Spring practices continue in Norman. Another one happened yesterday out on the green grass of Owen Field. There should be 6 more practices before the Red and White game on April 11.
There hasn't been a whole lot of news out of Norman regarding spring practices. You probably would be hearing more if Sam Bradford had departed for the NFL draft, but the relative consistency from last year probably has minds at ease.
In fact, if you count Quinton Carter as a starter since he made a few starts last season, the defense will return 10 starters. The offense loses 6 starters, but overall Oklahoma will trot out 15 of the same starters as last year. Not shabby.
Speaking of the defense, did you know that the OU defense gave up 347 yards per game last season? That ranks as the second highest average in school history. Of course, a lot of that probably has to do with the spread offenses and talented signal callers in the Big 12. But give the D credit, they aren't trying to cop out of all the blame. Strong-side linebacker Keenan Clayton:
"Unacceptable. I didn't know it was that high," said strong-side linebacker Keenan Clayton, another first-year starter who was third on the team with 82 tackles and tied for first nationally with six forced fumbles. [...]
"They [Big 12 offenses] made plays," he said, "but we gave a lot of plays away. It works both ways."
Brent Venables is pretty excited, but who can blame him. The 2009 recruiting class was loaded with defensive talent, and they started spring practice with a ton of experienced players already on the field.
Linebacker, which was seen as a weakness last season, is now probably a position of strength. The biggest question mark is at middle linebacker where injuries riddled Ryan Reynolds and Austin Box. Box recently had elbow surgery, and both him and Reynolds are still recovering so Mike Balogun is getting a lot of the spring reps. In a related note, Balogun could quite possibly be the best third string middle linebacker I've seen! Plus, we brought in new recruits Tom Wort (4-star), Ronnell Lewis (5-star), Gus Jones (3-star), and Jaydan Bird (4-star). Any one of them has the talent to get some playing time. I think the linebackers will have a banner year behind our defensive line, which is probably our deepest and most talented position on defense.
A bit more info after the jump...(click the link below)
I've been trying to dig up anything I can on certain guys who are showing good flashes in spring ball. Pat Jones on the Sports Animal said that he is intrigued by Stephen Good, a new offensive lineman.
Word on James Hanna is that he's pretty fast for his size at tight end. He could step into a Gresham type role once Gresham leaves and could see the field a little more this season. Despite Manuel Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney leaving, OU is still extremely deep at tight end, and we'll have some bigger receivers now - both Jameel Owens (6-3) and DeJuan Miller (6-5) are around or a bit over 200 pounds.
I did manage to find this post on a scout.com message board that gives some practice observations. Take it for what it's worth - someone's opinion - but it offers a little insight. I'll summarize a few points here. Gresham and Bradford are looking great. Travis Lewis and Keenan Clayton have added some bulk. Mike Balogun, who I mentioned earlier was getting more reps, was apparently making some big hits. Landry Jones has a cannon but needs to work on accuracy. The safeties need some work, but it's good that they're playing against the Heisman winner in practice I suppose. According to this Tulsa World article, Proctor and Carter want to be the most physical safety tandem in the country. That's good guys, just don't start headhunting over the middle.
Let's skip over to Gainesville, FL for a moment where apparently the Gators are experimenting with an up-tempo, fast paced offense. Urban must have been impressed by what Kevin Wilson has done at OU. Whatever they want, it makes no difference to me - I just thought that was an interesting story. As a side note about our offense, I think perhaps it could be even a bit better if the offensive linemen get their technique down. We graduated so many huge offensive linemen, I think the new guys might be able to get up and down the field a bit better.
And with that I'll just summarize the remaining points/stories with bullets:
- Tulsa World: Jarvis Jones making the most of his second chance.
- ESPN.Com: Sam Bradford eager for challenge of another season.
- Rivals.com: Ranking the Big 12 Coaches; Stoops #1
- NewsOK: The latest on Justin Chaisson
- A quarterback recruits for 2010 for you to start hoping for: Blake Bell. He is from just north of the Oklahoma-Kansas border, but he's being recruited by some pretty stellar programs.
- 5 commitments so far with the 2010 class, including 3 guys that have four stars on the Rivals rating system. You can check them out on the ESPN page too. The same 3 guys are on the ESPNU150 watch list.
And to wrap it all up, challenge yourself by taking the Wonderlic Test!