Tuesday, April 14, 2009
What we learned at Oklahoma's spring practices
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma capped its spring practice with a strong defensive effort in the Red-White game. The Sooners entered the spring with few questions from a squad that had notched three consecutive Big 12 titles and looks primed to again challenge for the national championship.
| || |
| ||AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki |
| ||Bob Stoops' offensive line will have some new faces for the 2009 season. |
But there were still a few issues for Bob Stoops heading into spring practice. Here are some of the things we've learned about his team as the Sooners conclude their work Tuesday afternoon.
- Sam Bradford looked in midseason form, capping his work by completing 11 of 13 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. His backups, redshirt freshman Landry Jones and early arriving freshman Drew Allen, weren't nearly as sharp as they completed only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game. If Stoops needed any more reason to feel relieved coming out of the spring, watching Bradford play should have given him some comfort.
- The four new members of the offensive line clearly are still a work in progress. But don't read too much into their struggles in the Red-White scrimmage after producing 27 yards on 52 rushing attempts. Many teams are going to have problems against Oklahoma's defense this season. And the Oklahoma offense was hamstrung playing without running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Chalk up the line's struggling performance to a tough opposing defense, a limited seven-man rotation and substitute backs playing in the spring game. I would expect to see some substantial improvement by the time the regular season arrives in early September.
- Concern about the wide receiver group coming into the spring might have been overstated. Both Adron Tennell and Ryan Broyles looked strong as outside receivers and Mossis Madu had his moments as a slot receiver. And Jermaine Gresham, who barely played this spring, might be the nation's most explosive tight end.
- Nobody gets up for the Red-White game quite like cornerback Dominique Franks. Over the past two seasons, Franks has produced five interceptions and returned two of his picks for touchdowns in the games against his teammates. Now, if he could transfer that over to the regular season ...
- The Sooners still need some more production from their kicking game. Tress Way doubled as a kickoff specialist and a punter in the spring game and needs improvement in both categories. Jimmy Stevens didn't have to kick a field goal, which was a problem throughout last season. Both areas were handicaps in the Sooners' losses against Florida and Texas, and must improve for the Sooners during the upcoming season.
- The departure of heralded center prospect Jason Hannan might have been a concern for offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. But Brian Lepak, a transfer from Colorado State, alleviated some of those worries with his strong play. Redshirt freshman Ben Habern is set as the starter, but the Sooners don't lose much when Lepak plays. He even started at left guard for the spring game.
- Any doubts about the future appear to be tempered after the strong play this spring of incoming freshmen Tom Wort, Ronnell Lewis and Jaydan Bird, who all made surprising progress considering their youth. The trio combined for nine tackles, two tackles for losses and a deflected pass. And that's only the beginning.
- The Sooners' biggest position of strength may be at defensive end, even with Auston English missing the spring because of an injury. The rest of the rotation -- Jeremy Beal, Frank Alexander and David King -- all had strong springs. Alexander capped strong work with three sacks in the spring game and Beal added two more in a stellar effort.
- With Austin Box and Ryan Reynolds missing the spring as they recovered from injuries, Mike Balogun built on his strong performance in the BCS title game with a strong performance by filling in for Keenan Clayton in the spring game.
- The biggest producer this spring in the secondary may have been sophomore Desmond Jackson, who alternated between cornerback and safety. Look for him to use this as a springboard for playing time in the fall.
- Walk-on safety Emmanuel Jones has been a revelation in the secondary. After spending most of his time working with the cornerbacks, coaches pressed him into duty at safety after Quinton Carter tweaked a hamstring while heading into the corridor on his way to the scrimmage. Jones made the most of his opportunity with a strong performance. Can anybody say Wally Pipp?