The Oklahoma coaches are very happy through the first week of practice and the first day in pads. There have been no major injuries to speak of, but the wide receiver corp is sore and banged up a little.
Here is my take on how each position is shaping up at this point.
Joey Halzle, Sam Bradford and Keith Nichol all continue to get the same amount of reps in every single drill. All three have more than held up their end of the bargain in this competition. There has been no seperation among the three up to this point, but the scrimmage on Wednesday might cause some movement. Bradford has the strongest arm of the three and Halzle is not far behind. Nichol has good arm strength, but he is one of those QBs who throws better in seven-on-seven drills than he does in individual passing drills. Nichol is a better runner than the other two and doesn't mind taking off and running. OU always has a little option game out of the shotgun in their offense and Nichol runs that very well. Don't be surprised if Nichol is the guy OU runs a little more option game out of the gun.
Allen Patrick is the best RB and he is a very talented player. He is also becoming a good team leader and is very popular among his teammates. DeMarco Murray picked up where he left off in the off-season and has been fantastic. He weighs 203 pounds with great speed and the ability to make defenders miss. Chris Brown is exactly what he was last year when he ran the ball so well. He is a prototypical I-formation or one-back tailback. He is not flashy, but just moves the chains. What we are all going to have to do is not get caught up in the fact that Brown is not as flashy as Murray and Mossis Madu. Madu is lighther than Murray and doesn't run with as much power. He can make defenders miss and he and Murray both catch the ball well out of the backfield. Murray looks more natural at receiver, but both he and Madu worked at receiver Friday and Saturday, because the receivers are banged up a little.
As I have reported since the first day he has been on campus, Phil Loadlholt has been tremendous. He has been as good and as big as advertised, and he works hard. He started out the first day at practice as the starting left tackle and he is will be there opening day. Cory Brandon is having a nice camp, but Big Phil has been so good that it goes unnoticed sometimes. Brandon needs to work on his technique, but his upside is tremendous as well. At right tackle, you have a great battle going on between Branndon Braxton and Trent Williams. Coach Patton is going to let this battle be decided on the field and every rep counts. Braxton has come back better than expected and both players are very good.
Brian Simmons is working at right guard and he is a very good football player who has been dominant at times in camp. Kody Cooke is raw, but his upside is tremendous as well. Cooke has been working at RG. Jon Cooper is having a great camp at center and yet Chase Beeler is giving him a great run for his money and then some. Beeler is a very good player who is still running second team. What does that tell you about Cooper's ability? Beeler also slides over at times at works behind Duke Robinson at LG.
This has been the best camp thus for for Robinson. He is maturing as a player and his talent is tremendous. Sherrone Moore is a very solid back-up at LG. One former Sooner coach told me that OU is not deep in the offensive line, but with the talent that they have they should be able to just line-up and move the ball on the ground against most teams.
Joe Jon Finley has looked very good at camp and he is in the best shape of his life. Brody Eldridge loved it when they put the pads on Saturday because he then could lay some guys out. He was on fire as a blocker on Saturday. I hear he is also catching the ball better.
Manel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney have been running with the first unit when they are healty. All three are banged up a little bit, and that is why Murray and Madu are getting some work at WR. The offensive coaches are working Johnson and Iglesias hard. They want both players to be more consistent and they want them to make more plays. That is why so much attention this spring is on Adron Tennell and Brandon Caleb. Coach Stoops wants more big plays out of his wide receivers and both Tennell and Caleb has that kind of athletic ability. Tennell has shown the best big-play ability thus far in camp and he is beginning to emerge as a big-time WR.
Auston English and Jeremy Beal of drawing early rave reviews. English has the ability to be the next great defensive end at OU. Beal is just now learning the DE position, but he has enormous potential. Alonzo Dotson and John Williams are still considered starters and Tim Johnson is getting reps as well, but DE Coach Chris Wilson has opened up the competition and that is what he has going heading into the scrimmage. I still think Dotson and Williams are going to be the starters, but English is the future at the position and that future will be this season.
Cory Bennett is a very good football player that most most of us overlook. He has his weight up to 283 and is doing well in camp. Billy Blackard is really trying to make a move and the word is that Gerald McCoy and Adrian Taylor have been very impressive thus far. So far, Taylor's back has held up. But the big cat that has drawn the most ooh's and ah's is DeMarcus Granger. Granger has been outstanding thus far in camp.
There is a ton of learning going on. Mike Reed is getting a lot of reps at MLB, but Curtis Lofton is as well. Lofton and Lewis Baker get most of the reps at SAM, but Demarrio Pleasant makes plays. Ryan Reynolds is a very instinctive and intelligent player to go along with all that athletic ability. He is all the way back from ACL surgery and he looks good. Austin Box is working at the WILL and Brandon Crow does some as well as the SAM.
Reggie Smith is the real deal and has covered like a blanket. He has only been beaten once during team drills and that was by Tennell. The rest of the plays Reggie has been all over the receivers and he has several picks and knockdowns. Marcus Walker is having his best camp as a Sooner. Lendy Holmes probably leads the secondary in picks early and he has been outstanding in red zone drills. D.J. Wolfe is competiting at the field corner and has been solid. Jonathan Nelson has great ability, but he is still playing like a freshman and needs to get a lot tougher.
Quinton Carter has been the talk of the camp early along with redshirt freshman Dominique Franks. Carter and Franks have been the best two safety's thus far with Nic Harris right there with them. Keenan Clayton has made major strides over last year, but his true test will come when the Sooners scrimmage on Wednesday. Brian Jackson has also proven that he is a better safety prospect than corner after the first week. He has come up with a couple of picks this far in camp. Brett Bowers has also been able to knockdow a few passes.
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