route down the sideline for what would've been a 60- or 70-yard touchdown. Thompson also looked good throwing the slip screens and short passing game. You can tell Bomar likes to run with the football, as he did so just as much as he threw it.

Stoops commented on the quarterbacks after practice.

"I like the fact these three quarterbacks have all been in the system. Some a couple of years — Rhett Bomar just one. They've all had a chance to be around a hard working guy like Jason (White) who was so good.

"What I like about them is they are all team guys. They all work hard and have strong work ethics. Plus, they all have ability. So, whoever it ends up, there's quality there and hopefully it will show through."

At receiver, when the Sooners went to a three-man set the starters were Travis Wilson, Jejuan Rankins and redshirt freshman Lendy Holmes. Quentin Chaney and Fred Strong also got a lot of work with the first unit.

"They looked good," said Stoops on the receivers. "Jejuan Rankins has started a bunch of football games and Travis (Wilson) had a great year. Those young freshmen that were redshirted look really good. We will see how they progress, but I think they have great potential."

One good sign today from the OU workout was the outstanding play of Jejuan Rankins . Rankins showed the quickness and speed today that made him a Bob Stoops favorite his freshman year.

Rankins has great moves, and if he has regained his quicks then he has a chance to be one of the more spectacular players in the Big 12 Conference. Rankins will be one of the starting wide receivers and he could be an impact player if he continues to show the speed and quickness that he showed today.

With the graduation of five senior receives from a year ago, the Sooners need their two seniors to play big. Travis Wilson is fast becoming one of the top receivers in the country, and OU needs Rankins to become a game-breaking type receiver that can make people miss in open field from the all-important slot position.

Lendy Holmes is fast becoming one of my favorites. Holmes is one of those athletes that just looks good walking onto the field. He is very fluid and he is such a good athlete that he always looks like he is running fast. However, we all have to remember that he has not caught a varsity pass yet and he still has a ways to go. But with his athletic ability the future for him is certainly exciting.

Quentin Chaney doesn't look like a 6-foot-6 guy running routes. For a man that size, he runs good fluid routes and runs them as if he is 6-foot-1. That will benefit him in the Big 12 because he will go against athletic DBs, but with his size and athletic ability he will be able to overmatch them when he learns what it takes to be a good receiver.

On the offensive line, the experimenting has officially began in an attempt to replace Jammal Brown, Wes Sims and Vince Carter.

On the first team today, it was Kelvin Chaisson at center, Chris Chester at right guard, Chris Bush at left guard, Davin Joseph at left tackle, and Akim Millington at right tackle.

The main changes this spring are Chaisson at center and Joseph moving from the right side to the left side. OU offensive line coach Kelvin Wilson talked about both players and their new homes after practice.

"He's now had a couple of months in our offseason where he's been working with his stance from the left side," said Wilson on Joseph. "I think that was a crutch last year because he wanted to stay over there at right guard besides Jammal. He looked OK. But of course we're in shorts, so who knows."

What about Chaisson?

"The snap was a little erratic, especially with Dusty (Dvoracek) right there in front of him. He was worried about blocking before the snap. I think he will have a chance to be awfully good, but the key for him will be the consistency of his snaps. When we are in the shotgun the center is throwing the ball more than the quarterback. Even though it's a short pass, he's got to be accurate. We will see what happens."

Stoops also talked about the linemen after practice.

"Chris Bush, Kelvin Chaisson and Davin Joseph, that's really three starters (returning)," said Stoops. "We're moving Davin Joseph to left tackle. He'll do an excellent job there. Those three guys have great experience. Chris Chester is really coming on. He's a guy that weighs 280 pounds now. We'll see how that goes. Akim Millington is doing some things now at right tackle. We'll see how it ends up."

Also, Branndon Braxton worked at left tackle and Chris Messner at right tackle. J.D. Quinn worked as a backup guard. And due to our limited viewing time, we weren't able to spot where Ben Barresi was lined up.

With Adrian Peterson out this spring, it was Kejuan Jones and Donta Hickson getting the majority of the reps with the first team, with Jacob Gutierrez filling in occasionally.

The major focus here this spring will be on the secondary. From what we saw today, Eric Bassey and Chijioke Onyenegecha started at corner with Lewis Baker and Jason Carter working at safety. Darrien Williams and D.J. Wolfe were the backups at corner, while Brett Bowers and Tony Cade backed up Carter and Baker.

New defensive back coach Bobby Jack Wright has the task of molding OU's secondary this spring, and he talked about the state of his group after practice.

"We are thin in the secondary," Wright said. "We lost a lot of guys the last two years, so we are a little bit thin. It's like any other year for the last six years, we always lose guys but we have recruited well for the last six years. There's going to be good, young guys ready to step up and make a name for themselves.

"That's kind of what I saw out here today," Wright continued. "Guys flying around trying to earn a job. There are a lot of jobs open. They also know we have some talented guys coming in next fall. They are trying to establish themselves like Eric Bassey, who has been here are trying to win a job back. Chijioke is trying to win one of the established jobs. Nobody's really played as much as those two.

"Then we have the strong and free safety spots wide open because we lost both safeties. So, the incentive is that those jobs are open and those guys are going to try and make an impression. I thought they went at it good today, but of course that was in shorts. We'll see how they do when they get the pads on."

One player Wright today was Onyenegecha, who seemed to have his receiver blanketed on most plays during the skelly drills.

"Chijoke looked good today," Wright said. "Chijioke looked real good. I told him after practice that he made more plays today than I've seen him make the entire time he's been here. Now, I'm not sure what that means, but it was a good thing he really looked good today."

Wright also talked about Bassey getting a new opportunity with him as the secondary coach.

"Bassey is a talented guy," said Wright. "You can't fault him ever for hard work. He works hard, he busts his tail. He is a guy that I am really pretty fond of. Now, he has had as you have said, some bad moments, but you are going to get beat at DB. Let's face it, you are not going to win every battle.

"More than anything, I have tried to encourage him to play smarter. Some of the things he has gotten beat on were not physical, because physically he's talented. He's as fast as anybody. From a talent standpoint, he should not be beat often. If he'll just learn to play a little bit smarter and with a little better technique, he's going to be a better player."

Two guys who are new to the secondary are Baker and Wolfe. Baker moved to safety from linebacker, while Wolfe moved to corner from running back.

Stoops talked about Baker and Wolfe's move after practice.

"Lewis is a guy we had at linebacker, said Stoops. "He hasn't grown into it, but he has incredible speed. D.J. Wolfe, same thing. He has great talent and ability. We're just looking to get more of that ability on the field.

"They had a good day today. They are talented guys. They're at some positions where we are thin at. They are talented guys that we are looking to see if it fits them. Right now it looks like it does."

At linebacker, it was Zach Latimer starting in the middle flanked by Rufus Alexander and Clint Ingram.

We didn't get to see who was starting at defensive end alongside Larry Birdine, but Calvin Thibodeaux, C.J. AhYou, John Williams and Alonzo Dotson all got reps with the first team.

At defensive tackle, it looked like three of the top four will definitely be Dusty Dvoracek, Remi Ayodele and Carl Pendleton.

The Sooners are scheduled to practice again Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

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