Sunday's Practice Report (8/6)

See inside for a position-by-position look at the highlights from Sunday's workout. Freshman tight end Jermaine Gresham (pictured) drew praise from head coach Bob Stoops after another impressive practice. (Photo Lisa Hall)

Norman — The Oklahoma football team went through their final workout non-tackling workout on Sunday before putting on the full pads Monday.

The fans and media won't get to take in the first full day in pads on Monday, but fortunately there was still some popping and hitting going on for them to see Sunday evening.

"They're picking it up really well for the most part," Stoops said on his defense. "We're just so much further ahead of where we were a year ago at this time. But those young guys are picking it up. We have a number of them doing well. I was impressed with Adrian Taylor today, and Auston English is going to be a good player."

Below is a position-by-position look at the highlights from Sunday's workout.

Quarterbacks
All in all it was a good day for Paul Thompson and Joey Halzle. Neither managed to hit anything deep, but neither were intercepted either.

Halzle hit Jermaine Gresham for a touchdown in the goal line drill. He also looked really good carrying out his fakes in the play-action game as well as throwing while rolling out. On one play, he rolled out, saw open daylight and scrambled for a short touchdown run.

Thompson continues to look solid. His arm strength isn't the strongest, but thus far he's been mainly been working on going getting to his third and fourth read. He's still hot and cold somewhat on swing passes, but other than that he's been really good at the short passing game and keeping the ball away from the defense.

Running Backs
Of the freshmen running backs, we were really impressed the most with the play of Louisiana native Chris Brown on Sunday. He looked great catching screens, as well as scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run in the goal line drill.

But as good as Sunday way for Brown, it was tough for Las Vegas native DeMarco Murray, who took several big shots from opposing linebackers in various drills.

Backup Allen Patrick continues to run strong as well as impress in the passing game where he made several catches again on Sunday. He's also going to be an explosive weapon on kickoff returns.

"Everything's coming along for me fine," Patrick said. "I'm stronger and I'm up to 195 pounds, but I'm gonna get to 200. I'm trying to get back up to my normal size."

Fullbacks/Tight Ends
Jermaine Gresham continues to turn heads. The Ardmore, Okla. native drew more praise from Bob Stoops after another standout workout on Sunday, in which he out-jumped several defenders for a 40-yard catch over the middle.

What's funny was that as soon as Joey Halzle released the ball, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson immediately mumbled a few choice words in disgust, but Gresham's 6-foot-6 frame and amazing athletic ability helped him make the play.

"He is really a guy that looks like he's going to be a great player," Stoops said. "He's 6-6, 260, runs a 4.47. That's what they timed him at. He's working hard and he's a bright guy. He's picking everything up."

Tight end Joe Jon Finley also showed his improved blocking skills for the second straight day, sealing the defensive end to make room for a nice 5-yard touchdown run by Chris Brown in the goal line drill.

Converted defensive end Brody Eldridge also got into the act with a nice 20-yard catch on Sunday.

The fullbacks aren't getting into the action much, but they certainly aren't backing away from it. On one play, Dane Zaslaw got locked up with defensive end John Williams and the two had to be separated after the play. But Zaslaw certainly wasn't backing down.

Wide Receivers
For most of the day, it was Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson running with the first unit. Strong, Quentin Chaney and Eric Huggins got most of the second team reps.

Malcolm Kelly had the biggest day of the receivers, particularly running and catching slants. Iglesias was the victim of a forced fumble after making a nice catch on a curl route.

Fred Strong ran with the first group early on in the workout, but struggled throughout and got a nice lecture by Kevin Sumlin after one drop.

Offensive Linemen
It looks like the Sooners have settled with a first unit, at least for now. The first team for the third straight day consisted of Branndon Braxton and Chris Messner at tackle, Duke Robinson and Brandon walker at guard and Jon Cooper at center.

The second team consisted of Trent Williams and Cory Brandon at tackle, Sherrone Moore and Curtis Bailey at guard and Chase Beeler at center. Beeler also saw some time with the first unit at center. He's struggled with his snaps, but is getting better and the coaching staff is very high on his future.

In other news, backup Cameron Schacht has quit the team and center Jesse White is officially on a medical scholarship. But White is still contributing when he can, as he was the snapper during the skelly drills, which the coaches say is a valuable asset to have.

Defensive Linemen
The first team line, once again, consisted of C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux at defensive end and Cory Bennett and Carl Pendleton at defensive tackle.

Bennett is having a great fall camp and made a sensational play today when he showed his quickness to cut off Adrian Peterson on the edge on a toss sweep for no gain.

"The first step is something that all of our d-tackles work on during the whole summer," Bennett said. "Getting that first step in the ground, that's pretty much the foundation of everything that we do out there."

At defensive tackle, DeMarcus Granger and Steven Coleman worked with the second team while Gerald McCoy and Billy Blackard worked with the third unit. Granger stood out several times on Sunday, stuffing Adrian Peterson on a running play and forcing an incomplete pass on another down. McCoy also had a nice stuff during the goal line drill.

At defensive end, backups Alonzo Dotson and John Williams also stood on several plays — Dotson forcing a QB scramble and then recording the sack, and Williams stuffing a run play.

One other end that has performed better than expected is freshman Adrian Taylor. Taylor could eventually move to defensive tackle, but so far he has proved that he can more than handle his the defensive end position despite his 285 pound frame. Now you might ask how can Taylor keep up at that weight? Well, all he did in the pre-practice testing last week was run a 4.75 in the 40. And you don't draw praise from Bob Stoops after practice unless you've earned it.

Linebackers
Overall, it was a really good day for the linebackers as Zach Latimer, Rufus Alexander and Demarrio Pleasant continue to run with the first unit.

However, it was freshman Brandon Crow who stepped up and recorded several big hits on Sunday. Curtis Lofton also had several nice hits, as well as one forced fumble, which the defense recovered after a receiver made a catch over the middle.

Middle linebacker Zach Latimer also did a great job in coverage blanketing Joe Jon Finley over the middle play after play. Latimer, a senior from Colorado, has also become a vocal leader and somewhat of a jokester for the defense as he's always encouraging the other players, talking smack or patting them on their behinds play after play.

"I'm trying to keep a smile on my face," Latimer said. "Heck, practice is a long time. We haven't even got to two-a-days yet. I'm just trying to keep everybody laughing, having a good time and not thinking about the hot sun."

Back to Crow, the defensive coaches are loving what they are seeing from the freshman so far. The say he has an ‘awe shucks demeanor' and everybody likes him, but ‘he just goes out there and is lighting people up.'

In fact, one of Crow's hits was so powerful that he knocked freshman running back Chris Brown straight back to the ground, even though it was a non-tackling practice.

Secondary
For now, the Sooners have apparently settled on working sophomore Nic Harris as the nickel back and leaving Reggie Smith at corner in the nickel package. Harris also shared time with Darien Williams at free safety.

D.J. Wolfe was out with a minor injury (slightly pulled hamstring), which opened the door for Lendy Holmes to work with the first unit at corner, and the sophomore from Dallas had a great day in coverage with several pass breakups.

The second team secondary on Sunday consisted of Brian Jackson and Marcus Walker at corner and Nic Harris and Jason Carter at safety.

One last note, one defensive coach told us this evening they are extremely pleased with the overall field awareness and coverage ability of the secondary. They feel the unit will be much improved, and they are ecstatic that the return of Marcus Walker will give them a third lockdown corner.

Special Teams
Garrett Hartley had another nice day hitting 7-of-8 field goals with a long of 49 yards. His lone miss was from 54 yards.

Here were the punting stats from today: Hartley (42, 44, 30, 44, 41, 45), Michael Cohen (38, 53, 37, 35, 41, 37) and Mike Knall (38, 33, 35, 30, 41, 44).

Walk-on Derek Shaw and Eric Mensik are still in a battle for the deep snapper job on punts and field goals, but it appears that Shaw may have emerged as the more skilled of the two at this point as he is getting the first set of reps.

Reggie Smith and Allen Patrick were the first team kick returners. The rest of the kick return unit consisted of Lewis Baker, Nic Harris, Zach Latimer, Keenan Clayton and Rufus Alexander on the front line, Joe Jon Finley and Brody Eldridge on the second line and Matt Clapp and Dane Zaslaw on the third line.


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