Norman —The Oklahoma football team took to the practice fields wearing shoulder pads for the first time this fall Saturday evening.
But the big news of the day, at least in our eyes, came from Oklahoma Sports Information Director Kenny Mossman, who informed the media that Bob Stoops has decided to close practices to both reporters and fans beginning with Monday's practice. However, the scrimmages on the 12th and 19th of August will be open to the public.
In the past, even with closed practices, the media has been able to attend at end of the workouts to interview coaches and players, but Stoops says the media will only be granted access to interviews on Tuesdays and Thursday's from now until the season starts.
Why has this decision been made? According to the OU SID, it is because the Sooners want to implement several new offensive schemes and plays. But you also have to figure that this move is an effect of the recent dismissals and negative press generated by other media outlets as a result. We're also guessing that the new offensive schemes will be those used by Wilson from his Northwestern days.
As for the other hot-button topic this spring aka 'Jersey-Gate', Stoops addressed the situation after practice.
"We're just trying to be a little less selfish and a little more team-oriented. It takes a lot more than taking names off the jersey to get it done. We'll see if we can do it. We're definitely not going to have them on."
Stoops was also asked after practice about who stood out in the final testing session before practice started on Thursday.
"For a young guy, Jermaine Gresham just looks awesome. A lot of guys are in really good shape. Reggie (Smith) always tests in a great way. AD and Allen Patrick stand out. Those two are really exceptional in every test that we do."
Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Saturday's workout.
It was another somewhat solid day for quarterback Paul Thompson, but the former receiver did throw his first interception of the fall when he rolled out, but defensive back Reggie Smith read the pass perfectly and picked it off.
Juco transfer Joey Halzle was solid with a 60-yard bomb for a touchdown to Quentin Chaney, as well as a nice slant to Allen Patrick over the middle for a big gain on one play. Sam Bradford received some snaps, but mainly threw short.
With the shoulder pads on, the Sooners turned up the heat a little during their inside drill session for the first time this fall and the running backs got a chance to show their stuff.
Adrian Peterson broke several long runs, but Allen Patrick caught our eye with a nice practice today. Patrick ran tough up the middle and also showed his pass-catching abilities. As mentioned above, Patrick caught a slant over the middle from Halzle and turned it up field for a big gain.
DeMarco Murray, Mossis Madu and Jacob Gutierrez also impressed. Gutierrez made some nice cuts and looks to be back at 100 percent.
Dane Zaslaw and Matt Clapp seemed to be splitting most of the reps at fullback the first two days, but today it was Zaslaw who appeared to get more of the reps with the first unit.
Tight end Joe Jon Finley made a great block on a defensive end on one play that sprung a big hole for Allen Patrick.
The starters today where Malcolm Kelly and Fred Strong on the outside, with Juaquin Iglesias in the slot.
But the receiver who stood out the most to us was sophomore Quentin Chaney. The Tulsa native caught four passes in the 7-on-7 drill, including a 60-yard bomb from Halzle. Eric Huggins also had a nice workout catching two slants for 15- and 17-yard gains.
The first unit 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 Chase Beeler at center.
Beeler hasn't played center before and his struggling some with his snaps, which is to be expected, but it's obvious once he gets that down he's going to be a good one because he has tremendous strength and blocking skills. Thus far, the Jenks product is more than holding his own against the big boys on the other side of the line.
The coaches continue to be impressed with juco transfer Brandon Walker, who is also more than holding his own so far and was praised by offensive line coach James Patton on numerous.
Duke Robinson is working with the first unit at guard, but he's also spent time at tackle where he will see some time this season spelling Messner and Braxton. But if that's going to happen, he's going to need to get in better shape according Patton.
"Duke has the ability to do some things for us and play a number of different positions," Patton said. "But we need Duke to get better stamina. We need him to get in better shape. It's not that he's in bad shape, but if he's going to play 70 to 100 plays a game he needs to get in better condition."
Robinson and Bailey were both seen running extra sprints after practice.
When the Sooners went to their inside drills, the starters on the line were Steven Coleman and Carl Pendleton at tackle and C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux at defensive end.
Gerald McCoy stood out on a couple of plays during the inside drill, as did Coleman who is having a fantastic fall camp so far.
C.J. Ah You made a great play and recorded a sack on one play when he chased down Joey Halzle, who was rolling out and looking downfield.
The linebackers came alive with the shoulder pads on, which meant it was time for Rufus Alexander to dish out a couple of big hits, including a nice stuff on freshman running back Chris Brown.
Junior Demarrio Pleasant continues to have a great fall against the run and in the flat against the pass, where Clint Ingram did such a good job last season. Middle linebacker Zach Latimer also had a nice day in coverage getting his hands on a couple of passes.
One freshman who stood out today on special teams was middle linebacker Jeremy Beal. Beal is a already a big, strong physical presence, and Lewis Baker found that out several times trying to block him on kick returns.
True freshman Brandon Crow has been working at both middle and strongside linebacker.
Another day, another mix-up in the secondary as the Sooners continue to experiment with their tremendous wealth of talent.
Reggie Smith and D.J. Wolfe still held down the starting corner spots, as well as Keenan Clayton and Darien Williams at safety, but the change today was Nic Harris working as the nickel back or the 'Roy back' spot. Yesterday, it was Smith who worked as the Roy back with Marcus Walker coming into to play corner.
But Harris, who seems to get instruction from Bobby Jack Wright after every play, was tested today as the nickel back on Saturday. He also split reps on the first team at free safety with Williams.
"I'm doing everything I can to get on the field," Harris said after practice. "Right now they're giving me a lot of options and I'm trying to take advantage of them. When you're in my position and they tell me to play linebacker, defensive tackle, or if they want me to kick, I'll do anything I can to get on the field.
"I just need to focus. I have all the ability to play at this level. I have the size and speed, but I just need to focus on my assignments. I just need to mentally take care of my business."
Stoops also talked about the mixing and matching of his secondary.
"We're using Reggie an Nic in our Roy position, and they look good in there. They make plays. We're trying to give Nic some real understanding in what we're doing, and I guess we're doing that with Reggie. We're trying to get Nic where he can turn loose more and make plays, and he's really looked good."
Stoops has also been impressed with the emergence of Keenan Clayton at strong safety.
"Keenan Clayton has been awesome. His testing, he's explosive. He can play. I think he's going to be a guy that's going to have a really big year for us."
The secondary gave up one deep pass today, but for the most part their coverage was pretty solid. In fact, it was so solid they forced the quarterbacks to scramble on several plays with the receivers covered and pocket collapsing.
From our vantage point, Garrett Hartley nailed all of his field goal attempts for the second straight day. As for the punting battle, we'll give a slight nod today to Michael Cohen.
Reggie Smith, DeMarco Murray, Manuel Johnson and Jonathan Nelson worked on punt returns.
Saturday's Practice Report (8/5)
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