The Oklahoma football team went through a non-contact workout in their second to last practice of the spring in helmets, jerseys and shorts Wednesday in Norman.
The Sooners, who will go through their 15th and final spring practice on Thursday that will include a minor scrimmage, worked on a lot of the 'little things' on Wednesday.
Among the little things OU worked on included: two minute drill audibles, various nickel and dime coverages, hail mary's, blocking punts, blocking punt block rushes and also punting the ball quickly to beat the rush. OU also had the quarterbacks work on sliding to avoid contact.
OU head coach Bob Stoops talked after practice about how the offense looked in the two minute drill.
"Not bad really for a first day doing it," said Stoops. "The offense really handled it quite well — their execution at the line of scrimmage getting their plays off and performing well. So it was good work for the offense. We did a couple of different series of it, and the defense was OK too. They made their calls, got lined up. I thought they worked in a pretty good way."
Stoops also discussed the fact that the two minute drill just isn't for the offenses' benefit.
"You have to get your calls in and you have to get lined up. But like I've always told you, it's just like when we face no-huddle teams, we never huddle whether a team huddles or not. So we are pretty used to being at the line ready to go."
He also previewed Thursday's final practice and season-ending scrimmage.
"We just want to finish up and get a few more snaps," Stoops said. "We just want to get a few more guys some experience. We'll decide in the morning how much we are actually going to do. We will probably get somewhere in between 25 and 35 snaps."
Offensive Practice Notes
Rhett Bomar did throw one interception, but all in all it was good day for the sophomore signal-caller. Bomar looked especially good in the two minute drill, where he led the team down the field and capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 10 to Manuel Johnson on a slant.
One thing the coaches are also stressing to Bomar, which was worked on a bunch today, was getting more air under his deep passes.
The Sooners also worked a bunch again on throwing the ball out of the backfield to Adrian Peterson, Allen Patrick and the fullbacks. One of the major positives of the spring continues to be the improvement of Peterson's hands, which he only bobbled one out of about 20 passes thrown his way today.
As for the line, freshman center Chad Roark missed his second straight practice to attend a class. One other note, sophomore center Jon Cooper seems to be improving in his recovery. Cooper was noticeably limping to begin the spring, but he seems to be walking much better since we first noticed him two weeks ago.
As mentioned above, Manuel Johnson caught a touchdown pass in the two minute drill. Other receivers who stood out today were Fred Strong, Malcolm Kelly and Paul Thompson. Thompson looked good running out routes and curls, while Strong had a few drops but continued his impressive spring making several catches. Joe Jon Finley also got a lot of looks in the two minute drill.
Defensive Practice Notes
For the most part, the defense did a nice job defending the two minute drills today. They also did a good job against the offenses' hail mary passes, knocking each one down. The Sooners' alignment against the hail mary is also interesting, as they drop the corners back and bring the safeties up against the receivers.
Oklahoma also worked a bunch again on their six defensive back schemes. And once again, Keenan Clayton was the sixth DB with Lendy Holmes and D.J. Wolfe at corner, Reggie Smith at the 'Roy' and Darien Williams and Jason Carter at safety. Rufus Alexander and Lewis Baker were the linebackers in the six defensive back set.
Nic Harris got some reps with the first team at safety, but he continues to be held off by Darien Williams, who did pick off one pass today that was tipped initially by D.J. Wolfe.
At defensive end, it was another good day for Larry Birdine, who knocked down two passes. Backup Auston English also recorded a sack.
The battle begins
Garrett Hartley joined Mike Knall today as a punter and had the better day of the two, but nothing spectacular.
Knall struggled kicking the ball into the wind, and by our count had one punt over 40 yards on the day. However, Hartley clearly does seem to have the stronger leg of the two.
"Actually, he did really good," said Stoops on Hartley's punting performance today. "He hit the ball well, drove the ball into the wind, turned it over. I thought he looked good today, especially with the limited practice that he's had.
So would he have a problem having one player do both the kicking and punting duties? And has that ever happened on a team he's been a part of?
"No, it wouldn't bother me as long as he did it well. I don't know if I've ever had a a kicker that I've been around that did both. Reggie Roby used to kick-off and with that big squared toe, but he didn't kick field goals."
Will they still look to find another punter in the offseason, or will they stick with Knall and Hartley?
"Sure, we will be looking all through spring. A lot of times somebody does show up that's out there that can do some things with it. We will evaluate everybody and see, and still continue to bring Mike along and Garrett. We will see where it goes."
As for Hartley, he's ready do whatever the team needs him to do.
"My punting is coming along," he said. "I haven't really concentrated on that in a while, but at the same time I am here to back up Mike. I want Mike to do as good as he can. I am here trying to support him.
"If it comes to it where I end up having to, I will do anything that I can do to help the team, but right now the job is Mike's. As long as he keeps improving and doing what he needs to do, then I'm just going to be a role player and a backup.
"I think just as long as I can keep improving on punting, that is going to help me. It is also going to pressure Mike to do better as well. That is just what I'm trying to do."
How hard would it be on his leg to do both?
"I just don't think it's a matter of getting stronger," Hartley said. "I think it's more building up my endurance kicking and punting everyday in practice, because you have to hit 30 to 40 balls kicking and 30 to 40 balls punting versus just one thing."
What are his summer plans?
"I am going to Miami and working with Mike McCabe of One on One kicking. I am going to go and also be an instructor, but I also get instructed by guys who have played in the NFL like Don Silvestri and others. Hopefully, I can bring my game to a peak.
"I need to have a good year. I did not have the year I wanted to last season. I definitely need to come out and get things started off the right way."
Larry Birdine is back after last season's elbow injury, and he has clearly worked himself back into the top three of the rotation at defensive end with Calvin Thibodeaux and C.J. Ah You.
Birdine, who had a good practice today knocking down two passes at the line, talked about OU's depth at his position after today's practice.
"It's been very competitive. We're pretty deep. Of course, it's going to be competitive. Everybody is vying for some playing time."
As a group, Birdine and the defensive ends also showed well in Jerry Schmidt's recent weight room testing.
"Nobody wants to be the guy on the bottom. It's just like bragging rights. They just try to go out there and do their best every time they get a chance."
Before spring practice started, Birdine told us he just wanted to become a better football player. So has he accomplished that this spring?
"You know, I'm still working on it. I'm a work in progress. Initially, I just wanted to come out and get the rust out of me after sitting out the whole year last year. Like I said, I'm taking small steps at a time and I'm just working on it everyday at practice.
"Athletically, I've never had any problems. But you have to maintain your athleticism in a game because technique is a big part of football."
Finding his Holmes
One of the surprises this spring on defense has been the emergence of sophomore Lendy Holmes at cornerback.
Holmes talked about his move and impressive play this spring after Wednesday's practice.
"I've always known that I can play corner," Holmes said. "It was just a matter of whether I was going to come out here and play it.
"I was looking forward to just coming out here and doing good. Period. I didn't come out here to mess around and be sloppy. I didn't want to mess up the whole defensive scheme. I just want to fit in wherever and just go with it."
Why the position switch?
"What made me switch back over to defense was that I started to miss playing defense. I could just take all my anger out on defense by hitting people. You can't do that at receiver."
The Sooners' final practice on Thursday is set to begin at 3:45 p.m.
Wednesday's Practice Report (4/11)
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