Wednesday's Practice Report (4/5)

See inside for news, notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice, including quotes from Chris Wilson, Jackie Shipp, Brent Venables, Dane Zaslaw and Calvin Thibodeaux. Sophomore QB Rhett Bomar (pictured) looked fantastic for the second straight practice. (AP Photo)

Ten down, five to go. Oklahoma went through spring practice No. 10 on Wednesday in Norman in full pads.

OU head coach Bob Stoops did not meet with the media to talk about today's workout, so we'll immediately dive into the position-by-position news, notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice.

Quarterback
For the second straight practice, Rhett Bomar continued to look fantastic. He did throw one interception, but he did made so many great plays today that you just found yourself saying 'wow'.

Bomar made all the throws, including deep a 28-yard deep route to Juaquin Iglesias, threaded the needle over the middle to Fred Strong. He also was perfect on the quick out routes, hitting Manuel Johnson so perfectly on a quick rout route that he was able to turn up-field for a big gain.

Bomar also looked great running the ball on quarterback option keepers. On one drive, he kept the ball twice for what would've been a pair of likely 15-yard gains. And then on 1st and 10 from the 23, he ran a quarterback draw untouched for a touchdown.

Running Backs/Fullback
Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick continue to take a majority of the reps, but running backs coach Cale Gundy says that will only make them better come next fall.

"We've been going through all kinds of fundamentals," said Gundy when asked what was the focus of his backs this spring. "I just told those guys that we are on our 10th practice and you guys are getting every single rep. You're getting beat up on and you're getting tired, but this is where you become a good player. This is where you focus and you don't make those mental mistakes.

"That is what I am stressing with these guys. I want them to stay focused, keep fighting through it and do the little things. The mental part of the game is crucial in these next four or five practices."

"We are making progress," Gundy continued. "I think one thing we're doing, because we only have two running backs, I think we're throwing the ball more than we typically would. So it's allowing us to throw the ball to these guys a little bit more. But they're also two guys that are very fast and both of them have good hands. We're trying to find ways to get the ball out to them in the open."

And Gundy likes OU's chance if Peterson and Patrick can get the ball in the open field.

"We like our odds with either one of them in the flat. They're both good players. They have both improved, but they still both have much to improve on. They just have to keep pushing."

At fullback, Dane Zaslaw has currently pushed into the lead for a starting spot over Matt Clapp.

Zaslaw, who came to OU as a linebacker, talked about the race to replace J.D. Runnels after today's workout.

"I always felt like I was more of a natural fullback," Zaslaw said. "Coming in as a linebacker playing with coach Venables is a great experience to go through, but now that J.D. has left he left a great imprint on all of us fullbacks to try to fill those shoes. I'm really excited about it.

"I think the spring game is important. I just think the coaches look at it as an important game. I know there's great competition at fullback between Matt and I."

Clapp was somewhat limited today while nursing a minor injury.

Wide Receiver/Tight Ends
The receivers took a lot of criticism from the coaches since Saturday's scrimmage, but they have bounced back since and had a great day on Wednesday.

Malcolm Kelly and Paul Thompson continue to start as the wideouts with Juaquin Iglesias in the slot. And when Iglesias splits out in place of Thompson, Manuel Johnson comes in to play the slot. Quentin Chaney, Fred Strong and Eric Huggins are also getting seeing a ton of reps.

Today was a great day for Malcolm Kelly, who seemed to catch everything in sight. Kelly has great hands and used them today to make catch after catch that wouldn't have been made by any other player without great hands. Kelly was particulary impressive catching slants and out routes.

Strong had another good day making several catches, as did Iglesias and Johnson.

Offensive Linemen
Duke Robinson got banged up during today's workout, which left the door open for Brian Simmons to get more reps at guard and he looked pretty good.

Robinson did come back in and played at both guard and tackle. However, guard seems to be his best position at this point.

Chad Roark and Cameron Schacht continued to work at center, and the duo did have some issues with the snap today which prompted a frustrated but patient Kevin Wilson to say, "Guys, we've got to get the snap or we can't run our plays."

Defensive Tackles
Redshirt freshman DeMarcus Granger continued his breakout spring with another great practice today.

On one series, Granger blew up the running back on consecutive plays on third and short and fourth and short. To sum it up, Granger is becoming a monster and a load to block.

OU defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp credits Granger's improved play his play to his weight loss in the offseason.

"When you're 354 and you go down to 295, you move whole lot quicker," Shipp said. "You have whole lot more endurance and you're faster. You don't get as tired as quick, you are more alert and you have more confidence to work on. You're not falling out about a third of the way through the practice."

So how did they get Granger away from the buffet table to lose the weight?

"Let me tell you something that's funny about guys who are trying to lose weight. I saw Jamaal Brown do it and I've seen a lot of players do it. Once they see their bodies start to develop they like it. They like how their bodies look and it's a whole lot easier then to give up the cake and ice cream. You would laugh watching him walk around with his shirt off acting like he has some muscle definition."

"He wasn't flat anywhere when he got here," Shipp continued. "He was puffy. Like I said, he was 354 pounds. Now he looks more like a football player. He's so much more in shape. It's night and day from last summer. I see him competing for playing time and a starting position when we get to two-a-days in our preseason," Shipp said.

Shipp also talked about the overall play of his group.

"Am I ever pleased? I'm really never pleased or satisfied. They have made improvements, they really have. One thing I like about them is they are giving great effort.

"I'm looking at how Cory Bennett has improved. I'm looking at how Steven Coleman has come such a long way. I watched the play that DeMarcus Granger made today in the backfield, he put a hit in the backfield, and those are things that I expect out of DeMarcus. Cordero Moore has made more improvement in this last week than he did in the whole two weeks.

"They are making improvement and if they continue to do like they're doing and improving like they're doing, they're going to be good football players for us."

Shipp also talked about redshirt freshman Billy Blackard, who is really just getting into the groove this spring after missing last season with an injury.

"He still has a ways to go," Shipp said. "You have to understand Billy only went through two-a-days last year. He only got two weeks of practice. He didn't get much work in the fall because of ankle surgery.

"Basically, this is just like his freshman year going through spring. He's hitting the bumps in the road, but he is making improvement."

Defensive Ends
OU's defensive ends looked good again today, but what's new?

Defensive end coach Chris Wilson talked about the development of his group this spring.

"C.J. (Ah You) is really playing well. He's playing consistent more than anything. Calvin Thibodeaux would be the next guy playing consistent, and 'Bird' (Larry Birdine) is getting to that point.

"We just have to keep getting 'Bird' consistent. We just have to keep 'Bird' polished. That year away really hurt him. He has to keep refining his game, keep being consistent. It's kind of like watching Michael Jordan. You know what you expect to get out of Jordan every night and he comes out and does it.

Wilson says he's also trying to continue to develop depth behind Birdine, Ah You and Thibodeaux.

"I really think our young guys, Auston (English), Alan (Davis) and Alonzo Dotson, he has not played a lot of football, what we are trying to do is make sure they get enough reps so when we roll into the fall they have enough muscle memory to play well when we go into the first game.

So how difficult has it been getting reps for the defensive ends?

"It's been difficult because guys who are performing well are earning their extra reps. It's not so much just reps, it's developing the down-the-line guys.

"Like last year, you are going to have some guys who get beat up a little bit and not playing as well as they should be. There's nothing better than having a group of good players."

One player who is glad to be back despite the depth and possibly having his playing time cut is Calvin Thibodeaux.

"Our defensive end group is very talented," Thibodeaux said. "We are just looking forward to being productive.

"I just want to be a leader for the team. I just want to produce and get to the passer as much as possible."

However, Thibodeaux isn't awed by the depth and talent of the d-end group.

"I've been around when Dan Cody and 'JJ' (Jonathan Jackson) were on the same team. I was around when Jimmy Wilkerson was on the team and Dan was the third guy, if you could believe that. I've been here a long time and seen a number of great defensive ends."

Linebackers
The big news at linebacker this week has been the emergence of Demarrio Pleasant at strongside linebacker, and that continued today.

Pleasant looked good stopping the run, as well as knocking down two passes in coverage.

After practice, Brent Venables talked about the strongside battle between Pleasant and Ryan Reynolds.

"Right now it's neck and neck between those two. I like how both are competing. If Demarrio can work and stay on the field he's got a chance. Ryan is a very good student of the game. We have two very good players there."

Secondary
Interceptions where recorded today by D.J. Wolfe and guess who...Reggie Smith. Smith made a great play tipping a pass and then going up and getting it to finish the play.

Sophomore Nic Harris may be beginning to make a move at free safety. Bobby Jack Wright has been on Darien Williams in recent practices, and Harris got some work with the first team at safety today. Harris also made a touchdown-saving play knocking down a Joey Halzle pass in the end zone on a swing pass to Adrian Peterson.

Special Teams
It appeared to be a better day for punter Mike Knall. We saw the juco transfer boot a 46 and 47 yarder, as well as several 40 yarders on Wednesday. Reggie Smith and Manuel Johnson were the punt returners again today.

OU's kick-off coverage team consisted of D.J. Wolfe, Juaquin Iglesias, Ian Pleasant, Demarrio Pleasant, Jason Carter, Ryan Reynolds, Nic Harris, Keenan Clayton, Lamont Robinson and Lendy Holmes.

Keenan Clayton also blocked a punt on Wednesday.


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