Oklahoma welcomed veteran players and newcomers Friday afternoon as the Sooners officially began their quest for their eighth National Championship.
As is the custom under Bob Stoops, significant practices are kicked off with a talk by a former player or dignitary. Congressman JC Watts received the honors today and talked about the powerful tradition and expectations of Oklahoma football. JC also revealed that he would be a quarterback next week for the Washington Redskins in their ‘skelly' drills under new coach Steve Spurrier.
It was evident during the two and one half hour practice that the Sooners are in great shape. Coach Bob Stoops said: "This is the best conditioned football team we've ever had here. Coach Schmidt and his staff do an incredible job. We went through final testing today, and the team posted numbers better than at any time at Oklahoma. Without question we're a a bigger, faster, stronger football team."
On a more somber note, it appears that re-occurring back problems may end the career of Juan Prishker. At this time his football career appears that it may be ended.
The kicking competition received more attention today with Trey DiCarlo and Steven Sarubbi about even. One observation, DiCarlo appears to have the stronger leg, while Sarubbi is more consistent.
Sarubbi said, "The first two days my leg was sore, I don't know why. I've been kicking all summer - but I missed some balls. The couple of days off helped and today I didn't miss any."
DiCarlo's kicks were generally higher and longer. On kick offs for example, DiCarlo had no problem placing his in the endzone, while Sarrubi's kickoffs usually came up several yards short.
We asked Trey about the wild three days that saw him end up at Oklahoma. "My man Travis (Wilson), called me, and told me the kicker didn't show, so I'd better get my butt down here. At the same time he gave me Coach Stoops phone number. I guess he'd also been talking with the coaches because when I called coach Stoops, he knew me and told me to get right on up here. So I literally threw some things in the car and started driving. I didn't get here until a few moments before practice. So I ran up to coach Stoops, introduced myself, he said ‘hi' and told me to get down there and start kicking!"
When asked about Texas, DiCarlo said, "Texas called me and I would have considered going there, but I know people here and I'm just glad to be here." DiCarlo revealed that he'd just started kicking with his left foot a year or so ago when his right one was injured. "It felt pretty good so I've just kicked with my left one since." When asked if he could go back, DiCarlo responded "Yeah, Probably."
The offensive line was rumored to undergo change after the spring. Coach Kevin Wilson lined them up as follows on the first day: Vince Carter at center; Mike Skinner RG; Jamal Brown at RT. On the left side Kelvin Chaisson was at guard with Wes Sims at the tackle.
Backing up were: Jerod Fields LT; Chris Bush LG; Brad Davis C; Jerod Barclay RG and Chike Ozumba at RT.
Quarterback has been a hot topic since the Sooner offense took a mid season siesta last year, primarily due to injuries. As expected, Jason White took most of the snaps with the first team, but Nate Hybl also looked good throwing the football.
Both White and Brent Rawls got off to shaky starts but settled down later. White started by throwing high while Rawls had a horrific first three snaps. His first pass was behind the receiver, the second was fumbled and an interception followed. Rawls then began to catch a rhythm and played well from that point on.
In the two minute team drills, White had three of the five series, while Hybl and Brent Rawls each received one.
New receiver coach Darrell Wyatt said the main emphasis this year was to get the wide receivers to make the big play. "Make the catch, get the first down.. .score." It must have sunk in. The best of the wide receivers was senior Antwone Savage, now at the slot, had a great day and put on a dominating performance reminiscent of his sophomore season. Savage was able to get deep several times to give a hint of the big pay threat that Chuck Long has vowed to restore to the '02 Sooner offense. Mark Clayton and Curtis Fagan were the other starters at the receiver position.
Along the defensive line, subtle changes were seen as Dusty Dvoracek and Tommie Haris were starters, with Harris moving outside the OT and Dvoracek taking the nose.
Linebackers were as expected with Teddy Lehman, (now at close to 250), playing the weakside, Lance Mitchell at MLB andPasha Jackson settled in at SLB. Defensive backs were Eric Bassey at SS; Brandon Everage at FS and CB's Derrick Strait and Andre Woolfolk.
Michael Thompson continued his miracle comeback as he worked at SS while redshirt freshman Bobby Klink manned the backup FS slot. Other backups were Antonio Perkins at SS & Jowahn Poteat, who played well at CB after a somewhat disappointing spring.
At tight end, James 'Bubba' Moses was often on the field with senior All America candidate Trent Smith. Lance Donley also saw time.
The much anticipated two back set was a rarity today while senior Quentin Griffin was a dominant force at running back, at one point making a few young players look somewhat foolish.
In general, the freshmen do not show well the first week or two, but two did make their presence known. Rufus Alexander at linebacker and Travis Wilson at receiver gave indications that they would bid for rare playing time among newcomers.
Getting the most attention in punt return drills were Perkins, Fagan & Mark Clayton.
Coach Bob Stoops said, "We had a great practice today. The guys know the system. We're able to accomplish and do much more. They just know and understand what we're doing without us having to teach then all the details."
"We've got great competition. A lot of talented players, and our depth is much better than it's been."
Jason White said, "Offensively what will the changes do for us? Our running game will help the passing game. We're going to hammer people with the run. Make the safeties come up an then pop one over their heads. We'll stretch the field and that will open up the short game, which in teams tried to neutralize against us last year."
Jason stated that his knee was at 100% and felt like it'd never been injured. "I feel like I don't have a injured knee anymore. I feel nothing. I do wear a brace - but it's not because I want to or feel like I need it. My goal is too punt it before our first game."
Offensive line recruit Ryan Schuler, (6-7, 270, 4.8) , from Souix Falls (Washington) South Dakota, has been on an unoffical visit the past two days and Sooner coaches would love to wrap this one up soon. After today, OU may lead. The Sooners take the field tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM and again at 5:15PM.
Friday 8/9 Practice Report
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