Blue skies and the best weather of the season greeted the Oklahoma Sooners as they held their first scrimmage on Owen Field this spring. The 60-play, hour long scrimmage focused on basic plays and situations.
Rhett Bomar looked sharp on his out routes and crossing patterns, really throwing only one bad pass all afternoon. The scrimmage stats showed him 10-of-19 for 106 yards with one interception, but several of those incompletions were drops by the receivers and the interception came on a pass that bounced out of the arms of Paul Thompson and into the hands of linebacker Ryan Reynolds.
Backup Joey Halzle had his best workout of the spring, hooking up with Fred Strong on a 50-yard reception in the longest play of the day. Halzle was 6-for-8 for 83 yards and threw the ball much more sharply on his out routes than in the previous practice on Friday.
Both players worked a lot on bootleg plays, with Halzle closing a red-zone situation drive with a five-yard TD run. Bomar ran one quarterback draw and kept on the outside twice.
With the situation night and day from last spring – no competition for the starting job, Bomar was pleased with his performance and the performance of the offense in the scrimmage.
"It felt good, you know. We finally got some nice weather. We had some mistakes out there, we've got some young guys up front and we're still trying to piece things together on the offense as a whole, but I thought they did a good job overall and it was a successful first scrimmage" said Bomar. "We ran a lot of boots today and I like that, get out of the pocket and make a play with your feet or throw it down the field, so that will be good for us."
"I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last spring. That's obvious with a year under my belt."
With little depth in the backfield, Adrian Peterson joined the quarterbacks in wearing the blue jersey, signifying that he was off limits to contact. That didn't stop Peterson from dazzling the crowd with a spin move in front of D.J. Wolfe that sent him racing down the sideline. It was impossible to assess since defenders couldn't tackle him, but somehow, the official stat keepers decided that Peterson ran six times for 20 yards.
Allen Patrick, the only other tailback on campus this spring, wasn't off limits and he was subjected to a number of tough hits by the defense. Patrick was credited with 10 carries for 28 yards and ran tough without much room against the Sooner defense.
Dane Zaslaw lined up as the first-team fullback today, catching a couple of passes out of the backfield. Matt Clapp was the No. 2 fullback today and even got a carry as the third team tailback.
Malcolm Kelly made a couple of tough grabs in traffic and Juaquin Iglesias had one grab today. Paul Thompson was the slot receiver when the Sooners first unit lined up in the three wide out set, and after his early muff that turned into an interception, Thompson made a nice grab on a crossing route that resulted in a 17-yard game.
As mentioned earlier, Fred Strong made the most of his opportunity with a pair of catches, including the grab from Halzle. The pass was underthrown and Strong came back to the ball to take it away from the defender. He is making the most of the absence of Manuel Johnson, who was not in uniform today. Johnson is working on academic issues this spring. Quentin Chaney and Eric Huggins were inconsistent in their action today, both dropping catchable passes.
Despite those miscues, receivers coach Kevin Sumlin was upbeat about the work of the receiving corps.
"I think there were some positive things. We're talking about being consistent and competing for the ball, making competitive plays and we did that, but not every time," said Sumlin. "Part of maturity is competing consistently and that's what we're trying to do and we've got a ways to go.
The offensive line again featured Branndon Braxton and Chris Messner at the tackles, Duke Robinson and Sherrone Moore at guard and Chad Roark at center, with Brian Simmons getting work at both left and right guard. Simmons primarily worked behind Moore and was guilty of one false start – understandable in just his second day on the offensive line.
Ryan Reynolds had another good day at strong side linebacker, recording five tackles to go along with his interception. Fellow linebackers Rufus Alexander and Curtis Lofton were also in on five stops apiece.
Reynolds has been around the ball in all four workouts so far and says getting the first-team reps is helping his confidence.
"Everyday I'm getting a little more comfortable. I've happened to be getting in some lucky positions to be in the right place at the right time," Reynolds said. "There's a lot of competition, still a lot of practice to do, a lot of corrections to make but I think I'm in a pretty good position to compete for the job."
Lendy Holmes, working with the second until, continued to make a good transition at corner, breaking up a couple of passes and getting in on five tackles. First team corners Reggie Smith and D.J. Wolfe also had some strong plays in coverage downfield and Wolfe delivered a couple of solid licks, although he did draw the ire of secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright for playing behind the receiver on a catch downfield by Joe Jon Finley.
Early entry freshman Quinton Carter is making the most of his arrival on the OU campus, forcing a fumble and making a solid hit as well.
Up front, Larry Birdine was chirping away and consistently made penetration, recording what would have been a 10-yard sack on Bomar and Cory Bennett was also in the backfield all day, getting a sack and deflecting a pass.
Defensive ends coach Chris Wilson is happy about the quality he has at his position, with Birdine, C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux, but he is looking for one more player to step up this spring.
"I really feel like we have three starters in C.J., Larry and Thibs, but we need a fourth guy to come in and establish himself," said Wilson. "Alan Davis is making strides, but the guy who is really impressing me this week is Auston English. He is really flying around out there and he is kind of the "golden child" right now. He needs to keep it up all spring and maybe he can get in the mix."
The Sooners worked after their first drive on each end of the field on field goals. Garrett Hartley saw his first 32-yard effort hit the left upright and he had one attempt blocked but he hit field goals from 32, 37 and 42 yards before missing his final attempt from 42. Hays McEachern was the holder today.
Mike Knall again handled the punting duties, with Cody Freeby sideline by a chronic back problem, and after a handful of shaky punts, including one block by Jason Carter, Knall finally got off a couple of spiraling 50-yard boomers. Reggie Smith was again the lone punt returner and did well until Coach Stoops called for the punting team to cover downfield. On that final effort, Smith shied away from the punt and muffed it.
And as mentioned yesterday, the Sooners may have a lot of options on the punt team with Paul Thompson as the up back. Fans got a taste of that today as Thompson ran up the middle on a fake punt to hold up the fierce rush during the punting drills.
Overall, Coach Bob Stoops was pleased even though he didn't expect too much out of the first scrimmage.
"About what you would expect. Pretty rusty, but still I really like the effort, the attitude, the enthusiasm, the way the guys are competing," said Stoops. "They're each making their plays. There's a lot of good signs and again, you're developing a lot of depth with these young guys getting snaps."
"Defensively, I don't think there's any question that we're much further along at this point in a couple of days than a year ago with the guys having so much more experience now, having that whole year behind them. There's just a lot fewer mistakes and better play from all of them – secondary, backers and I think our front has a chance to be really good. Reggie out there has been really good at corner, D.J.'s made progress, all the safeties have gotten better so I think that gives us a chance to be really good."
Interested observers at today's practice included a number of incoming recruits, most notable Gerald McCoy, Sam Bradford, Mossis Madu and Dominique Franks, all local products. McCoy said he would love to be out on the field right now, even if it was just standing behind the defense with all the reserves and coaches. He'll get his chance soon enough when summer conditioning workouts begin.
Sooners return to practice Monday with a 3:45 workout that is open to the public.
Link to scrimmage stats
Saturday's Scrimmage Report
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