3/23 Spring Football Practice Report

See inside for a position-by-position breakdown of Wednesday's practice with quotes from OU coaches.

After being forced indoors on Tuesday, the Oklahoma football team practiced outside for the first time this spring on Wednesday.

The weather was great to begin practice, but got chilly and windy later in the afternoon. However, OU head coach Bob Stoops didn't have a problem with with the weather.

"Shoot, in Ohio they would love this kind of day," said Stoops. "It's just football weather."

The Sooners, who worked in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads, will go through their first full-contact practice of the spring on Thursday.

"They're doing pretty well," said Stoops on practice. "There's no pads on so it's just hard to tell what they're doing and look like. Practice was good today. The guys had a lot of enthusiasm. It was a little cleaner than yesterday."

Below is a position-by-position look at today's practice. Please note that we cannot, and more than likely will not, be able to mention every player in every practice report. If we miss a player, it doesn't mean that they didn't play well or are no longer on the team. It just means we didn't notice them when we were watching their particular position.

Quarterbacks
Paul Thompson was the first quarterback to take reps with the first team yesterday, but today those duties went to Tommy Grady. However, Chuck Long has stated that the three will rotate in the order they take reps with the first team, so expect to see Rhett Bomar in that spot tomorrow.

All three quarterbacks looked good, but it didn't appear that any one of them stood out moreso than the other. If you forced me to guess on who I thought looked the best today, I would go with Bomar by a tad. Bomar was the most consistent, in my opinion, of the quarterbacks today and also looked great on the run.

Paul Thompson did throw one interception, but the junior did redeem himself looking great in the short passing game and also hitting Bubba Moses for what would've been a 45-yard touchdown on a seam route.

Also of note, the Sooners worked on the quarterback run game in nearly every team drill today.

Running Backs/Fullbacks
Not much to report on here as you know these two spots are locked down by Adrian Peterson and J.D. Runnels.

Kejuan Jones, Donta Hickson and Jacob Gutierrez all worked with the first team, with Jones and Hickson getting most of the work.

At fullback, it was Russell Dennison backing up Runnels, followed by Dane Zaslaw and Jordan Greene. It was nice to see Zaslaw finally get a chance to workout at full speed. Don't count him out in the future because my first impression of him today was that he's an athletic guy who likes contact.

Receivers/Tight Ends
Yesterday, it was Lendy Holmes who started alongside Travis Wilson and Jejuan Rankins in OU's three-wide set, but today it was Quentin Chaney, and he did not disappoint.

Of the young freshmen, Chaney stood out the most. Chaney dropped his first pass, but then caught everything in sight. Fred Strong also looked good making diving catches on two different occasions.

OU receivers coach Darrell Wyatt talked about his freshmen after practice.

"All three of those guys are very talented," Wyatt said. "Certainly, with a year under Jerry Schmidt they have gained confidence in their strength and athletic ability. They are stronger and they are faster. Again, they know the opportunity is there to step up, make plays and be a big part of our offense."

One player we didn't mention yesterday was Tristen Ross. Ross, who worked with the second team alongside Holmes and Strong, made a couple of nice catches. The OU coaches say Ross runs great routes and has the ability to be a good one, but he still needs to drop about 15 more pounds after missing last season.

One player who looked great yesterday and again today was Rankins. Rankins ran one great post pattern in which he had a step on Jason Carter and caught the pass from Bomar for a 45-50 yard gain.

Wyatt talked about the senior from North Carolina after practice.

"I think people forget with Jejuan that in 2003 he was a starting receiver," Wyatt said. "In the first seven games, he was playing as well as anybody on the team. He had seven touchdowns and has started 13 games (in his career). He has come into camp as an experienced wide receiver. We're going to look for him to continue to play like he has the last two days."

As for the tight ends, it was a good day for Joe Jon Finley and Bubba Moses, who each caught big passes over the middle.

Offensive Line
It's hard to tell how the big cats are holding up when they're not in full pads, so here's how the lineup looked today.

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

On the second team, it was J.D. Quinn at center, Ben Barresi and Brett Rayl at guard, and Chris Messner and Branndon Braxton at tackle.

Defensive Line
Again, it's hard to tell here without the pads on, but the starters today were Larry Birdine and C.J. AhYou at defensive end, and Carl Pendleton and Remi Ayodele at defensive tackle.

John Williams and Alonzo Dotson backed up Birdine and AhYou, while Steven Coleman and Cory Bennett worked behind Pendleton and Ayodele.

One defensive end who will be a factor player next fall is Calvin Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux hasn't been cleared to go through full-contact drills yet after suffering a knee injury last season, but Stoops expects to get the go-ahead from OU's trainers soon.

"Calvin's probably going to be released next week, but we're still not going to push him too hard," Stoops said. "He's way ahead of schedule. Last year when he got hurt he was playing really, really well. We just want to make sure he's totally healthy so when we do stick him out there he's ready to go."

As for Dusty Dvoracek, he's going to slowly work his way back into the rotation. Dvoracek looks like he's having a great time with his second chance, but didn't start out with the first two teams. However, he did work in with the first team as practice went on.

Back to the defensive ends, we had a chance to visit with DE coach Chris Wilson after practice and get his thoughts on his new position in Norman.

"I've been working non-stop," Wilson said. "The thing about this is it's a great system in place. The kids have been well-coached and they are great athletes. For me, it's been non-stop trying to get my family here and situated. However, this is the best part of the day, being on the practice field.

Wilson also talked about the talent he has to work with this spring.

"The biggest thing is that we have some talent. Athletically, it will not be a matter of tools, it will be a matter of reps. We've got to get them some reps and then some more reps. With the exception of Birdine, we have not had a lot of reps for the rest of these guys. Now it's their time to play, so we have to get them up to par quickly."

Linebackers
Same starting lineup here as yesterday with Zach Latimer, Clint Ingram and Rufus Alexander. Demarrio Pleasant also worked in with the first team.

Otherwise, there's not much to note here with practice in no pads. However, Clint Ingram did block one field goal attempt.

Secondary
Once again, starting corners Chijioke Onyenegecha and Eric Bassey had great practices.

Onyenegecha seemingly had his man covered every play I saw but one, where he slipped and allowed his man to get open. Bassey, who continues to get praise from Bobby Jack Wright, looked good again today picking off one pass.

Also impressive today in our first real look at the corners was D.J. Wolfe. Wolfe is still learning the position, but is more than holding his own. On one play, he was beaten on a slant. Later on, the offense came right back at him with another slant and he covered it perfectly.

At safety, it was Lewis Baker and Jason Carter working once again as the starters. They were backed up by Darrien Williams and Tony Cade, with Brett Bowers working in. Williams, who played corner yesterday, apparently will rotate between the two positions from day-to-day.

Special Teams
We got to see the Sooners work on special teams for the first time this spring, and there were certainly some interesting developments.

One positive was that Cody Freeby looked great punting the ball today. He was consistently booming the ball 50-yards, but what was interesting about his day was that he was also serving as the holder for Garrett Hartley.

"Right now we've got Freeby as our holder because it's the easier way to practice," said Bobby Jack Wright. "When we roll into two-a-days, we'll look at some other things because we like to have a more athletic guy there to run fakes and do different things like Mark Bradley.

"We'll look at who our backup quarterbacks and receivers are, but Freeby did a good job today and he just might be our holder."

On punt returns, it was Rankins taking the first reps followed by Lendy Holmes, Travis Wilson and Jacob Gutierrez.

If you remember, Rankins, who has had rave reviews from both Stoops and Wyatt as a punt returner in the past, was Antonio Perkins' backup last year before being replaced by Mark Clayton.

"Jejuan sustained an injury against Houston and he was not the same guy the rest of the season, in terms of his ability to make plays," Wyatt said.

Rankins is obviously now back at 100 percent and appears to have the early lead for the job ... at least for now.

"We have three or four guys we're looking at," Wyatt said. "All of them have had success returning punts in high school. We'll try to get them into some game environments and go from there.

However, Wyatt says the job won't be officially won until the Fall.

"We'll keep the competition open until our first game. We have some talented guys coming in. If one of them shows us they're the best return guy, especially with the ball in his hands, then he will have an opportunity to win the job.

"We're just looking for a guy who can make a play," Wyatt continued. "First of all, we've got have a guy that can catch the ball. Then we've got to have a guy who can make a play for us.

"The first priority is to catch the ball, but I need to get the ball into the hands of a guy who can do something with it after he catches the ball. We're looking for a guy that can make a play.

The Sooners will practice again Thursday at 3:30 on the practice fields directly South of Owen Field. OU will then get Friday through Sunday off for Easter weekend.


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