The Oklahoma football team returned to the practice field in full pads Monday after taking the last three days off.
The Sooners started off practice going through their normal cycle of individual drills on the practice fields, before moving inside the stadium for some situational scrimmaging.
"Today was the first day we scrimmaged a little bit, or team tackling," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. "Every team needs some contact. Even though we don't want to get anybody hurt, we try not to go hard below the waste.
"I thought overall the play was good. We've got good team speed. It was a little sloppy, but it always is the first time out there."
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from today's practice. Again, please realize if we don't mention a player it's not because they weren't at practice or didn't play well.
Once again, it's hard to look at the three quarterbacks and pick one out as performing the best on any given day, and that was the case again on Monday. However, if you forced me to pick one quarterback today, it would be Rhett Bomar.
Not only did the redshirt freshman from Grand Prairie, Texas look great throwing the ball, he looked fantastic running it. On one play, Bomar showed a dimension he brings that previous quarterbacks at OU haven not. He dropped back to pass, nothing was open so he took off up the middle, split the safeties and might have scored as he was being chased down by Eric Bassey as the whistle was blown.
In the passing game, Bomar looked great hooking up with Lendy Holmes on a post route for a touchdown, and also almost connecting with Tristen Ross, who dropped a perfectly thrown pass, that would've been for a touchdown.
Bomar also threw the out routes well, finding Fred Strong open on the sideline twice. Bomar also looked good directing the two minute drill, where he hit Bubba Moses in the middle of the zone for a 22-25 yard gain, and then connecting on another out route to Strong.
"I feel good about what I've done so far," Bomar said after practice. "I know the offense and that hasn't been any problem stepping in. Getting used to the speed of the defense has been an adjustment, especially when you've got a guy like Dusty (Dvoracek) and Larry (Birdine) coming straight at you. But I think I'm making the adjustment, and I think I've played well."
Once again, we can't state enought how close this race is to call, as both Paul Thompson and Tommy Grady also had their moments on Monday.
Grady threw the only interception of the day that we saw, in the one-on-one passing drills, but bounced back in the team drills and situational scrimmage.
In the skelly drills, Grady made two nice completions, one to Ross on a 20-yard curl route, and the other to Joe Jon Finley for a 15-yard touchdown on a post route. The sophomore from California then hit Ross for an 18-yard gain, and also showed his mobility in the team drill rolling out and hitting Finley for a nice gain. Grady also hit Finley for a 25-yard touchdown on a post route later in the practice.
Thompson also threw the ball well while also = showing his ability to get out and run. On one play, Thompson scrambled to the outside and even initiated contact with defensive end John Williams, even though he knew he was not supposed to be tackled, showing the intensity that he has to earn the position.
After practice, Thompson talked his progress and how watching Jason White and Nate Hybl battle for the quarterback job is helping him this spring.
"I've already seen how this works firsthand," Thompson said. "I saw how intense it was with Nate and Jason where every single pass, every single film session, and walking to class was part of the competition. I realize what it takes to be the quarterback here. All of us are trying to do something that might give us the edge. It's intense to be the quarterback at Oklahoma, but that's what it takes.
"I think thing's are beginning to come together really well," Thompson continued. "I like how our offense is developing. We still have a ways to go, but I feel confident in us moving the ball. I think I'm throwing it really well. I'm throwing it a lot better than I did last year at this time. In my opinion, I am a lot better quarterback than last year. I feel very confident running this offense and throwing the ball."
Monday was a great day for Kejuan Jones. Jones, who seems to be solidifying himself as Adrian Peterson backup, looked very quick today and even broke a 55-yard run outside off the right edge in the team drills.
Donta Hickson also had a nice practice running hard and one nice 22-yard gain on a screen pass from Bomar, but it was Jacob Gutierrez who had perhaps the 'ooh' and 'ahh' play of the day.
On the 15-yard and in portion of the situational work, Gutierrez took the hand-off inside, cut outside, juking four Sooner defenders in the process and scoring easily as the players on the sideline went nuts.
At fullback, it looks like Russell Dennison is beginning to make some strides. He caught two passes out of the backfield and looked good doing it.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
You've pretty much read above (in the quarterback notes) who did what today.
The starters at receiver in the situational work inside the stadium was Travis Wilson, Jejuan Rankins and Quentin Chaney.
However, Fred Strong and Lendy Holmes also appear to be stepping up and had good practices today. Strong, who seems to get better and better every day, always seems to be open on 15-yard out routes down the field.
At tight end, it was a great day for Joe Jon Finley. As you read above, Finley made two touchdown grabs and caught several other passes. Bubba Moses also caught one pass over the middle in zone coverage for a big gain.
Oklahoma started the team drills inside the stadium with the same starting lineup they've used all spring: Davin Joseph and Akim Millington at tackle, Kelvin Chaisson at center, and Chris Bush and Chris Chester at guard.
J.D. Quinn worked some at center for the first time and struggled some with blocking his man after the snap. Quinn also struggled with the deep snap in the shotgun, but who wouldn't in their first try as a center? Bush had the pancake of the practice when he smothered Chijioke Onyenegecha on a running back screen pass.
New defensive end coach Chris Wilson has talked about getting reps for his younger players, and that was the case today with John Williams and Alonzo Dotson getting a ton of reps.
In the team drill portion of practice inside the stadium, it was Williams and Dotson who drew the start, with Williams having a great practice. Wilson said that it appears Williams is beginning to learn his assignments better and positive things are starting to happen as he is beginning to make more and more plays.
After Larry Birdine, Williams and Dotson on the first team, it was C. J. AhYou, Alan Davis and Laenar Nixon working in for reps with the second unit.
At defensive tackle, it was Remi Ayodele and Carl Pendleton on the first team, but that didn't stop Dusty Dvoracek.
On two consecutive plays, Dvoracek made his precence felt in the team drills blowing up a center snap and forcing a fumble. On the next play, he teamed up with AhYou to pressure the quarterback and force a quick pass and incompletion.
Not much new here, especially with the Sooner defense working a lot on their nickel packages today.
When the OU defensive went to the nickel, it was Zach Latimer and Rufus Alexander in the lineup. However, Clint Ingram also got a chance to work in the nickel and drew praise more and more praise from the coaches as the practice went along for his ability to defend in coverage.
One interesting development at practice today was the emergence of Darrien Williams at safety.
Jason Carter had been working with Lewis Baker on the first team at safety, but today it was Williams, and not Tony Cade, who rotated with Carter.
"He's very much in the mix there," said Stoops on Williams playing safety. "Don't rule him out possibly even starting at one of the safety spots for us. He's a good football player and he's a kind of player we need to get on the field."
Not a bad vote of confidence coming from the head ball coach.
"That position's coming along well," Stoops said on the battle at safety. "I feel like that position is going to be in good hands. They are a very intricate part of our defense. The safety position is very important to us. Well find the right two players to play there."
When OU went to their nickel defense, it was Williams and Carter at safety and Lewis Baker as the nickel back.
After practice, Baker talked about the move and the coaches' confidence to immediately place him atop the depth chart, despite the fact he hadn't played the position before.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself," Baker said. "Obviously, it make me feel good that they have that kind of confidence in me. The coaches have always been great with me. I hope to show them there confidence in me is well worth it.
"To be honest, it's not as difficult as I thought it would be," said Bake on the move. "The main problem for me is I have a defensive mentality. My first inclination is to run downhill, and I need to remember to back-peddle. I think I'm doing well covering people. I don't really thing that's a problem for me. I wouldn't say the position is second nature for me, but every rep I'm getting better and better."
Baker also feels good about his current weight. Last year, the Lewisville, Texas native had finally put on the weight he needed to play linebacker before getting mono during the offseason.
"That was real frustrating," said Baker. "Everybody knows that I have trouble putting on weight, but I got up to 225 and was getting where I needed to be, and then I got mono. Man, talk about something I hope nobody else gets. I actually went under 200 pounds and there was nothing I could about it.
"Then I tried to work in the summer and it takes a long time to get your energy back. I think I got up to 212 by the time two-a-days rolled around, and then two-a-days just took that away from me, so they redshirted me so I could heal. I hated it at first, but I think it's turned out to be the best thing for me.
"I weigh 207 pounds now. I feel strong and feel like this is my natural weight. I feel like this is really a good position for me."
At cornerback, it was another good day for Chijioke Onyenegecha. Chijioke had one bad play in coverage, but responded with the only interception of the practice.
Onyenegecha also showed his ability to adapt and learn how to react to the the offense. On one screen pass, Chijioke was pancaked by Chris Bush on a running back screen pass, but when the offense went back to the screen pass several plays later when, he blew up the block and stopped the play.
Eric Bassey ran alongside Onyenegecha on the first team, with Jowahn Poteat and D.J. Wolfe backing them up.
Speaking of Wolfe, the converted running back seems to make a great play every practice. Today, Wolfe was beaten by Rankins on a out route near the goal line, but recovered and was able to bat down the pass, saving a touchdown.
It was another good day for punter Cody Freeby, who continues to have a great spring. Freeby was booming the ball so far Monday the punt returners, who were supposed to be working on their technique catching punts, were forced to run back several yards just to catch the ball.
Garrett Hartley also worked on punting today, just in case he's needed in an emergency situation. And once again, Freeby worked as Hartley's holder on field goals.
Jejuan Rankins, Lendy Holmes, Travis Wilson, David Robinson and Jacob Gutierrez worked on punt returns. Chijioke Onyenegecha and Eric Bassey were the rushers off the edge on the field goal block team.
OU will take tomorrow off before returning to the practice fields at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
3/28 Spring Football Practice Report
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