Fall Practice News and Notes

Fall practice may be closed to the fans and media, but that won't stop OUInsider.com from providing some tidbits on how the Sooners are progressing behind closed doors. See inside for the latest on the position battles on defense, special teams and offense, including the progress of sophomore lineman Brandon Walker (pictured). (Photo/Lisa Hall)

The Sooners went through two-a-days today on Monday, and in both practices worked in uppers (shoulder pads). Practice was closed to the public and media, but from all accounts the team had very good workouts.

OU head coach Bob Stoops has stated many times that the offense is adding some wrinkles for Paul Thompson, and since they are three weeks out from their opening game this is a big week to get a lot of wrinkles in. Also, this is a key week on personnel decisions as well and guys can really make their move up or down a depth chart this week.

Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly returned to both practices today and looked great. It is amazing how much better the offense looks with Kelly on the field. He is a future NFL player and his presence means a lot to the offense. Also, Manuel Johnson went through workouts today after leaving the scrimmage early with a minor injury.

Offensive line coach James Patton is very happy with the play of center Jon Cooper. He is being very careful with him trying not to wear him out. However, Cooper is very tough inside and really gets after it. You can see Cooper blocking his man or another man 10 yards downfield sometimes.

Junior college transfer and guard Brandon Walker is also getting better every day. There is an adjustment that has to be made from junior college to D-1 football and Walker is making that adjustment. He is still thinking a little bit, but when he gets a total grasp of the offense he is going to be a very good guard.

What a difference a year makes for OU's tight end situation. Last year OU was average at tight end, but this year they are going to be strong. The emergance of freshman Jermaine Gresham has given the stock of the tight end position a great boost. Gresham will play a big role for OU this year as the fourth receiver in four receiver sets.

Sophomore Matt Clapp is beginning to win the fullback job, but he is now getting pushed by walk-on linebacker-turned-fullback Ian Pleasant. Edmond, Okla. native Dane Zaslaw is not out of the race, but with two scrimmages still to come this is a big week for him.

On defense, the Sooners continue to play very well during camp. A player who is making a move is sophomore linebacker Curtis Lofton. Lofton had a good spring and he has picked up where he left off. He is giving senior Zach Latimer a run for his money at at middle linebacker (MIKE), and with Demarrio Pleasant a little banged up at the strongside spot (SAM), Lofton has moved over to that position and looked very good. You know that coach Brent Venables will play his three best linebackers, and Loton is working to get into that group. The competition at LB this week will be very intense.

At defensive tackle, OU has several options and it will be interesting to see how coach I'm happy to see how coach Jackie Shipp sorts through it this week and next. Steven Coleman, Carl Pendleton, DeMarcus Granger and Cory Bennett appear to be the top four players right now. However, that competition is far from over and Billy Blackard, Gerald McCoy and Cordero Moore are pushing for playing time. The next few days will go a long way in determining who makes up the DT rotation.

Defensive end Alonzo Dotson is having a great camp, yet he can't get on the field. OU is so strong at DE, especially with the return of John Williams, that Dotson will only play in spots this year.

In the secondary, it looks like Darrien Williams is going to be the free safety and Nic Harris will be the nickel back. Harris weighs 225 pounds and he just doesn't have the range in pass coverage that Williams has, but he is fantastic in the role of the 'Royback' or nickel back. Look for Harris to play a big role in the defense blitzing off the corner and through the middle of the defensive line.

The Sooner coaches are encouraged by the punters, and right now Michael Knall, Michael Cohen and Garrett Hartley are all still in contention. Stoops has stated that he would rather Hartley just placekick and kick-off, but it looks like Knall or Cohen are punting well enough to get that done. I think Cohen is going to win the job.

Former OU quarterback Rhett Bomar has narrowed his choices down to two at this point. He wants to play D-1, but he doesn't know how the NCAA is going to rule on his eligibility for next season, and that complicates his decison.

If he is going to be suspended all of next year, then he will probably go play for Sam Houston State where he would at least get two years of play. If he felt he was only going to be suspended five games in 2007, then he will probably go to Houston and play the remainder of that season and then play a full senior season for the Coogs.

So it looks like it is either Houston or Sam Houston State. However, Bomar eeds to make a decison this week because he needs to get enrolled in school.

One final note, OU announced today that the remaining scrimmages and practices will be closed to the public and media.

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