Oklahoma Sooners: Spring Practice

As far as players are concerned, coach Bob Stoops has saved his most intense ire for receivers who draw celebration penalties after touchdowns. In 2009, Stoops laid into Ryan Broyles after Broyles was flagged for high-stepping into the end zone with the Sooners trailing by four touchdowns at Texas Tech. In 2010, Kenny Stills got ripped by Stoops after jump-spiking the ball following a scoring grab that also resulted in a penalty.

In the spring game, Jaz Reynolds played with fire when he dunked the ball over crossbar after a 60-yard touchdown catch. The dunk led to a penalty, and the Sooners ended up missing the subsequent extra point from the 18-yard line. Because it was a scrimmage, Stoops cut Reynolds, who rebounded from a scary kidney injury to take part in spring ball, some slack.

“I figured I would let that one go,” Stoops said.

Reynolds had been planning to undergo a surgical procedure on the kidney after spring practice. But the kidney has recovered more than expected, eliminating the need for surgery.

“He’s felt so good, he’s just going to let it go as it is,” Stoops said.
During the regular season, defensive backs Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst rarely come off the field. But in the Red-White spring game, both had a chance to watch their teammates from the sideline for a change.

So, who caught their eye defensively?

“The one who really caught my eye was Q-Hayes,” Hurst said, referring to backup sophomore safety Quentin Hayes. “He really played solid. I was watching the secondary when I was off the field, and he was breaking to the ball, making good tackles and really just flying around. I was really impressed with him. He pretty much was the one who stuck out to me.”

Jefferson too singled out Hayes’ performance in the Red-White scrimmage, noting he “really liked what Quentin Hayes did.” Hayes finished the spring with four tackles, including one for loss.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has said that he wants to use at least seven defensive backs next season. Hayes made a convincing argument during the spring for inclusion in the rotation as a backup safety.
This season is the final go-around for Oklahoma cornerback Lamar Harris. The senior has seen only spot duty in 13 games in his first three seasons.

Harris knew he had to step up for the Sooners and he has this spring at the cornerback position opposite Demontre Hurst. He was solid in the spring game, finishing with four tackles.

“Lamar did good,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “He knew from the get-go he had to make an improvement. I was real impressed with him today.”

At 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, Harris brings good size to the position and was in solid position during pass coverages throughout the spring game.

“He played well,” Hurst said. “I know it’s kind of hard playing on the boundary (corner) but basically it comes down to technique. He didn’t give up any big plays or extravagant plays that hurt the defense. Overall, he did good.”

If Harris continues his strong play, he could give defensive coordinator Mike Stoops the option to leave junior Aaron Colvin at safety instead of moving him to cornerback for next season.
New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops doesn't care if Oklahoma’s defensive backs call themselves the "sharks" or not. But he does care that they play with confidence.

“I just want them to be confident, aggressive players,” Stoops said. “I don’t want to take their confidence away, you never want to do that but you want it to be real confidence and real motivation when you go on the field.”

Cornerback Demontre Hurst said OU’s defensive backs purposely stepped back from calling themselves the sharks this spring after a terrible stretch run during the 2011 season.

“That’s maturity,” Stoops said. “We need guys to understand our fun is going to be out there when we compete and know what the hell we’re doing, are getting after people and covering them... That to me is the celebration and the fun. They have to enjoy what they’re doing.”
Oklahoma fans got their first glimpse of redshirt freshman quarterback Kendal Thompson on Saturday, as he went 7-of-9 for 42 yards and one touchdown and led the offense on its game-winning drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

“I thought he did really well,” quarterback Drew Allen said. “[With] his composure and he way he ran the offense. The thing I’ve noticed about him, he might not get as many reps as everybody (but) he works hard mentally to make sure he is compared so when he does go out there, he does what he did today.”

The elusive signal-caller also rushed for 25 yards on three carries. It was obvious it could take a while for Thompson to get comfortable sitting back in the pocket but he looked at home in the open field, eluding defenders.

“He kind of reminds me of RGIII with the way he moves and is so elusive,” linebacker Corey Nelson said, comparing Thompson to Baylor's Heisman-winning signal-caller, Robert Griffin III. ‘He’s so accurate with his passes, he did very well.”
The transition into college football has been difficult for Taylor McNamara. A freshman early enrollee at Oklahoma, McNamara joined the Sooners in January to step right into the battle for snaps at tight end.

After flashing his talent at times during spring practices, McNamara took things to another level during the spring game with three receptions for 23 yards.

“I feel like he turned it up today,” linebacker Corey Nelson said. “He’s been doing very well throughout the spring and to see him out there today catching all the passes was amazing, so I feel like he’s improving.

“He might be better with the lights on.”
Senior cornerback Demontre Hurst is trying to be a leader for Oklahoma’s defense in 2012. After the defense suffered a 22-21 loss in the Red-White spring game, Hurst was positive about the first outing with Mike Stoops at the helm.

“I give us a B+ (because) we still have things to work on,” Hurst said. “Small things, techniques. Once we get the small things down we’ll be where we want to be.”

Other than Jaz Reynolds' 60-yard touchdown catch, the defense did a solid job of limiting big plays.

“We came out with an attitude and focus on getting better,” Hurst said. “We tried not to give up big plays and keep working on the little things.”

Hurst missed an interception that could have given the defense the extra three points from a turnover and secured the victory.

“It kind of caught me by surprise. I ran by it (and) barely touched it,” Hurst said of the missed opportunity. “Just one of those thing you have to work on.

His teammates didn’t hesitate to let him hear about it, with Tony Jefferson giving him a hard time in the post game media room.

“They gave me a hard time already. I wasn’t even two minutes off the field (and) they were giving me a hard time,” Hurst said. “In those situations you have to make those type of plays to close out the game. I’ll make sure I make those plays in the fall.”
The Sooners had several stars emerge this spring who garnered plenty of attention in the past few weeks, led by receiver Trey Metoyer and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

But Saturday’s spring game proved that Metoyer and Phillips weren’t the only Sooners who took advantage of the opportunity to impress the coaching staff. Here’s a look at five players who had solid spring performances, yet went largely overlooked:

Linebacker Joseph Ibiloye: The senior quietly had a solid spring at the linebacker spot, running with the No. 1 defense to start the spring game. Ibiloye had three tackles in the game despite leaving early with a shoulder injury.

He brings good size and speed to the table and will push Corey Nelson for the starting linebacker spot. Don’t be surprised to see Nelson get plenty of playing time but Ibiloye’s solid spring should give new linebackers coach Tim Kish some options at linebacker.

[+] EnlargeTrey Franks
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJunior receiver Trey Franks quietly had a strong spring for the Sooners.
Defensive tackle Damon Williams: With all of the attention on Phillips this spring, few fans talked about Williams, another redshirt freshman interior defensive lineman. He quietly moved up the depth chart and saw plenty of action with the No. 1 defense in the spring game, recording one tackle.

Injuries to Stacy McGee and Casey Walker have provided an opportunity for OU’s young defensive tackles, and Williams appears to have seized the opportunity.

Receiver Trey Franks: Metoyer, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds got all of the attention during the spring, but Franks was productive and took his game to another level heading into his junior season.

His quickness and speed could create nightmares in the slot for Big 12 defenses, particularly with Metoyer, Stills and Reynolds on the outside. The key for Franks is to continue to progress this summer without taking a step backward on or off the field.

Offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson: As the lone returning tackle with significant game experience, it seemed to be a forgone conclusion to pencil in Lane Johnson’s name into the starting spot at left tackle. Thompson had other ideas, and with a very strong spring he opened the spring game with the No. 1 offense.

“Tyrus Thompson has really come along,” Sooners tackles coach Bruce Kittle said. “It’s pretty even right now. We’re really pleased with him and feel like he’s game-ready. We’re in really good shape over there.”

Thompson is a redshirt sophomore who has the versatility to play either tackle spot in the Sooners' offensive attack.

Center/Guard Nila Kasitati: Kasitati might play the deepest position on the entire roster, particularly when Ben Habern returns from his neck injury.

But don’t be surprised if Kasitati forces the coaching staff to find a way to get him some time on the field. He’s talented, athletic, versatile and aggressive. The Sooners rotate their linemen so Kasitati could earn time in the rotation thanks to his ability to play multiple positions.

Oklahoma Red-White spring game chat

April, 14, 2012
4/14/12
12:30
PM ET
Though the Sooners' Red-White spring football game isn't televised, we'll be chatting throughout the game right here on SoonerNation starting at 1:30 p.m.

You can listen to the game nationally on Sirius 113/XM 191 and on the radio at KOKC-AM 1520 in Oklahoma City.

Spring ball is a time for younger players to come into their own. So far, who has impressed Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops?

"Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin are doing really well," Stoops said Thursday of the backup linebackers. "They're having great springs. They're going to play. They do a lot of really good things and they've both got great feet, they're tough, they play hard, they're both conscientious, so they're going to play."

Stoops was also high on freshmen defensive tackles Marquis Anderson and Jordan Phillips.

"Jordan Phillips is doing an excellent job,” he said. “Marquis is doing well, too."

DE Geneo Grissom getting healthy

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
4:30
PM ET
Bob Stoops said Thursday that defensive end Geneo Grissom, who has missed most of the spring with a stress fracture in his foot and remains in a boot, should be healthy in time to participate in summer workouts.

Ironically, Grissom missed his true freshman season with a stress fracture, but on the other foot.

"He must have a little bit of a genetic defect there," Stoops said. "We knew he had one in the winter and we were hoping just to get through spring and then fix it and it just popped on him doing some of the drills he did."

It remains to be seen whether Grissom will be able to play himself into the top-four of the rotation. Chuka Ndulue and junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson are also vying for playing time behind projected starters R.J. Washington and David King.

"This was a time that you would think Geneo would jump forward and make a big jump. I thought he would,” said ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. “He had a really good winter and we thought he was on the verge of coming out this spring and really showing he was going to compete for a lot of playing time and I think he still will in the fall."
The “sharks” have been on hiatus this spring -- some might say they’ve been on hiatus since early last November -- but there could be a sighting during Oklahoma’s spring game.

“The sharks are still around but we’re keeping it quiet,” cornerback Demontre Hurst said.

The Sooners defensive backs called themselves the sharks during the preseason in 2011 and the moniker took off, particularly after it was featured during their appearance on ESPN’s all-access special “Training Days with the Sooners” which showed OU preparing for the 2011 season last August.

This spring, instead of talking about how productive and dominant they were going to be, the defensive backs have decided to focus on improving their play and erasing the memories of a poor finish to last season.

“We really wanted to focus on being good players and focusing on the small things,” Hurst said of the sharks' disappearance. “[But] you are going to see the sharks in the spring game so be ready.”

For more on the Oklahoma defensive backs, check out Jake Trotter's story.
EDIT: The Red-White game has been moved up to 1:30 p.m. CT because of impending severe weather.

The National Weather Service is predicting tornadoes, baseball-sized hail, winds of up to 70 mph and heavy rains for Saturday in Oklahoma.

Coach Bob Stoops, however, is not putting much stock into those reports as the Sooners prepare for the Red White spring game Saturday.

“You see how often those guys are wrong?” Stoops said. “Not to offend anybody -- if I had the same percentage they've got, I wouldn't have a job.”

If the weather does become severe, Stoops said the spring game would be canceled and that the Sooners would hold a private scrimmage next week.

“We're not going to endanger kids or fans if it's anything that's bad,” Stoops said, “but otherwise we'll go at it.”

BOISE STATE'S SPRING GAME FORMAT will be Oklahoma’s on Saturday.

For the last few years, OU’s Red-White game has featured a player draft, but without enough players to field two complete teams, it will instead be offense vs. defense. The offensive scoring will be standard, with the offense getting six points for a touchdown and three points for a field goal. The defense will get six points for touchdowns, three points for fourth-down stops, missed field goals and turnovers, and two points for sacks.

Stoops got the format from Boise State coach Chris Peterson.

“He and I were talking the other day about how we do it,” Stoops said.

Not having the draft is a disappointing development for one OU defender.

“I was looking forward to the draft but I understand we are short (on) players,” safety Tony Jefferson said.

Nonetheless, Jefferson is looking forward to the opportunity to show improvement in the Sooners secondary after a disappointing end to the 2011 season.

“The spring game is going to show what the young guys and older guys put forth in this spring process and winter workouts and how we utilized what we worked with,” he said.

Roundtable: Spring game predictions

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
10:30
AM ET
Which Sooners will stand out in Saturday's Red-White spring football game? The SoonerNation staff gives its predictions.

[+] EnlargeDemontre Hurst and Tony Jefferson
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst are taking on leadership roles this season.
Offense player of game: Everyone wants to talk about Blake Bell and the Belldozer, but few remember Drew Allen was one of the offense MVPs of the last spring game. With an added year in the offense, count on Allen to shine again and remind everyone why he’ll be a factor in the QB derby of 2013.

Defensive player of the game: In a Red-White windstorm four years ago, Dominique Franks picked off three passes, including one for a touchdown. With the weather expected to be poor again, fellow cornerback Demontre Hurst might be in for a big day, too.

Top newcomer: Uh, is it even debatable? Freshman wideout Trey Metoyer has been the story of the spring. Look for him to make the same splash Kenny Stills did two years ago in the Red-White game.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Often overlooked because of a stocked backfield that includes Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and junior-college transfer Damien Williams, Danzel Williams has quietly had a strong spring. While he might be a year or two away from regular carries, Williams figures to get plenty of work this Red-White game. Look for him to make the most of it.

-- Jake Trotter


Offensive player of the game: Receiver Kenny Stills has the opportunity to thrust his name amongst college football’s top pass catchers with a strong spring game. His talent is unquestioned and receivers coach Jay Norvell has praised his increased maturity since the Insight Bowl. Saturday is his first chance to show he’s ready to take his game to another level.

Defensive player of the game: Safety Tony Jefferson seems poised to be a leader and difference maker on the Sooners defense. And he should have the opportunity to make plays and show his versatility from his free safety spot on Saturday.

Top newcomer: Receiver Trey Metoyer has to get the nod here. His ball skills, competitiveness and playmaking ability have made him one to watch on Saturday. Wearing No. 17, Metoyer seems to have that “it factor” coaches are constantly searching to find.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has impressed this spring and should get plenty of chances to impress on Saturday with several of OU’s veteran defensive tackles hampered by injury. Hype and potential are only important when followed by production. Phillips should get his chance on Saturday.

-- Brandon Chatmon


Offense player of game: A man of many nicknames, but one thing you cannot question is how versatile Trey Millard has become for the Sooners. Call him “Slash,” “Fat Daddy,” “Fat Back,” -- it doesn’t matter, just call him valuable.

Defensive player of the game: If any player had any reason to quit, pack up his bags and go home it was safety Javon Harris after last season. Instead, Harris has found a new life with Mike Stoops and that continues with a solid outing Saturday.

Top newcomer: No doubt Trey Metoyer will be the talk of the town, but look out for tight end Brannon “Moose” Green. The position is up for grabs, but it definitely looks like Green has the edge at this point.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Going to go with linebacker Frank Shannon. He has had a solid spring and seems to gel with Coach Tim Kish.

-- Bob Przybylo


Offensive player of the game: I think Saturday's game could cater to the receivers as both Drew Allen and Blake Bell continue their battle for the backup quarterback job. I could see freshman wideout Trey Metoyer having a huge day and playing a ton of snaps in his debut game with the Sooners.

Defensive player of the game: Look for linebacker Corey Nelson, one of the most underrated players on the team, to have a dominant spring game as he fills Travis Lewis' void. Nelson played out of position at times last season, but should fit right in at weakside linebacker.

Top newcomer: Metoyer is the most logical choice, as I mentioned above. But what about one of the new tight ends, Brannon Green or Taylor McNamara? With a strong spring game, both could stabilize the position in the fans' eyes.

Most impressive redshirt freshman: Running back Danzel Williams will likely get a lot of work in with the Sooners' severe lack of spring depth. After not practicing for most of 2011, Williams could have a lot of carries and impress the Sooner faithful.

-- Dane Beavers
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell is in an interesting position. Nearly half of his scholarship players have not arrived on campus with 2012 signees Courtney Gardner, Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard and Derrick Woods set to enter the program this summer.

Norvell expects to be able to tell who can help the Sooners in 2012 shortly after their arrival.

“When fall camp comes we’ll pull them in and see what they can do,” Norvell said. “You can tell if a kid will be able to help you or not. If they have a feel, they have maturity and they will compete, they won’t back off, you feel pretty good about giving them some time.”

Trey Metoyer arrived this spring and already has shown those traits, earning praise from teammates and coaches. He’s proof of how quickly a young player can make an impression, so expect the other four newcomers to be given the opportunity to do the same.

“Some kids just aren’t fazed by things, they just come in and make plays,” Norvell said. “You can’t tell until you get them here and throw them in this environment.”

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