Norman — Oklahoma's second major scrimmage of the fall is in the books, and once it again it was a running back who stole the show despite the fact all eyes were on the quarterbacks.
For the second straight scrimmage, redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray generated a buzz showing his gamebreaking potential. In all, Murray finished with 132 yards on 16 carries. He also showed his catching skills, catching three passes in the 7-on-7 drills and one nice catch and juke for a 19-yard game in the actual scrimmage.
"DeMarco is a special player," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "All spring he's made a lot of big plays. He really had a big day out here today running the ball, catching the ball and doing just about anything that you ask him to. He's going to be a big boost this year, along with these other guys who are all really complimenting each other well."
The players are also taking notice of Murray's ability.
"DeMarco is a freak," said tight end Jermaine Gresham. "He's strong in the weight room, fast on the field and he's got a combination of everything. He kinda reminds me of A.D., except he's a little smaller. But he's got the same kind of ability (as Peterson)."
Overall, Stoops says Saturday's scrimmage was an improvement over the first.
"I liked it a lot better than our last scrimmage," Stoops said. "I just felt the intensity, the effort and the the enthusiasm to compete and all that was really good. I liked it."
Once again it was an up and down day for the quarterbacks. Joey Halzle was the first quarterback to take reps with the first-team followed by Sam Bradford, while Freshman Keith Nichol did not take reps with the first-team in the scrimmage. In fact, with the exception of a 2-3 series, it was Halzle and Bradford who got most of the work in the scrimmage.
For the day, Bradford completed 8-of-13 passes for 114 yards and two interceptions. Bradford threw quick out to Brandon Caleb in the slot that went for a 40-yard score, but it was apparently ruled a lateral on the field. Had it been counted as a pass, which is what we thought it was at the time, Bradford's numbers jump to 9-for-14 for 154 yards. Halzle completed just 7-of-15 passes for 76 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also threw two interceptions in the 7-on-7 drills. And in his limited time, Nichol was very solid going 4-for-8 for 96 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
If you forced us to pick a leader in the race after today, we'd once again have to give the nod to Bradford. Bradford directed the only two scoring drives against the first-team defense with the first-team offense. He threw two interceptions, one of which was tipped at the line, and the other a bad pass during the red zone drill on a comeback route which was thrown late and allowed the cornerback to step in front of the pass.
"I thought he threw it pretty well last week too," said Stoops when asked about Bradford's performance. "He has been really good all spring. I would say all those guys threw the ball well from what I saw. They made some mistakes, but that is why you cannot get enough snaps out here. The more snaps they get, it just gives them opportunities and this is where they learn.
"They made some critical mistakes that they are smart guys and will learn from. They'll learn not to go to the receiver late with some throws. They all threw some really nice balls as well, but they have been doing that all spring. They did a nice job overall."
Again, if they had to play today it's our opinion that Bradford would be the guy, but don't count out Nichol even though he clearly didn't get the reps Halzle and Bradford received. Nichol just needs more time to learn the offense, but it's obvious he is a special talent — a Rhett Bomar-like talent if you will — who is probably a better passer overall than the other two quarterbacks.
"Joey and Sam have just a further understanding of the offense than Keith," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "We are still trying to put Keith in as many positive situations as he can handle, but I wouldn't read anything into who played where and when.
"I think too many times if we chart X player's with X plays, he's considered doing better...or if his team scored or his team didn't. Our defense will bust a play and that's just a lucky call, and everybody says that quarterback's playing better when in reality that's not the case.
"Keith is just a smidge behind with the learning curve. I think he'll be that way through the summer, but you would like to think by the time preseason rolls around he will start to close the gap where he is processing things quicker. At that time, he is going to be more competitive across the board with doing more things than he can handle right now."
Wilson, however, took some of the blame for the quarterback's mistakes today.
"I thought some of the miscues today was because I tried to window-dress and change looks," Wilson said. "Maybe it's a formation with a motion change that changes coverage moves, and our quarterbacks haven't seen that yet. We have to do that because if we just line up in the same look every day they would get a lock on us and start jumping routes when they saw certain alignments. So we did some things today that we don't do everyday in practice, just to give our kids a chance to not get lasered in.
"Some days we are like a deer drinking at the brook. Some times we go so slow that the defense locks us in and it is an advantage for them. Today, we were trying to go quicker and move some looks, and because of that it probably hurt the quarterbacks a couple of times."
The bottom line as of today is while we like Bradford over Halzle, don't count out Nichol. He has all the tools and with a summer of work under his belt learning the system he could make a more serious run at the starting spot in two-a-days.
The most impressive position on the Oklahoma roster is probably at running back, where Allen Patrick took a backseat as DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown put on impressive performances. We also got our fist look at Mossis Madu today and he showed some flashes rushing for 20 yards and catching two passes for 23 yards. And not to be forgotten is Brown, who rushed for 72 yards on 13 carries including a 5-yard touchdown run.
"We told you Mossis could make some plays. He didn't do anything extraordinary today, but that's how Mossis can play," Wilson said. "But I don't know if size-wise, if those guys (Murray and Madu) are 20-25 carry guys through the long haul. I think you might see those guys make impacts on certain plays.
"I really think Chris Brown is the least flashy of the three, but he may be as good a runner as all of them. Maybe he doesn't have the home run ability as the other guys, but he's a good running back. I like them all and we are going to continue to play them all."
Another impressive performer on offense today was tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gresham led all receivers with 73 yards on three catches, including a nice 15-yard touchdown catch from Nichol.
However, catching passes is not the area Gresham says he's improved the most in this spring.
"I can block a whole lot better. Just a whole lot better," Gresham said. "I want to get better at the line of scrimmage. If I can do that, I can become more of a complete player. That's my goal. I want to be the best player I can be.
"I didn't have to block much in high school, so it's learning the technique and how to get leverage, because in the trenches you have to have leverage to control things down there. So I'm trying to learn everything.
"I did alright receiving the ball today," Gresham continued. "I can do better on that too. I caught all of them and on the touchdwon I knew how to use my size to my advantage. It was a good throw, so it worked out pretty well."
Joe Jon Finley also made a big catch over the middle for 26 yards, bringing the total on the day to four catches for 99 yards for the tight ends.
"Our tight ends are good players," said Stoops. "All of those guys, even Eric Mensik who is a young guy who didn't play last year, are getting better. Jermaine Gresham is just an incredible talent and Joe Jon has been very good for us. Brody Eldridge was maybe my favorite player a year ago. He doesn't get much attention, but he is a very good player."
The offensive line was banged up today with both Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt held out of the scrimmage, but James Patton's unit still managed to pave the way for over 300 yards rushing.
The starters today on the first-team were Branndon Braxton and Trent Williams at tackle, Brian Simmons and Sherrone Moore at guard and Jon Cooper at center.
"This is the most depth we've had since we've been here," Patton said. "If we can just keep them all healthy coming in through the summer and into the season, we'll have some good rotations going.
"Duke had a shoulder stinger, so we held him out today. But it worked out well today because you saw Sherrone Moore and Chase Beeler in there playing guard. It is good to have some depth now. That really keeps those guys learning and going. It's been good."
At receiver, the biggest play of the day was made by sophomore Brandon Caleb, who did his best Mark Clatyon immitation catching a quick pass from Bradford (ruled a lateral in the official stats) in the slot and taking it 40 yards to the end zone. He also recorded another 48-yard catch when he broke free deep and caught a beautiful pass from a scrambling Nichol. Adron Tennell made the biggest play in the 7-on-7 drills when he caught a 50-plus yard bomb from Bradford.
Dane Zaslaw took most of the reps at fullback with Matt Clapp sitting out the scrimmage. Running back Jacob Gutierrez was also held out with a minor injury.
Overall, it was a much better showing today for the defense than in the first scrimmage. OU's first-team defense was dominant early on in the scrimmage, but then gave up two late-scoring drives.
"For the most part, we played OK," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "We had a great week of practice coming in and in some ways we did not play as well today as we did during the week. I think that had a lot to do with the fact the offense threw a number of things at us we had not seen in the spring. Curtis Lofton and Mike Reed had a great week of practice and didn't play all that well today, but I'm encouraged they had a great week of practice. Same thing at defensive end. They were great in practice, but just so-so today.
"But for the last four practices, we've been lights out as a defense. I thought Lewis Baker did some good things, but I still need him to play at a higher level."
"I thought they were really good," said Stoops. "They gave up a few plays late, but early on I thought they played really well. But I think, too, on both sides we were missing a lot of guys with some minor injuries. But these guys are learning how to play. Some of them have not had a lot of snaps."
The first-team defense for most of the day consisted of John Williams and Alonzo Dotson at defensive end, Gerlad McCoy, DeMarcus Granger and Cory Bennett at defensive tackle, Lofton, Reed and Baker at linebacker, Marcus Walker and Reggie Smith at corner and Nic Harris and D.J. Wolfe at safety
Wolfe, who recently made the move from corner to safety, made his presence felt immediately delivering some big hits. He also finished second in tackles with seven and picked off a Joey Halzle pass to stop a potential scoring drive.
"I thought it went alright for the first scrimmage (as a safety)," said Wolfe. "I thought I made a few plays but there were two consecutive plays I would like to take back. Overall, the defense did pretty good. So I think it was a good day."
Wolfe also says the move from corner to safety has been easier than when he moved from running back to cornerback.
"The good part about it is when I'm in the film room as a corner, I'm in there with the safeties most of the time. So I was able to pick up on some of the jargon at safety that coach Spavital and coach Wright were talking about. So far it has been a good move.
"It's an easier transition than moving from running back to corner, especially when you're getting used to back-peddiling and putting on the breaks as a corner. That really helps you as a safety. I like the move, I'm all for it. Today, I was working with the one's and I can't complain. I want to thank coach Stoops and coach Wright for the opportunity."
Harris, who started alongside Wolfe at safety, led the defense with eight tackles. Linebackers Lofton and Baker each recorded seven, and juco linebacker Mike Reed played well with the first-team with six tackles.
Reed also had one of the better hits of the day when he filled the hole on 3rd and short to stuff Chris Brown. Wolfe had the other big hit of the day when he whacked Juaquin Iglesias, although Iglesias made the catch over the middle for a big gain.
"Mike's getting better," said Stoops on Reed. "Again, there is just so much to learn at linebacker but Mike has a lot of strength and explosiveness to him. We'll just go to continue to get him snaps as well to get him comfortable to where he is sure of himself in what we are asking him to do."
Three other young redshirt freshmen players who stood out today were defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Jonathan Nelson. Franks picked off two passes, while Nelson blocked a kick, broke up two passes with tight man coverage. Nelson was also strong stopping the run with five tackles.
"I was really pleased with Dominuque Franks," said Venables. "We have moved him back to corner because we moved D.J. to safety, and you can see why we like Dominique. We also think D.J.'s going to help us at safety."
McCoy was by far OU's best defensive tackle today recording five tackles, one tackle for loss and 1.5 sacks.
"Gerald's a really good player," Stoops said. "You saw that out here today. He's just getting better and better and he's going to be another guy who didn't play last year that's going to make a big impact."
Lendy Holmes, Darien Williams, Ryan Reynolds and Steven Coleman did not go through the scrimmage.
Caleb 40-yard run (Hartley kick)
Murray 2-yard run (Hartley kick)
Gresham 15-yard pass from Nichol (Hartley kick)
Brown 5-yard run (Hartley kick)
Murray -- 16-132, 1 TD
Brown -- 13-72, 1 TD
Caleb – 1-40
Patrick -- 10-35
Madu -- 9-20
Halzle -- 7-15-1-76
Bradford -- 8-13-2-114
Nichol -- 4-8-1-96, 1 TD
Iglesias -- 2-30
Murray -- 1-19
Brown -- 3-5
Madu -- 2-23
Chaney -- 2-26
Johnson -- 2-19
Gresham -- 3-73, 1 TD
Finley -- 1-26
Tennell -- 2-17
Caleb -- 1-48
Harris -- 8
Wolfe -- 7, 1 INT
Lofton -- 7, 1 FR
Baker -- 7
Reed -- 6
McCoy -- 5 , 1 TFL (-1), 1.5 sacks (-8)
Nelson -- 5, 1 TFL (-1), 2 PBU
Robinson -- 5
D. Pleasant -- 5, 1 sack (-9)
Granger -- 4
Macon -- 4, 1 sack (-6)
Franks -- 3, 2 INT
Smith -- 3, 1 INT (9)
Bowers -- 3
Q. Carter -- 3
Dotson -- 3, 1 PBU
M. Walker -- 2, 1 PBU
Crow -- 2 , 0.5 sack (-3)
Beal -- 2, 1 sack (-1)
Bennett -- 2
Williams -- 1, 1 PBU
Davis -- 1
Taylor -- 1
Taggart -- 1
Clayton -- 1
Jackson -- 1
Scrimmage Report: Murray shines again
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