3/24 Spring Football Practice Report

See inside for news and notes from Thursday's practice, including quotes from head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Senior linebacker Clint Ingram (pictured above) was impressive in the first practice in full pads of the spring.

The Sooners spent their first day in full pads outdoors for almost two hours Thursday afternoon on the practice fields just south of Memorial Stadium. OU opened spring ball on Tuesday indoors and held the first outdoor practice on Wednesday.

Bob Stoops and his assistants wasted no time in getting down to business as the inside drill and one-on-one passing drill opened the spirited practice.

In the one-on-one passing drill, freshman Rhett Bomar took first team snaps today, (all three quarterbacks currently alternate days at the one spot). Bomar threw short early, but adjusted and looked good throwing toward the end of the drills. Tommy Grady has a great connection with David Robinson, and Paul Thompson looked good on crossing routes.

On this day, Grady had the best day throwing out of the three, but Thompson and Bomar were both solid.

Bomar, at this point, looks the most comfortable in the quarterback run game. He's really fast when scrambling, and seems to take to it naturally. Bomar threw a great pass to freshman Fred Strong, with Lewis Baker defending step for step. However, Strong laid out and caught the strike. Strong also made another great catch later on a pass from Tommy Grady where D.J. Wolfe was right on top of him.

Three interceptions added a little edge to the drill, one each was snagged by Darrien Williams, Zach Latimer and the last by Jason Carter when Bomar threw into coverage.
It's a good thing Tristen Ross is back, as he is catching everything thrown his way, although he could probably stand to loose a little weight.

During the practice, sacks were recorded by Dusty Dvoracek and Larry Birdine and Cory Bennett joined those two in constantly putting pressure on the quarterbacks.

Regarding the QB race, Bob Stoops had little to add and his assessment of their play did not show any favorite.

"They seemed to do alright. You'll have to check with Coach Long. I'm back there probably paying more attention defensively and sometimes I don't know who even threw the ball. Of course, we watch the tape and go back and look at the other side."

Speaking of defense, among the younger standouts was Mesquite, Texas sophomore Darrien Williams, who ran both at nickel back and safety. Bob Stoops praised him after practice.

"Darrien Williams is a good football player. He's playing corner and safety for us. I would like to get him locked into one position — today he primarily played safety for us. He does a good job. He's a physical player yet he's got some corner skills as well."

Chijioke Onyenegecha and Eric Bassey both had good days at the corner position.

At linebacker, the brightest star today was probably Clint Ingram, who had four or five tackles and had a good inside drill, where he was both active and impressive. Brent Venables commented on Ingram after the session.

"Clint has obviously been playing this position for two years, and that in itself has been big for him. He's much more comfortable. He has a much better idea of what he needs to do, and he's a great athlete. And now that he has more confidence in his assignments — he's really turning it loose."

Junior to be Zach Latimer showed some needed toughness at the middle linebacker spot, fighting off the running backs as well Kelvin Chaisson, who worked at first team center, and backup center J.D. Quinn. Latimer seemed to show an aggressive side, which is needed at 230 pounds, twenty pounds shy of what Lance Mitchell played at last year.

After practice is was evident that Brent Venables also noticed Latimer's play.

"Zach really wants to be a good player. He studies hard and he has great instincts on how to play the game. When we put him at 'Mike' last year, a light went on and he just took to it. One thing was good about it, Zach knew that Lance was going to be the starting MLB and Zach became a student of the position and studied every move Lance made. Even though he didn't play a lot last year he worked so hard he became a much better player.

"He's very instinctive, quick. He's got a chance to be a very good player. (It was interesting that while Latimer was doing every thing possible to impress and try to win it the spot, newcomer Curtis Lofton was at practice today soaking up every bit of knowledge and asking questions. Obviously, indicating that he is serious about competing for the position in the fall).

Venables also praised Rufus Alexander.
"Rufus Alexander is becoming a very good football player. He's getting very close to being exactly what you want in a weakside linebacker. He has to be that guy that transitions us from the front end to back end in a wide space area. He can do both as he supports the run well, and he's also good in pass coverage. He's another one who wants to get better. He works at it, he asks questions and you can see continual improvement on his part."

Coach Stoops agreed about today's three line backing stars.

"I think Clint (Ingram) and Rufus (Alexander) have made a lot of plays here and they had pretty good years last season. Zach (Latimer) has looked good the past few days. We'll see who can step up and make the big plays and become the guy."

Stoops pointed out that D.J. Wolfe and Lewis Baker are making progress at their new positions.

"They looked good, they're fine. They still need polish but they have what it takes. I think they're out there making good progress in the few days we've been working."

Another star of the inside drill, where both sides win their share of battles, was sophomore to be Joe Jon Finley, who had a good drill as he was doing a great job on the outside linebacker and nickel back. The significance of that can not be overlooked, as the coaches have always known that Finley is perhaps their best gam breaking threat at tight end, but needed to improve his blocking technique, which can be a vital element of the tailback success off tackle. Blocking may not be his strong point, yet OU coaches would like to get him on the field if he can improve in that area. Today, he showed that he intends to get serious and make a difference there.

It was also fun to watch Dusty Dvoracek in the inside drill. He's working on his technique and showed great quickness, and was working with the ones today. (DD began the week with the 'three's). At DT, sophomore Carl Pendleton and senior to be Remi Ayodele started. Also showing huge signs of improvement was sophomore Steven Coleman, who suddenly is looking like a much better player.

Cody Freeby had another good day punting, (averaging about 44 yards kicking into a stiff wind). Right now, the starters on the punt unit include: Returners Jejuan Rankins and dynamite David Robinson, easily the smallest player on the field, but also the most electric. The upback behind J.D. Runnels was Lewis Baker.

Jacob Gutierrez had a great day and got a lot of carries, and Donta Hickson, who is now up to about 225 pounds, had an outstanding practice.

Kelvin Chaisson is still learning to deep snap, but all the QBs are such great athletes that they make up for his mistakes. Coaches are confident that a few more months of practice will be enough to get Chaisson into gameday form.

Brent Venables was asked how his defense is performing overall.

"We're doing good. Sometimes it's hard to tell when you're not bringing guys to the ground. Right now, we know we're in the general area, but I'd like to see if we look this good when we bringing them to the ground. I think were doing well in pass coverage. We seem to be on top of things, not letting receivers run free in the secondary. We made several plays today, both with interceptions and just getting our hands on the ball."

OU will take off Friday, Saturday and Sunday before returning to the practice field next Monday. The first scrimmage is set for next Saturday, April 2.

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