The Oklahoma football team returned to the practice field in full pads Monday after the second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday.
OU head coach Bob Stoops recapped the scrimmage after Monday's workout.
"It was very much just like I thought after the game," Stoops said. "I really believe, defensively, we are just so much further along it's not even funny. We're so much further along than we were last year. It's not even close.
"It's a little unfair to the offense in that we're consistently going against each other. They get so much recognition of what they're seeing. The offense can't put in a new play without them knowing. We also don't cut (block), we stay up. So I am very aware of that. I say that every spring. The defense should do well if they're going to be good at all, and I think we are."
However, Stoops is still encouraged about the potential of the offense.
"The offense is making improvement. I see it constantly. The o-line continues to get better and better, and that's going against a really good defensive front that really has some good experience.
"AD looks great. Allen Patrick 's getting a lot of snaps that he needs and he's doing well. The receivers are getting better, but we are still a little inconsistent there. We need to catch the ball and run routes a little cleaner. That will make a big difference too. We are getting there."
One coach who vented about the scrimmage after Monday's practice was offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson says he's more disappointed with the effort than anything.
"I thought they did good, but we had some major mistakes that got us some negative plays or decisions that got us intercepted," Wilson said. "We have to talk about the negatives, but the real disconcerting thing to us was that we had a significant amount of times where guys weren't playing to the whistle. The tight ends/fullbacks and receivers were the leading groups of loafs.
"We've got seven linemen going every play that have fewer plays off than our tight ends, fullbacks and receivers. Our two tailbacks played really hard and our seven guys on the line are playing really hard.
"We need to get those guys playing smarter with the ball and just get that skill group ready to play in a physical way," Wilson continued. "What we need to do this spring is make sure our guys know how to play, which is to play smart and play physical. If we can't play smart we won't attack. If we can't play physical, we can't attack.
"The real disappointing thing to me was the lack of effort. We had a great effort by the guys in the white shirts on defense. We had a lot of guys hitting but not staying on blocks, and we are going to try and address that this week and pick up our level of play and play at a higher level."
Monday was one of the better practices thus far this spring for Rhett Bomar. Bomar looked good throwing deep, threading the needle and also hitting several 20-yard routes. He also scrambled well to counter the blitz.
Juco transfer Joey Halzle also had a nice day. Halzle threw two touchdowns, both to Eric Huggins. He also showed his running ability, perfecting a perfect fake on a boot,
Bomar talked about the offenses' progress so far this spring after practice.
"I think we are coming along. This spring has been one of survival at times, but that's good for us," Bomar said. "All of us are getting all those reps and that can only make us better. That's even a good thing about the lack of depth on the offensive line. Those guys are good players and they are getting all the reps.
"I think we've executed OK this spring, but not anywhere close to as good as we need to. We need to protect the football better. We have a great defense and while we need to be aggressive and score, the last thing we need to do is turn the ball over at our own 18 and put the defense in a bad position."
This may be getting old again, but OU's running back duo of Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick continue to look great.
Both looked good catching swing passes out of the backfield, especially Peterson whose hands are getting better. And if he can get the ball in the open field more, watch out.
On one play, Peterson got the ball off-tackle, beat linebacker Ryan Reynolds and only had the safety to beat for what could've been a long touchdown run.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
It hasn't been a great couple of days for this group. As you've read above, Wilson called them out for their effort and they didn't show well in the scrimmage.
However, they bounced back today with some nice plays. Redshirt freshman Eric Huggins caught a 23-yard touchdown pass where he out-jumped the defender for the ball near the sideline in the end zone, and he scored on slant route for a 14-yard touchdown.
Juaquin Iglesias took a slant pass from Bomar on one play for a big gain, and Quentin Chaney drew praise from Stoops after practice for his impressive performance this spring.
"Quentin Chaney, definitely, each day, has been making more plays and been more consistent catching," said Stoops. "He's finishing plays stronger and getting away from people. That' has been pleasing. We need him to continue to step up like that. He should be a big, physical presence and he's playing like that more and more."
Stoops also talked about how the receivers need to step up to help out the offense, particularly the quarterbacks.
"He (Bomar) and Joey are both getting a ton of snaps and they are making improvement, but they need help doing it. Those receivers have to be able to separate on man or zone. They have to find the right holes in the zone and run good routes to get open."
It was a good day for guard Duke Robinson. When Robinson gets beat he gets beat, but when he blows somebody away he really blows somebody away.
On several occasions, Robinson beat his man and moved into the secondary looking for linebackers and defensive backs, which prompted Bob Stoops to tell the Georgia native to 'quit picking on the little guys.'
Chris Messner and Brian Simmons looked good today during the inside drill, and Chad Roark also continues to impress us with the way he battles and fights his guts out at center. Roark isn't afraid to step up against the big boys and even continue on to the linebackers, like Rufus Alexander, which is impressive for someone who should still be a senior in high school.
It was also a good day for Sherrone Moore and Branndon Braxton on the right side of the line. The Sooners were able to break several nice plays behind them on Monday.
Again, what else can we say here? OU's defensive line has looked great just about every practice so far this spring.
Today's first unit consisted of C.J. Ah You and Larry Birdine at defensive end and Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman at tackle. However, Jackie Shipp and Chris Wilson rotate so many players on the line that the playing time is about equal.
Bennett was impressive again today and showed a great first step that enables him to blow up plays up the middle. DeMarcus Granger also impressed, as did Cordero Moore who blew up one play in the middle to shut down Peterson on one run.
At defensive end, it was a very good day for Alonzo Dotson. Dotson looked great stopping Patrick on one third and short play, and he also showed us versatility dropping back into coverage and nearly picking off an out route.
Senior linebacker Rufus Alexander is excited about what will line up ahead of him next fall.
"I think we're going to have a really good defense," Alexander said. "We've got good players on this team who can really run. We've got guys who can fly to the ball. The fact that we've got Calvin (Thibodeaux), C.J., Larry, Alonzo, and we don't even have John Williams back yet, shows you the kind of depth that we have. And I think we have the best depth up front since Tommie Harris was here with DeMarcus, Cory, Carl Pendleton and the rest of those guys.
OU's linebackers looked good again today, particularly in pass coverage. The Sooner LBs are also adept at blowing up screens. Rufus Alexander led the charge stopping the screens, and Curtis Lofton also looked good in coverage.
Ryan Reynolds and Demmario Pleasant continue to work as the strongside linebackers, and it was a good day for Pleasant. Pleasant, who broke up a couple of passes on Monday, hasn't seen much playing time during his career at OU, but it's not difficult to see in practice that he's a talented football player.
As for Reynolds, he got to see the speed of Adrian Peterson first-hand when he was beaten to the outside for the 2004 Heisman runner-up, which drew a very deep critique from linebacker coach Brent Venables.
"I am making a lot of mistakes and I can improve on a whole bunch of things," said Reynolds after practice. "I'm just trying to get better out here and improve on the things I did wrong form the day before."
Reynolds also says he's learning a lot from Alexander.
"Rufus has definitely taught me the defense more than anyone. He's helping me with adjustments and things, where to line up."
Alexander likes the way the linebacker unit is shaping up.
"I think we're going to be really good," Alexander said. "When we get Zach (Latimer) back it's really gong to help us even more. I think Ryan is doing a great job and Demarrio makes that position strong. We have a lot of depth because Curtis is really showing how good he is."
The Sooners practiced their nickel and dime packages for the first time this spring, and it appears that Lendy Holmes has worked his way into the nickel back. However, when Holmes comes in he lines up as the field corner, which moves Reggie Smith to the 'Royback' spot.
"We went to five DBs today for the first time this spring and we worked Reggie in the dime position or the Roy position, however you want to look at it. It's still the Roy position until somebody plays like him," said Stoops.
"Lendy, right now, has probably been the most consistent out there at making plays as the next guy coming in. So, it's our first day working it and he looked good."
As for the rest of the practice, D.J. Wolfe made a great play to stop a fade route in the end zone to Eric Huggins. Holmes also broke up a deep post pass to Jermaine Hardison with tremendous coverage.
Reggie Smith also had a good practice, as did Jason Carter. Carter did a nice job recovering to break up several passes in the secondary. He also blew up a couple of screen passes.
Reggie Smith continued to return punts, but was joined today by Manuel Johnson. Punter Mike Knall, filling in for the suspended Cody Freeby, was just average kicking the ball today.
The Sooners' punt team consisted of (without gunners) D.J. Wolfe and Rufus Alexander on the outside, Ryan Reynolds, Brody Eldridge, Clint Gresham (snapper), Joe Jon Finely and Demarrio Pleasant on the inside, and Paul Thompson as the upback.
The kick-return team consisted of Malcolm Kelly, Nic Harris, Curtis Lofton, Paul Thompson, Rufus Alexander on the front line, Brody Eldridge and Joe Jon Finley on the second line, Jonathan Jordan and Dane Zaslaw on the third line and Allen Patrick and Smith as the returners.
The Sooners will take Tuesday off and return to the practice field again on Wednesday.
Monday's Practice Report (4/3)
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