Norman, Okla. — It's football time again in Oklahoma.
The Sooners went through the first of 15 spring practices Tuesday in shorts, shoulder pads in helmets inside the Everest Indoor Training Center in Norman.
"It was good," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "It was about like you would expect. It was rusty and rough, but pretty good. Guys worked hard, and I liked their attitude.
"The practice was a little sloppy. There was a lot of correcting going on, but it's not unlike what we've had every spring. We always start out throwing a lot at them right off the bat.
Numbers Changes: Reggie Smith is No. 3, Brian Jackson is No. 2, Malcolm Kelly is No. 4, Joe Jon Finley is No. 19, Quentin Chaney is No. 84. New OU quarterback Joey Halzle was wearing No. 11.
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights and news and notes from practice.
Rhett Bomar looked to be in top physical condition in his first practice. He did undrewthrow some passes, but looked pretty good for the most part. He is up to 216 pounds.
We also got our first look at junior college transfer Joey Halzle, who has somewhat of a slingshot/windup throwing motion, but it gets the job done. Halzle doesn't have quite the arm strong Bomar does from what we saw today, but he did seem to be able to make all of the passes, and was impressive on slants and out routes.
"I thought Joey did a nice job," said Stoops. "He's a little bit rusty. He's just trying to get a feel for everything, but I thought he handled it pretty well and looked pretty good."
Back to Bomar, the sophomore talked briefly about his recent off-the-field issues and what he's learned about being in the spotlight.
"Yeah, I found that out and I made a mistake. But I really don't want to go into much talking about that. I just want to stick to football," Bomar said.
As for football, Bomar says he's coming into this spring feeling much more comfortable than this time last year.
"It's a lot different for me," said Bomar when asked to compare this spring to last spring. "I'm a lot more relaxed this spring. Last spring, I was in a three-way competition — every pass, every play, every scrimmage. You're always pressing.
"They looked at every pass of the whole spring last spring. They had stats and everything like that. Coming into this spring, I am the guy in this offense. I still go out and do my job and I work hard, but it's just a little more relaxing."
Bomar also talked about the leadership role he's looking to assume this spring.
"Yeah, there's no doubt I'm the leader of this offense. That's a fact. During the winter, I organized things and when we would go out and throw. We are working hard in the workouts and I'm just trying to lead by example and things like that.
"You have to take that leadership role. You have to take hold of it and go with it. Guys get confidence in you. I think everybody has confidence in me right now to go out and do my job. I just have to keep everybody going and keep our offense moving well."
With Jacob Gutierrez out due to injury, the Sooners are extremely thin at running back with just Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick. So, taking reps as the third running back today was fullback Matt Clapp.
"We're a little thin at running back without Jacob," Stoops said. "Matt's still a fullback, but occasionally at our one back, he can come in and spell those other guys."
So inserting Clapp at running back just isn't the cause of J.D. Runnels finally convincing them to give the fullback more carries?
"Hey, I always petitioned for J.D. to get carries, but the offensive coaches would never give in. I could never get those offensive coaches to buy in," Stoops joked.
As for Peterson, he's eager to go through his first spring 100 percent healthy.
"It feels good to go through the spring," Peterson said. "It is my first spring and it's fun being out here. Actually, I'm one of the older guys out there now. I have to try and show some leadership."
"I've got a lot of little things I need to work on. For instance, in the passing game I need to become a better pass blocker and I need to work on running routes and catching the ball. I've got good hands, I just need to convince them I have good hands."
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson worked with the first group today. They were replaced by Paul Thompson, Quentin Chaney, Eric Huggins and Fred Strong.
All in all, the receivers looked a little rusty today and dropped several passes. On one play, Malcolm Kelly broke free deep and had a perfect pass thrown to him by Halzle, but he dropped it. Eric Huggins got open several times, but also had a couple of drops.
At tight end, Aaron Cummings was held out of the practice with an injury, which gave most of the work to Joe Jon Finley and Brody Eldridge. Eldridge and Finley also worked at tackle to help provide depth on the depleted offensive line.
The first team offensive line today consisted of Ben Barresi at center, Sherrone Moore at right guard, Duke Robinson at left guard, Chris Messner at left tackle and Branndon Braxton at right tackle.
Chad Roark, Cameron Schacht and Sherrone Moore also took reps at center. Each of the centers also worked at guard.
Redshirt freshman Jesse White did not practice, which left the Sooners with just seven offensive linemen to work with so tight ends Joe Jon Finley and Brody Eldridge worked some at tackle.
We couldn't catch up with new OL coach James Patton after practice, so we talked to former line coach Kevin Wilson about the state of the line this spring.
"It's by committee," said Wilson. "We were at the bowl game with 11 healthy linemen and that was counting our scout team. Today we went with seven. Brody came over there as an extra guy, so that's eight practicing for us.
"Jesse White didn't go. He's still kinda in that back thing with the trainers. Our goal is to get him going this spring. If not, then we have to potentially look to see if he can ever play. But we're still trying to give him time to see how that works out.
"The fact we're replacing so many players is nothing new," Wilson continued. "Every year we replace players on the line. That's the state of offensive football, and that's the state of the offensive line."
Wilson also discussed the situation at center with starter Jon Cooper being held out this spring.
"We've got to settle the center position, because if we have a bunch of wasted snap issues it's a wasted pay. Basically, we have Barresi and Roark at center. We are also teaching Cameron Schacht and Sherrone Moore to snap so we'll have enough guys to snap in case something happens like last year when we had a broken hand issue.
"We are also trying Duke at guard and tackle and Barresi at guard as well as center. Sherrone Moore is playing guard as well as center. And Cameron is playing both guards. Messner and Braxton are tackles.
"We threw Brody Eldridge in a couple of plays at tackle. That was just to rest the tackles. He has to block a defensive end anyway at tight end, so he's getting reps there and just splitting time there. Joe Jon is still a developing young tight end and to have him in a blocking type situation, I think, he'll become a blocking type tight end and that will get him in a blocking mode."
As for practice, Duke Robinson looked very good at guard holding his own against OU's defensive tackles. He had a couple of great battles where he held off DeMarcus Granger. Chad Roark also looks to be an incredible fighter inside, and he drew several pats on the helmet from the coaching staff.
Carl Pendleton was held out of the practice, so it was Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman who lined up with the first team at defensive tackle. They were followed by DeMarcus Granger, Brian Simmons and Cordero Moore.
At defensive end, John Williams was also held out of practice. But one player who was at practice and back at 100 percent was Larry Birdine.
Birdine said he wasn't 100 percent in the Holiday Bowl, but he could still talk a good game.
"Yeah, I'm always going to run my mouth and what not," Birdine said. "They didn't know that I wasn't at full strength out there at the Holiday Bowl, so I had to get an edge on them somehow.
However, he says he will have no limitations in the drills he can go through this spring.
"I can do everything. I'm still trying to strengthen it (arm) and I'm still working on my flexibility, but as far as the main things in football I can do all that."
Birdine also talked about his decision to return for one more season, rather than declare for the NFL draft.
"God has a plan for me. Obviously, with the defensive ends that we have coming back this year we have a good group. But God told me I needed to stay in college another year, and I just need to take advantage of it and get better and be a leader on this football team."
Laenar Nixon may be down on the depth chart at defensive end, but he caught our eye today knocking down a pass and getting a sack during one series. Also, defensive end Alonzo Dotson is up to 252 pounds.
Zach Latimer will miss this spring with an injury, so that paved the way for Curtis Lofton to work with the first team at middle linebacker. Rufus Alexander and Ryan Reynolds also worked with the first team.
The second team consisted of Lamont Robinson at MLB, Demarrio Pleasant at SLB and Lewis Baker as the weakside linebacker.
OU's starting corners today were D.J. Wolfe and Reggie Smith. At safety, it was Darien Williams and Jason Carter.
Smith, who started at safety last season, is playing corner because of the injury to redshirt freshman Brian Jackson, who was impressive last fall on the scout team. Lendy Holmes also went through his first practice at corner and looked to have held his own.
"He looked good," said Stoops on Smith's move to corner. "It's not surprising that Reggie looks good at corner. It's not surprising to anyone."
Stoops also talked about the injured Jackson and Lendy Holmes' move from receiver to corner.
"Brian has had a cartilage tear and those usually heal up pretty good. We're expecting him to be back in the fall. I love what he did during the fall. I think Brian is going to be really good football player. But I also think for Lendy, corner fits him better. And for the little bit that he has been out there he has looked good."
Stoops was also impressed with the play and offseason progress of backup safety Keenan Clayton.
"Kennan looks good," Stoops said. "His testing results through the out-of-season were just incredible. He is a guy that's going to get a really good, strong look. We anticipate him being a factor at safety."
Clayton, Nic Harris and Quinton Carter worked as the backup safeties, while Holmes and Brett Bowers were the backup corners. Bowers, a former safety, also caught our eye and looked pretty good today.
Tuesday's Practice Report (3/21)
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