Sooner Spring Practice Report: Week One

Some of the biggest suprises, and perhaps some disappointments greet the Sooners' first week of Spring.

The Sooners are a week into practice and with the Easter holiday and the Final Four fury now out of the way, both coaches and players, (and fans!), can concentrate on the developments south of the stadium rebuilding project.

The OU Coaches are generally pleased with the first week of drills but will raise the bar some this week. Let's take a look at both the 'good news' and the 'bad news' so far:

OFFENSE: Biggest Plus: Jason White recovering slightly ahead of schedule and going through drills.  Biggest Question? What can Brent Rawls do for OU this year?  And also the subtle changes put in by coaches Long and Wilson. Will they pay big dividends?  Biggest disappointment: Kejuan Jones not practicing. 

O-LINE: Biggest positives: Jerod Fields, who played some at RT last year, is learning LT position and doing well.  Center Vince Carter is bigger, stronger, getting better and becoming a leader along the line.  He looks to add a bit more wieght and strength before the season starts. Several weeks ago OU Insider told you that Kevin Chaisson would be the surprise at LG, and that we predicted a start there for the redshirt freshman. And, after one week, his  play has not disappointed and he is indeed starting. Biggest negative is that LT Wes Sims is banged up.

RECEIVERS: Biggest Plus: Without question Will Peoples!  Peoples is having a huge spring and he's been nearly perfect so far.  Ataleo Ford has also shown the promise predicted for him at the slot.  Biggest negative: Brandon Jones splitting time baseball + football. Brandon would probably benefit from full time attention on football this spring. However, the coaches are fulfilling a recruiting promise and your word has to mean something if you're going to continue to build a championship program. Last year's surprise, Mark Clayton has been steady, but not spectacular.

RUNNING BACK: 'Q' is simply 'Q.'  Renaldo Works is bigger, (@ 226), and stronger. Donta Hickson catches the ball well, and gives the Sooners a powerful, fluid, slashing back.  Biggest negative: Kejuan Jones still not playing, due to disciple because of academics. If Jones decides to applly the effort on the books, he will be a star.  At H-back, Chris Toney  is steady, but the negative is that  Pinson has not yet practiced due to his knee injury.

QUARTERBACK: As mentioned, the early return of White gives the Sooners an unexpected positive. Although not yet ready to take contact, Jason has been steady and shown the leadership necessary at the position. Freshman Brent Rawls looks good, with enormous talent. There is no question that he has the strongest arm on the team. If Brent can shake the immaturity typical of a freshman, there is no limit to his future. Nate Hybl remains determined and still throws the short routes better than the other Sooner QB's.

DEFENSE: Biggest Plus: The development of quality depth in the DL and secondary. The addition of McGruder, and the stunning improvement of young secondary players made week one a success. Biggest Negatives: Dvoracek not able to participate in drills, and the nagging injury of Jawahn Poteat. Biggest Question: Can the Sooner defense be better this year?  Or, can the new and young linebackers step up?    The Sooners may be as good on defense next year, but the  losses of Calmus and Roy Williams will challenge the coaching staff to come up with answers in the next five months. In order to be a better unit, the linebackers must provide steady and sometimes even spectacular play. If they can learn the system and execute, the Sooner will indeed be the nation's best again next year.

DEFNESIVE END:  There are no negatives here! Another position where we've seen the steady development of outstanding depth.  The three ‘first teamers' are considerably bigger and stronger.  Jimmy Wilkerson, Dan Cody and Jonathon Jackson are all looking like stars. This is suddenly a strong position with Latimer coming in to provide depth this year much like Jackson did in 2001.  The return of Dan Cody is huge for the defense and will take the pressure off any possible injury here. 

DEFENSIVE LINE:  While Lynn McGruder is everything we expected, he is a bit rusty.  And Kory Klein has continued his steady play and simply will not surrender the position. In this case, the  competition has elevated the play of this entire unit. Because coach Jackie Shipp likes to rotate,  a top four is necessary in order for the defensive line to dominate in 2002. It's almost routine to see Tommie Harris excel. But he continues to improve and will be the unquestioned leader along the D-Line this fall.

LINEBACKER: The big worry a few months ago. Then junior college stars Pasha Jackson and Lance Mitchell dropped in to provide some relief in the mind of Brent Venables.  Those two are the biggest positives because it gives young players like Russell Dennison and Clint Ingram the time to learn and develop. The loss of Calmus leaves a huge gap. Teddy Lehman moves to take over the WLB spot, and while he's a better athlete,  with greater speed and strength, he's not a better football player than Rocky at this point. Rocky's instincts were simply the best seen in college ball in almost a decade.  At MLB, Lance Mitchell is further along than Torrence Marshall was at this point in his career, but it is unknown if he can keep the level of improvement necessary to make fans forget about Marshall. 

DEFENSIVE BACK - SAFETY:  Biggest positive: Strong Safety Eric Bassey! Bassey ran a team best 4.32 40 and has picked up his understanding of the defense.  But remember that he's young and will make mistakes in a position that magnifies a missed assignment.  As coaches search for a replacement for Roy Williams the see Bassey as a fluid, faster player, but at only 188 pounds, lacking the physical domination of Williams. However, so far, he has looked fabulous. Behind Bassey are Matt McCoy and Terrance S


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