All eyes were on the quarterbacks during Oklahoma's 83-play scrimmage on Saturday, but it was the defense who impressed the most.
In total 18 drives, the Sooner defense gave up just four touchdowns. The first team defense gave up one sustained drive for a touchdown and one in the red zone portion of the scrimmage.
In the full-field portion of the scrimmage, the first team defense gave up only one sustained scoring drive, allowed the offense to cross mid-field only twice, while the second team gave up two sustained scoring drives.
"I thought they did pretty well understanding formations, who was in the game and down and distance," said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "And I thought we did did it with some consistency today over a good amount of time."
"We had one drive that they scored on where we committed three penalties on third down where we would've been able to get off the field. We need to play smart football. We put them in some tough situations in the red zone and on the goal line, and then in the long-yardage. It was good to see how we reacted."
Overall, OU head coach Bob Stoops was pleased with the scrimmage.
"I thought the scrimmage went very well," Stoops said. "First and foremost, we didn't have any major injuries and the guys competed hard.
"Obviously, you see good and bad things on both sides of the ball. That was the same today, but I thought our offense made some plays, yet our defense had some big hits."
See below for a position-by-position review of Saturday's scrimmage.
All eyes were on the quarterbacks, and two of the three stepped up in a major way.
Rhett Bomar led two scoring drives, one against the first team defense, while Tommy Grady led the other two scoring drives against the second team defense.
Grady, who showed why he has the best arm of the three quarterbacks, was impressive from the outset, completing his first three passes and nearly connecting on one deep ball to Jejuan Rankins.
Grady finished the day 9-of-14 for 88 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His touchdown pass came against the second team defense, when hit tight end Willie Roberts over the middle, who then made an acrobatic dive for the end zone to cap the 29-yard score.
The sophomore from California threw the only interception of the practice, but it was a perfectly thrown pass over the middle that went through Rankins' hands and was caught by Lewis Baker.
Back to Bomar, the redshirt freshman missed his first three passes, but quickly rebounded and led the first team offense to the only scoring drive of the day against the first team defense.
Bomar and the first team offense were helped by three pass interference calls on third down during the drive, but once they crossed the 50-yard yard line the Grand Prairie, Texas native took over hitting Rankins twice and Chaney on a quick out for a 15-yard score.
"I felt good," said Bomar on his performance. "I felt I led out there good and the guys followed me well. We got a little fired up on those touchdowns drives and wanted to get it in the end zone. In the scrimmages, I think your fire comes out and you start playing and leading like it's a game.
"At the very first, I think I missed on my first three throws," Bomar continued. "They were shaky, but after that I started moving the ball and had fun. I got into a groove on those two long touchdown drives. It's easy to get into a groove when you have long drives. Most of the time we're switching out (quarterbacks) every drive, but when you get into those long drives we were able to have some fun."
"That certainly helps," said offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Chuck Long when asked if today's scrimmage helped Bomar's chances. "That's part of the evaluation. When there are people in the stands, and when you have a live scrimmage, that certainly helps. It puts Rhett in a good situation for the future."
Paul Thompson, who completed just 7 of his 17 pass attempts for 40 yards, struggled with is accuracy and was nearly intercepted twice.
"I thought that I struggled at times, but overall we did well as an offense," said Thompson. "There are a couple of areas where I think we could've done better, but it's the first scrimmage and guys are getting used to their positions more an more. We have something to build on and will do a lot better in the future."
Chuck Long talked about the performance of the group after the scrimmage.
"For the most part, I thought we had some nice sustained drives and I thought our guys did pretty good," said Long. "As far as the progress of the quarterbacks, we are looking to see how guys respond.
"Offensively today, our coaching staff today was purposely quiet. We wanted to see what kind of leadership we have right now. I think we need to get our reads quicker today and we need much better huddle control.
"I thought the big thing today was that they did not turn the ball over," Long continued. "That's what you look for with three inexperienced guys in scrimmages and practice situations. For the entire camp, they have really protected the ball well, and that showed up today. That is a big plus. The reads and all those different things will happen in time."
Stoops also commented on the quarterback race.
"All three of them made some outstanding plays," Stoops said. "I don't think they put us into too many negative positions. We have three guys there who are very, very talented. It's a great position for us to be in. The competition is far from over. There were good things with all three."
This group will look at lot better in the fall with the return of Adrian Peterson, but they certainly didn't look bad today. In fact, all three had their moments.
Kejuan Jones didn't get as many reps as Donta Hickson or Jacob Gutierrez, but he had the longest run of the day with a 15-yard touchdown run during the red zone drill.
Hickson, who was OU's leading rusher with 50 yards on 14 carries, looked very quick and strong running the ball up the middle. On his best run of the day, a 13-yarder on a shotgun draw up the middle, he ran over safety Tony Cade.
And then there is Gutierrez, who continued to show today why so many people compare him to Quentin Griffin. Gutierrez finished with 30 yards on 10 carries, but it was his dazzling 10-yard run where he cut outside to avoid the clogged up middle and dove to the 1-yard yard line, that set up his 1-yard touchdown run up the middle on the very next play.
At fullback, it was J.D. Runnels getting most of the reps with the first unit. Runnels also made one nice 5-yard catch out of the backfield on third down to help move the chains.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jejuan Rankins, Travis Wilson, Quentin Chaney and Lendy Holmes got the majority of the work with the first team on Saturday.
Rankins led the way with five catches for 45 yards, but didn't catch a perfectly thrown pass by Grady that went through his hands for an interception. Rankins also made a nice catch on a curl route, but fumbled the ball trying to pick up extra yardage. Other than those two miscues, Rankins looked very quick and elusive. He even burned Chijioke Onyenegecha deep early in the scrimmage, but Grady's throw landed just past Rankins' outstretched hands.
"Rankins had a couple of plays get away from him, but he battled back and made some competitive catches over the middle," said OU receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. "He's a tough guy and I'm really encouraged by his progress at this point."
Redshirt freshman Quentin Chaney, who finished with two catches for 23 yards, had the highlight of the scrimmage when he caught a quick out pass from Bomar at the 10-yard line, juked two defenders, and then sprinted and dove at the goal line for the touchdown.
"I saw some young guys really step up today and make some plays in front of a good sized crowd," said Wyatt. "Obviously, we've talked about Quentin Chaney and the potential he has. He has really improved and I think he had a chance to demonstrate that today. He can really catch the ball and make a play after the catch."
"Lendy Holmes made a couple of plays. I thought all of the young guys stepped up and made some plays. We didn't get as many opportunities for Travis, but I think we all know what he is capable of doing."
Holmes caught three passes for 21 hards, while fellow redshirt freshman Fred Strong added 15 yards on two catches. Tristen Ross also recorded two catches for 15 yards.
Willie Roberts led the tight ends with three catches for 46 yards, including his 29-yard touchdown pass from Grady against the second team defense. Bubba Moses caught two passes for 14 yards, while Joe Jon Finley added one catch for 10 yards.
It wasn't a bad day for the offensive line, unless you played center. Once again, OU's centers (Kelvin Chaisson and J.D. Quinn) struggled snapping the football.
Whether the snap was too high or low, it happened too many times to count and clearly disrupted the offense on several occasions. Nevertheless, Wilson says he's not giving up Chaisson and Quinn.
"I'm not going to do a whole with that center position," Wilson said. "I'm forcing Kelvin and J.D. to do it, but I know (Chris) Chester and Chris Bush have probably done it more through the last year and a half. They might be better right now, but I think, for Kelvin, that is his best spot and that he might be our best guy.
"We may need J.D. a year from now when all those guys graduate. I know he can be a guard, and that's what I was just talking to him about after the scrimmage. We're not going to be negative about him at center because we know he can be a guard.
Wilson also touched on the overall performance of his line.
"You've seen some practices, you know that's not our best day out there," Wilson told the media. "We weren't very good. They (running backs) went sideways too much. We threw the ball a whole lot and I think we got soft on our protections.
"We had just too many sideways plays. We had our backs running sideways instead of cutting up the field. You all talk about Peterson and his cutbacks, but he probably lost 150 yards thorough the year trying to go sideways. We need to just stick it in there and get one or two (yards). A 1-yard play is better than a minus 2-yard play."
Starting on the first team defense Saturday was Larry Birdine and Alonzo Dotson at defensive end and Carl Pendleton and Remi Ayodele at tackle. C.J. AhYou also worked some with the first team at end, and just about all of the tackles got reps with the first unit in Jackie Shipp's rotation.
After watching today's scrimmage, it's safe to say that Dusty Dvoracek is back. We're not going to tell you that he was unblockable, but he led the defensive tackles with six tackles and four sacks, two on consecutive, and was constantly in the backfield.
After the scrimmage, Brent Venables talked about Dvoracek's day and the fact that he still hasn't cracked the starting lineup.
"What we're doing is working him into the rotation," said Venables. "We need to do that because we're a football team, not just a team of individuals. While Dusty missed last year, there were a lot of other guys that worked hard and played hard while he was gone. We're working him back in because those other guys deserve an opportunity to play as well."
"Common sense tells you he is going to play a bunch," Venables continued. "Dusty understands it more than any player we have ever had in this program — that to keep the camaraderie of this team together we need to ease him back slowly. Today, he was dominant. And on most Saturday's, he is going to be dominant. Dusty is having a great time just being part of the group."
Remi Ayodele also did well stopping the run with four tackles and one sack. Steven Coleman also impressed with two tackles. Alonzo Dotson and Carl Pendleton each batted down one pass at the line of scrimmage.
If you're worried about OU's linebackers, don't. In Zach Latimer, Rufus Alexander, Clint Ingram and Demarrio Pleasant, the Sooners have four studs.
Today, it was Latimer who led the defense with nine tackles and one pass breakup that was nearly intercepted when he jumped in front of a Thompson pass over the middle. Alexander finished with seven tackles, while Pleasant, who was a beast shutting down the outside for the second team, also added seven tackles and one sack.
Clint Ingram finished with six tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup, which drew rave reviews from Venables.
"He plays so hard," said Venables. "He has so much explosion. The energy that he has, the attitude, the bite-down mentality that he brings to the team — he is a lot of fun to watch and coach. Our defense needs that.
"If Clint doesn't have all that energy, he's just a guy. He understands that. He has to make sure that what he does is not just play hard on days that he feels good, but that he plays hard all the time. That's been his nature."
On one play, Ingram showed his versatility stepping outside from his outside linebacker spot and nearly picking off a Paul Thompson pass while covering a receiver on a corner blitz.
"The progress he has made in that area has been remarkable," Venables said. "It has allowed him to be a better football player and somebody that we can trust more and more. In regards to personnel in passing situations, he is just a great blitzer, has great range from sideline to sideline, and he is good and smart in space. He had all those things in the past, but he wasn't as smart as he needed to be. Now his progress is coming from experience with his brains as much as his body."
One of the best hits of the scrimmage came from walk-on linebacker Ian Pleasant, who filled the hole nicely and stuffed Donta Hickson in his tracks on one running play.
Other than the quarterback spot, the secondary was probably the second-most watched position on Saturday.
For the most part, the first team secondary played well, as you certainly didn't see receivers running wide open down the field all day. Lewis Baker looked great at safety, picking off one tipped pass and recording six tackles. Baker also looked quick blitzing off the edge.
One player who has moved into the starting the lineup during the last week is Darrien Williams. Williams, who spent most of his time at corner a year ago, started alongside Lewis Baker today at safety and was solid.
"He has made as much progress as anybody on our team in the short amount of time that he's been there," said Vebables. "We have been really, really surprised and happy. We needed that to happen. He is a good football player, a physical player. He has good range and ran a 4.4. At the safety position, that is what we are looking for.
"We just didn't know if he would be able to pick things up as quickly as we like. He did well at corner, but we felt like we were thin at safety. We're trying to figure out a way to get our best players on the field, and we have not been disappointed with Darrien at this point. I know Bobby Jack Wright and Bob are excited about his progress.
"Without question, Darrien has a chance to win that job," said Stoops. "He's a good football player. We played him at both corner and safety, but we think he had found a home at safety. The competition is wide open anyway. That's another position that it's a long way to go."
Also getting some reps with the first team at safety when OU went to the nickel package was Tony Cade. Cade also worked with the second team, along with Jason Carter and Brett Bowers.
At corner, it was Chijioke Onyenegecha and Eric Bassey on the first team followed by D.J. Wolfe and Jowahn Poteat.
Onyenegecha seemed to have most of the action thrown his way today, but was only beaten badly once on a pass that was incomplete. For the most part though, he covered well and led the corners with six tackles.
"What's important to me is lining up right, playing the run and back-pedaling," said Onyenegecha. "I felt alright about today. I had a few busts, but everybody makes mistakes. I am just trying to progress day by day and get better. I'm just trying to play technique right and break on balls."
D.J. Wolfe looked very good at corner for the second team with four tackles, and even drew some comments from Stoops after the scrimmage.
"He is right in the mix for a starting job," said Stoops. "He's a very good athlete who brings a lot to the table. He has all the intangibles you need to find in a corner. He very well could end up being a starter for us, but that will be proven in time. He's got some very good players he's competing against."
"I loved it," said Wolfe on his first scrimmage as a cornerback. "I loved the fans out here. I thought on defense we did pretty well. I'm feeling good. Chijioke is in front of me and is good guy, but we are out here and compete and I feel it's my job to get the starting job."
Garrett Hartley was impressive in the pre-scrimmage warm-ups booming one field goal from 60-yards.
However, when the rush came on in the scrimmage Hartley went 8-for-12 with a long of 55-yards. He missed once from 32 and three times from 52.
Cody Freeby's first punt only went 40-yards, but from that point on he was impressive booming punts of 45 (twice), 50 and 54-yards.
Travis Wilson and Jejuan Rankins worked as the first team kick returners with Jacob Gutierrez and Lendy Holmes backing them up. On punt returns, it was Rankins and Holmes. There was no live tackling on either punt or kick returns.
On kick-offs, Hartley was solid booting one five-yards deep into the end zone and several others to the goal line or close to it.
Quentin Chaney: 15-yard pass from Bomar
Gutierrez: 1-yard run
Roberts: 29-yard pass from Grady
Jones: 15-yard run
Gutierrez: 10-30, 1 TD
Grady: 9-14-88 1 TD (29), 1 INT
Bomar: 10-16-84 1 TD (15)
Roberts: 3-46, TD (29)
Chaney: 2-23, TD (15)
Latimer - 9 tackles, 1 PBU (pass breakup)
Alexander - 7 tackles
Pleasant - 7 tackles, 1 sack
Baker - 6 tackles, 1 INT (10-yard return)
Dvoracek - 6 tackles, 4 sacks
Ingram - 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU
Onyenegecha - 6 tackles
D. Pleasant - 6 tackles
Ayodele - 4 tackles, 1 sack
Cade - 4 tackles
Wolfe - 4 tackles
Birdine - 3 tackles
Ah You - 2 tackles
Carter - 2 tackles
Coleman - 2 tackles
McGrath - 2 tackles
Williams - 2 tackles
Bennett - 1 tackle
Luna - 1 tackle
Poteat - 1 tackle
Williams - 1 tackle
Dotson - 1 PBU
Pendleton - 1 PBU
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