The Oklahoma football team returned to the practice field Monday in full pads for their fifth wokout of the Spring after Saturday's scrimmage.
After practice, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops talked about Monday's practice and Saturday's scrimmage.
"Really good," said Stoops on practice. "It was cleaner today. You would hope as they keep going it will get a little better each time, and I like what they're doing. We had a really good practice today.
And the scrimmage?
"Well, it's early," Stoops said. "The scrimmage was only our second day in pads and only our fourth practice. How much can you really expect? But they are going at it hard. Guys are working hard and they have a really good attitude about it.
"It was good to see today that we came out cleaner and sharper and had fewer mistakes than we had Saturday, and that's what you hope will happen."
Below is a position-by-position recap of the major news, notes and quotes from Monday's workout.
All in all it was a good day for the quarterbacks, but the OU coaches continue to stress to Rhett Bomar that he needs to become more of a leader, a General, on the field.
Meanwhile, the Sooner coaching staff has been very impressed with juco transfer Joey Halzle, who seems to have a great knack for the game and feel for the offense after just four practices.
"Joey looks really good," said Stoops. "He came out here today and he was really sharp again. He had an excellent scrimmage.
"What did we have him (in the scrimmage) — 6-for-8 with one drop and one throw-away? For only four practices he has been able to comprehend (the offense) and the way that he has executed he has done a really nice job. We are pleased with how he is playing."
As for practice today, Bomar started off a little slow and then heated up as it practice progressed. However, Bomar did have some trouble locking in on receivers and getting passes knocked away, while Halzle did throw a pair of interceptions.
Bomar hit Brody Eldridge for a 14-yard touchdown and threw another 40-yarder to Quentin Chaney, while Halzle also found walk-on Jermaine Hardison for another 14-yard score.
Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick continued to get most of the reps at running back, while Dane Zaslaw spent most of the time working with the first team at fullback.
Peterson, and Patrick to a certain extent, have already showed what they can do on Saturday's, but that doesn't mean they still can't become better players this Spring.
AD continued working hard catching passes out of the backfield and looked good catching more than he dropped. He also still needs to work on his timing and when to run through the holes. On one play he ran right into the back of Branndon Braxton, which prompted Cale Gundy to yell, "AD, just take a second."
Patrick ran hard during the inside drill and had several big collisions taking on middle linebacker Lamont Robinson, which showed that he's just not a finesse back. He also looked good running the sweeps and stretch plays.
Coming into the Spring it was thought to be a negative that Peterson and Patrick would be the only backs getting reps, but Stoops says otherwise.
"They are getting all they can handle and that is a good thing, because they are talented guys and they can play better," said Stoops. "I think this is going to really help them. That's just like what I think is happening with the o-line."
Back to Zaslaw, the Edmond native showed some of his athletic ability on one play catching a swing pass and then proceeding to run over cornerback Lendy Holmes for a gain. Holmes did end up making the tackle, but there's no doubt Zaslaw made him earn it.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The big news of the day here was the return of sophomore receiver Manuel Johnson, who missed Saturday's scrimmage due some academic issues, which are cleared up now.
However, Johnson didn't step back in to his starting spot. Running with the first team to start each drill today was Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias and Paul Thompson.
Quentin Chaney continues to show improvement this Spring and had the play of the day when he out jumped two defenders for a 40-yard pass down the sideline, which he caught and would've scored on.
"Quentin Chaney has really been playing well," said Stoops. "He's a big, strong target that we've wanted to see play at a higher level and he's doing that. So, hopefully, that will continue."
When Johnson did get in he looked good, making a couple of nice gains after catching two slant passes. Fred Strong had some good moments, but also dropped a few passes. And Eric Huggins also got some work with the first team in a backup role.
As for Thompson, the senior and former quarterback is still trying to learn the position, as he dropped a touchdown pass on one play.
"He's getting better," said Stoops. "It's just something he's getting used to — coming in and out or breaks, catching the football. When you haven't done it as much as some of these other receivers who have done it as much as five, six, seven years, and all of the sudden you've just had a year.
"Paul has a lot of catching up to do, but he's a great worker, a great attitude guy and he's working hard. He just has to keep pushing for more consistency."
At tight end, the Sooners' coaching staff has to be pleasantly surprised with the performance of Joe Jon Finley and converted defensive end Brody Eldridge.
Finley seemed to catch everything thrown his way today, ranging from passes at his feet to those he had to leap for, while Eldridge continued to impress catching one 14-yard touchdown pass.
"He's getting better," said Stoops on Eldridge. "He has such a great way to go, but he is a talented guy who works hard, has a tough attitude about him, a big frame. We really feel like he had a chance to be good. He's just a guy who has not caught a lot of balls yet.
"He has good hands, but you turn around and the ball is there really quick. He had a drop the other day and he can make that catch. I just think it s a matter of getting used to it and how quick it comes, especially sometimes when the ball is on you so fast. He just has to get used to that."
New line coach James Patton really stressed the importance of staying low, coming out of the stance and being physical today. Early on, Patton wasn't happy but seemed to be pleased as the workout progressed.
Working with the first team line today was Chris Messner at left tackle, Duke Robinson at left guard, Chad Roark at center, Sherrone Moore at right guard and Branndon Braxton at right tackle.
After four practices, the OU coaches are really pleased with the play of the line. They feel like, even though they may only have seven players, that the ones they do have are very talented and the extra reps will help them in the fall.
"The few that are in there are really good players and they are getting all the snaps," Stoops said. "And almost by the end of it, it's going to be like they've been through two Springs. So, in the end, that could be a positive just with the amount of work that they are getting."
Stoops also talked about who impressed him during Saturday's scrimmage.
"We thought that Branndon Braxton came along and played well. All those guys really played pretty well. Chad Roark fought in there and did well for the little bit of time that he's been here."
As for today's practice, Messner and Robinson stood out to us, as well Chad Roark who continues to battle as Stoops mentioned above. Roark may get beat on occasion, but he is a very tough player for a true freshman.
C.J. Ah You and Larry Birdine worked with the first team at defensive end, along with Calvin Thibodeaux.
At defensive tackle, it was Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman getting the first team reps. Coleman had two sacks on the day.
"DeMarcus Granger, Steven Coleman were really good," said Stoops after practice.
Stoops also talked about the progress of Birdine and if he is 100 percent.
"Yeah, he's been turned loose and has played well and looks good."
Stoops was also asked about Birdine becoming a leader on the defensive unit because of his emotional play.
"Well, he's one of them. Larry has a lot of excitement to him, but C.J. AhYou, Calvin Thibodeaux, the way that they played last year they can lead as well.
"Having the three of them along with Alan Davis, Auston English, and Alonzo Dotson, we are going to have a good, strong group of guys that can stay fresh and hopefully get after people. But Larry is a sparkplug type guy. The guys get excited being around him."
Davis stood out with one knocked down pass at the line, and redshirt freshman Billy Blackard is a player to watch at defensive tackle. Blackard made some noise today and is a battler who seems to know what he's doing in the trenches.
One notable player who did not practice Monday was Demarrio Pleasant, who is going through some academic issues.
"He's had a class issue over the weekend," Stoops said. "He is working toward straightening that out right now."
Another player who continues to press is sophomore Ryan Reynolds, who appears to be close to nailing down the starting strongside linebacker spot.
"He is playing great," Stoops said. "He was really solid out here again today. He had a solid scrimmage. He's physical, he can run, he understands. Again, he is really doing well."
Stoops also commented on the fact that even though Reynolds saw limited playing time a year ago, the fact that he didn't redshirt still helped him progress.
"He was prepared for each game, and that's the benefit of it. Some people say, "Well how many snaps did he get?' But it's just the preparation and game planning, knowing what to do and getting those kinds of snaps in practice preparing for the game. Then once he gets into the game, he does have a feel for it. It definitely puts them further along their second year."
Curtis Lofton is another sophomore who saw limited time last season but did not redshirt. Lofton has taken over at MLB for the injured Zach Latimer and he's making his presence known.
"Curtis is very good at the line of scrimmage and he's a sure tackler," said co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Brent Venables. "I'm not so sure he's not the best we have as a tackler. The better tackler you are saves you a lot of yards in a ballgame. If he continues to progress, it will be an interesting situation in the fall when we get Zach back."
Rufus Alexander, wearing the No. 46 jersey of his injured teammate (Latimer), had a great day today rushing picking up two sacks, as well as breaking up a pass over the middle.
Middle linebacker Lamont Robinson also showed well today and proved that he's not afraid to stick his nose in the middle and take on a fullback or running back during the inside drill.
Bobby Jack Wright says OU's first unit in the secondary seems to be taking shape nicely with D.J. Wolfe and Reggie Smith at corner and Darien Williams and Jason Carter at safety.
Smith had a great day in coverage with several pass break ups, and perhaps the play of the day on defense when he forced a fumble while tackling Allen Patrick, who had caught a swing pass, picking the ball up and taking it 60-yards for a score. Smith also broke up a touchdown when he read Bomar perfectly on a route thrown into the end zone.
Jason Carter also broke up several passes and received praise from Wright, while backup safety Kennan Clayton and D.J. Wolfe recorded one interception each.
Bobby Jack Wright says the experience the secondary got last year is carrying over to the Spring and paying big dividends.
"With all the experience that we have coming back, you start off at least where you were when you ended the season. I think, certainly, with our first unit we're in pretty good shape there with guys like Reggie Smith, Darien Williams, D.J. Wolfe, and Jason Carter has moved in at that strong safety spot for right now.
"What we are trying to develop is a good two-deep unit. So those guys behind them know that they have an opportunity to win jobs — Nic Harris, Keenan Clayton, Lendy Holmes, who we moved to corner this Spring. Lendy showed some good signs in the scrimmage. And Quinton Carter, coming in as a true freshman, has shown some good signs. Brett Bowers is working behind D.J. over at corner and progressing nicely.
"If we can develop a really good, solid quality two-deep, that would be our goal to come out of the Spring. I think we're close to that. I think we're really good with our first group. We've had very few coverage busts. I'm not sure if we had any Saturday in the scrimmage, which is a good sign. We had good position on the receivers and the ball, and those were things that maybe we struggled at this time last year.
Cody Freeby missed practice again because of his injured back, which allowed Mike Knall another chance to show his stuff and he responded with a great practice. "Hey, you're doing a hell of a job," said special teams coach Kevin Sumlin at one point.
Reggie Smith was the first returner again and looked great. He wasn't facing the pursuit charging him, but he caught everything that came his way, including a couple of short punts that he had to run up on.
The special teams star today was Jason Carter. Carter had a field day running up the middle against the Sooners' punt unit blocking at least two punts that we saw. Quinton Carter also put some nice pressure on the punter on a couple of occasions.
Playing in the middle on OU's punt coverage team was Paul Thompson (upback), Joe Jon Finley and Brody Eldridge, and as mentioned above the trio went through some growing pains on Monday.
Clint Gresham, a sophomore walk-on from Corpus Christi, Texas, worked as the deep snapper.
The Sooners will take Tuesday off and then return for their sixth practice of the Spring at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Monday's Spring Practice Report
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