Friday's Practice Report (8/4)

See inside for a position-by-position look at the highlights from Friday's practice, including quotes from OU head coach Bob Stoops. (Photo/Lisa Hall)

Norman — The Oklahoma football team went threw their second non-tackling practice of the fall in just helmets, shorts and jerseys Friday in Norman.

"I was pleased with practice," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "I liked it. Guys had great energy. I thought offensively we're doing a lot of good things. We're better than we were the day before. The same thing defensively."

Stoops says the Sooners will step up the contact a little bit on Saturday when they add shoulder pads to the mix for the next two days before going to full pads on Monday.

Below is a position-by-position glance at the major news and notes from Friday's workout.

For a guy who hasn't thrown a football regularly since last December, Paul Thompson continued to look pretty good again on Friday. He even rolled out on several plays as well as scrambling on a couple of occasions.

Thompson and backup QB Joey Halzle threw the deep ball a little more today, with Thompson hooking up with Malcolm Kelly again on a 60-yard bomb for a touchdown. He also avoided the interception bug for the second straight workout. Halzle threw one interception, but still managed to have a pretty good day himself.

"I felt really good," said Stoops when asked how his quarterbacks performed on Friday. "I thought Paul, for just being out here two days, threw some really nice deep balls and is really sticking it in there. They each have a bad one here and there that props up, but it's only our second day out here. Overall, I've been very pleased."

True freshman Sam Bradford got a few snaps today and looked good throwing the ball in his limited time. However, it's obvious from the amount of reps he's received so far the plan is to redshirt him this season and go with Thompson and Halzle.

Running Backs
As usual, it was another great day for Adrian Peterson. Peterson hit the hole strong flashing several spin moves, and he would've taken one run the distance had the whistle not been blown.

The young cats, freshmen Mossis Madu and DeMarco Murray, also impressed with their running ability today. Both look really, really good and are showing they have lots of moves.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks
Dane Zaslaw and Matt Clapp are still battling for the starting fullback spot, but to be honest they really haven't been utilized much thus far. Both struggled catching the ball out of the backfield on Friday, and that will have to improve if they're going to see the field in September.

It was a somewhat quiet day for the tight ends, Joe Jon Finley caught a couple of passes over the middle, but the talk of the fall so far has been the physical presence of freshman Jermaine Gresham.

"He's worked hard, he has an attitude about him. He's really going to be a special one," Stoops said after practice. "He's a 260-pound tight end who can run."

Redshirt freshman Aaron Cummings, who is still recovering from an injury suffered last season, didn't practice today for the second straight day.

Wide Receivers
Malcolm Kelly made the big play of the day when he out-jumped D.J. Wolfe, who had blanket coverage, for a Paul Thompson pass for a touchdown. But the star of the day was sophomore Fred Strong.

Strong, who is currently working with the second team, caught several passes in the 7-on-7 and team drills. True freshman Brandon Caleb also stood out again today with a couple of nice grabs, but we cannot say how much we were impressed with Strong today.

Offensive Linemen
The first team today consisted of Chris Messner and Branndon Braxton at tackle, Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker at guard and Jon Cooper at center. The second team was Cory Brandon and Trent Williams at tackle, Sherrone Moore and Curtis Bailey at guard and Ben Barresi at center.

Cooper told us during media day this morning that he still isn't quite 100 percent yet, but he still looks pretty good to us moving around. True freshman Chase Beeler also worked some at center.

Defensive Linemen
The starters on Friday were C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux at defensive end, and Steven Coleman and Carl Pendleton at tackle.

Coleman, who ran with the second team on Thursday, had a nice day with a sack and blowing up the middle on a couple of running plays. True freshman Gerald McCoy also made his presence felt with a couple of nice pass rushes up the middle.

Cory Bennett and DeMarcus Granger worked with the second unit at defensive tackle, and third-team defensive ends John Williams, Alan Davis and Auston English caught our eye several times, which bodes well for the future. The bottom line is OU is absolutely loaded at defensive end.


There wasn't much noise coming from this group today, but what can they really do without full pads? Demarrio Pleasant continued to look strong, and Rufus Alexander was doing a lot of talking on the field today and moving well.

One other note, Stoops said after practice that true freshman Brandon Crow will get a look at the snapper position this weekend.

The starters here today were D.J. Wolfe and Reggie Smith at corner, Keenan Clayton at strong safety and Darien Williams at free safety. However, sophomore Nic Harris split reps with Williams at free safety. Harris also seemed to be getting attention from secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright after every play, which should tell you what he thinks about his future.

There was a slight shake-up with the first group when the Sooners went to the nickel today. In the spring, it was Lendy Holmes who took over at the field corner spot with Reggie Smith moving to the 'Roy' in OU's nickel package, but today it was Marcus Walker at field corner instead of Holmes, and for good reason.

Walker had a great first day of practice on Thursday and he followed it up again today with tight coverage and his second interception of the spring. So watch out for Walker, who is 100 percent healthy again and ready to earn back a spot on the field he earned late in the 2004 season.

The second team safeties today were Jason Carter and Nic Harris/Darien Williams. Brian Jackson also looks recovered from his injury and got some reps with the second team at corner.

Keenan Clayton also showed his versatility picking up a sack on a blitz.

Special Teams
Garrett Hartley nailed all of his field goals on Friday, and for the second straight day looked good punting the ball.

Mike Knall probably had one of his better days booting the ball since he arrived in Norman, but he was still outshined by Hartley and junior college transfer Michael Cohen, who booted on punt 70 yards. Stoops said Cohen led the way on Friday with a 42-yard average, while Hartley finished at 40 yards.

So what happens if Hartley wins the punting job? Is Stoops fine with him doing both — kicking and punting?

"Ideally, no. But I'm not totally against it. Kickers have a lot of time to work on those things so it wouldn't be a practice issue. But we have three guys right now that are all hitting it pretty well.

"He did well today," said Stoops on Hartley's punts. "But I thought Michael Cohen did pretty well. Mike Knall was better getting the ball off on time. Knall was better than both of them getting the ball off quickly."

Derek Shaw and Eric Mensik are going to battle it out for the snapper job, with another possible candidate in linebacker Brandon Crow. Shaw seems to have a slight edge with his snapping skills, but Mensik is bigger and the better blocker of the two. Stay tuned.

And Hayes McEachern, who was actually OU's holder during the Holiday Bowl, has all but locked up that job and was perfect again on Friday.

The Sooners will return to the practice field Saturday at 5 p.m.

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