Wednesday's Spring Football Practice Report

Linebacker Zach Latimer (pictured right) is confident he can handle the job at middle linebacker.

NORMAN — The Oklahoma Football team worked out in full pads for the last time this spring before Saturday's Red-White game.

As has become a tradition under Bob Stoops, the last Wednesday practice is also the last contact workout before the spring game, and today was no different as there was plenty of hard-hitting going on.

Overall, it looked like to us that the offense had a great day against the defense. In fact, the OU coaches made the defense run sprints after the workout while the offense was sent home.

"I was pretty pleased with both sides, but I think the offense had a good day," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "But I thought the defense made some plays too.

The offense also seemed to take more deep shots today in the passing game than usual, and it paid off with several big plays.

"That wasn't necessarily by design," Stoops said. "But we were probably trying to force it to see how our safeties are doing. We still have some work to do back there."

See below for a position-by-position look at the highlights from today's practice.

Quarterbacks
All of the quarterbacks had their moments, but in our opinion it was Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar who stood out among the three.

Thompson, by far, had his best day of the spring throwing the ball, but Bomar wasn't too far behind. Thompson, more so than in any practice this spring, looked for the deep ball and had some success.

Thompson did throw one interception, but bounced right back to hit Travis Wilson on a post pattern for a 60-70 yard touchdown. Thompson also looked great throwing short, as he hit Tristen Ross for a 35-yard gain on a slant pass.

In the two minute drill, Bomar connected with Jejuan Rankins twice for touchdowns, and also scrambled for two different times in the third and long situations of the practice.

Bomar also scrambled on one red zone drill play and might've scored, as he had turned the corner and was headed for the corner of the end zone. However, the whistle was blown before he could get there as Jason Carter was closing fast to prevent the touchdown.

Bomar also showed some swagger that we liked on Wednesday. After one play where Larry Birdine was talking in his face after a sack, Bomar had some words for the defensive end and pushed him away, which prompted Birdine to say, "The Rook's talking noise! The Rook's talking noise!"

As for Grady, the sophomore hit on a couple of nice plays, but should've been picked off twice on back-to-back plays in the two minute drill. Grady did hit Joe Jon Finley for a touchdown in the red zone drill and Wilson in the seven-on-seven drill for a TD. Grady also threw a perfect deep pass that was dropped by David Robinson.

One note about Saturday's QB rotation for the Red-White: Bob Stoops said after practice that Paul Thompson will start the game with the first team offense, and they'll rotate the quarterbacks from there.

"They're all going to play about the same," Stoops said. "I don't pay attention to who goes first or whatever. They're all going to play about the same like we've done every scrimmage."

"All of them will get equal possessions," said Chuck Long. "How they end up with reps is how well they do on the field. If one of the guys takes the team on a long drive he'll get a few more reps. They could also lose reps if a running back breaks a long run or they throw a long pass."

Running Backs/Fullbacks
Even without Adrian Peterson, it was still a pretty good day for running backs Kejuan Jones and Donta Hickson.

On one drive, Jones broke runs of 12, 6 and 14 yards, while Hickson had several 8 and 9-yard runs.

One note about Hickson: The Texas native, who has always been a great practice player, hasn't fumbled the ball once this spring.

"We're not afraid to play Hickson," said RB coach Cale Gundy. "If we had to play Donta Hickson, he's a winning football player."

Jacob Gutierrez had one nice run when he turned the corner on a stretch play and picked up about 20 yards. Dane Zaslaw looked good catching two passes out of the backfield in the seven-on-seven drills.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The battle between Lendy Holmes and Quentin Chaney for the third starting receiver spot has subsided for now, as Chaney has started with the first unit now for the last four practices. However, Holmes is always the first receiver to sub in at receiver on the first team.

Tristen Ross sprained his wrist in practice on Monday and was seen wearing a soft cast, but that was gone today and he had a great practice turning one slant pattern into a big gain and making another tough catch over the middle as he was sandwiched by a pair of linebackers.

Travis Wilson ran by the secondary twice for big plays, and Quentin Chaney also made some nice catches over the middle.

Jejuan Rankins had the play of the day in the two minute drill, when he dove for a perfectly thrown pass by Rhett Bomar and made the catch despite being covered by a linebacker, corner and safety in the end zone. Darrell Wyatt celebrated the play by giving Rankins a high-five.

Offensive Linemen
The Sooners continued to work the same first team offensive line they have since the Monday after the first scrimmage.

J.D. Quinn, who struggled again on two or three snaps as the second team center today, seems to be making a move at guard as he rotated with Chris Chester on the first team.

"He's a player," said Kevin Wilson. "We still like him at center. And he's competing with Chester at guard. He's playing well."

Wilson also talked about the progress of freshman guard Ben Barresi, who has managed to stay on the second team at guard.

"Ben's a good player. He's going to be really good. He battles and fights hard. I like him. He's got a good future with us."

Chester, who has maintained his starting position at guard this spring despite the progress of Quinn, talked about his new role after moving over from tight end.

"I think I've found a home," said Chester. "I think I like the fact too that I'm getting a chance to be a starter. I'm at least in the competition to be the starter. I've always been a guy that's been a good blocker. I'm just blocking at guard instead of tight end."

"I've always liked to block, but I'm part of a unit now," Chester continued. "The linemen are together more than anyone and they've made me feel like a linemen. I just need to get a little bigger. When we go out, I'll be able to grab the last pizza slice because I need to put on more weight."

So how much is Chester weighing now?

"I weigh about 290. My goal is to get to 310 by the time two-a-days roll around because I'll lose back to 295, and I want to play at 295."

Defensive Linemen
One of the big surprises this spring has been Steven Coleman at defensive tackle. Coleman, who started again on Wednesday along with Carl Pendleton, appears to have worked his way into Jackie Shipp's top three.

Dusty Dvoracek and Remi Ayodele, who had a nice practice with two quarterbacks pressures, worked with the second team.

As for Wednesday's practice, as we stated above it wasn't a good day for the defense. And after practice, Shipp had his unit doing up-downs in addition to the sprints.

At defensive end, it was Birdine and Alonzo Dotson working as the starters with C.J. AhYou and Calvin Thibodeaux also working in for first team reps.

Linebackers
Clint Ingram didn't pick off a pass on Wednesday, but he was close on one play and tested several times.

However, on one play Ingram blitzed off the edge and beat Davin Joseph for a sack, which was the first time we've seen Joseph get beat on a passing play this spring. Demarrio Pleasant also had a sack today on a blitz.

Zach Latimer seems to be settling into his middle linebacker spot nicely, and after practice the Colorado native talked about his new home.

"I think it's good because I really can flow to the football," Latimer said. "You can just roam and run to the football. It's not like I don't run into people, but at defensive end I'm taking on somebody. At middle linebacker, depending on how I play it, I can flow to the football and get there. It just came natural to me.

"At defensive end, I was getting double-teamed or going up against a 310-pound offensive tackle. At linebacker, I don't always take on linemen. I can do that and win if I need to, but if I read the play right I should be ahead of the play and I can make a lot of tackles."

Latimer also addressed the issue of his size.

"I think I'm going to be very good. I'm bigger and stronger than people think. I hear all the time that size is my problem. I weigh 230 pounds. I'm not a weakling in there. Bring it on.

"If they wan to run at Carl, Dusty and me, bring it. I hope every team tries to do that because we're going to win every game. I guarantee they won't do that."

Secondary
For the first time this spring, D.J. Wolfe started the workout at corner and spent a majority of the practice with the first team over Chijioke Onyenegecha.

The move to the second team seemed to inspire Onyenegecha, who had a great practice. Chijioke jumped a quick slant and almost had an interception. He also fought through several defenders to stuff a screen play to Donta Hickson. Eric Bassey had the only interception of the day when he picked off Paul Thompson.

The safeties, however, didn't have as much luck as they were beaten deep several times. Bobby Jack Wright was in rare form today as he was in the secondary players' faces even when they thought they made a good play.

On one play, Darrien Williams made a play cutting in front of a receiver over the middle and should've picked off a pass. Williams celebrated the play, but Wright was quick to get after him for not making the interception.

Williams and Lewis Baker worked as the starters at safety. Tony Cade looked good covering the short routes, as he was in position to deliver several massive hits on running backs catching the ball out of the backfield.

Special Teams
Oklahoma revealed two new punters today. That's right, it was Bobby Jack Wright and Bob Stoops who served as the punters during the punt block drill. But don't worry, that was only the case because Blake Ferguson was nicked up in the punt block drill last season.

The Sooners also worked on covering kick-offs. Jason Carter, Fred Strong, Jowahn Poteat, Eric Bassey, Russell Dennison, Clint Ingram, Lewis Baker, Lendy Holmes, D.J. Wolfe and Tony Cade were the starters on that group.


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