Sooner Report: Progress Past Scrimmage

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
AUGUST 12, 2013

Stoops’ Post-Scrimmage Assessment
The Sooners conducted a 98-play scrimmage on Owen Field on Saturday, giving head coach Bob Stoops a good sense of where his squad stands with three practice weeks remaining before OU’s 2013 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31. After meetings on Sunday, the team returned to the OU rugby fields for a pair of practices on Monday.

Preseason scrimmages serve as an important measuring stick for both coaches and players, simulating a game setting, sans 85,000 fans of course. It’s also a chance to break from daily drills and showcase skills, talent and tenacity in faster-paced setting than practice.

"It was good," Stoops said of Saturday's scrimmage. "The guys got 98 plays and no one was hurt. I felt good about it. We were pretty good and didn't have many penalties. I was pleased."

Stoops praised the work of the Sooners' young secondary and redshirt-freshman defensive back Zack Sanchez, as well as the competition among special teams. Junior Jed Barnett entered the scrimmage as the frontrunner to take over the punting duties this season, but redshirt-freshman Jack Steed was also impressive on Saturday.

“Jed went out there the other day and it hit great," started Stoops. "He probably averaged 41, 42 [yards] with well over a four second hang time. You’ll take that every punt. I think we punted 17 times. Jack Steed went out there, a young guy, and he averaged 40 or 41 with a lot of good hang time. It was really good to see them both hit it so well. I’d say Jed, timing-wise and all, is probably more ahead for sure and has more experience, but I was really excited to see Jack do well.”

Sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shephard also offered his assessment of some members of the wide receiver corps who took advantage of their snaps in the scrimmage.

“We got some guys,” Shepard said of the receiving unit. “We got Derrick Woods, he’s another guy that’s shown a lot of juice and he’s getting some balls caught. Lacoltan Bester, he scored about three or four times during the scrimmage, so he’s looking really good, too.”

Deep Thoughts on Running Back Depth:
While Stoops wouldn’t go as far to say that running back is the deepest position on the OU roster, it’s hard to argue with the established stable of potential ball carriers that the Sooners possess. OU rushed for 2,098 yards in 2012, with 87.5 percent (1,836 yards) of that production returning with seniors Damien Williams, Brennan Clay, Trey Millard and Roy Finch.

“It’s a good group,” Stoops acknowledged. “The deepest? I don’t know about that. Like I said, I brought up the situation a few years ago when we had four or five guys and a couple decided to quit because a young guy was moved up in front of him because of how he played. Then he ended up transferring. You never know where that’s going to all go.”

There’s no question that the Sooners own a quartet of game-tested performers competing for playing time, but another name has emerged as a potential competitor for carries. Enter redshirt-freshman Alex Ross, a 209-pound running back from Jenks, Okla. The OU staff gave Ross rave reviews when he signed with the Sooners. He won the 2011 Oklahoma 6A state title in the 200-meter dash and finished third in the 100-meter competition.

“[Ross] was a guy that really stood out in the scrimmage with speed and being powerful," Stoops added. "He’s doing really well. He’s playing well, so hopefully that will continue.”

Ross has also stood out to many for his No. 28 jersey, the same number worn by 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson during his illustrious OU career. Stoops discounted the possibility that an assigned jersey number comes with added pressure or is meant to predict a player's future. He did point out that OU does not have the luxury to retire numbers because too many great players have worn the Crimson and Cream over the years.

"I remember kidding when I give my talk to the players about having some humility when Sam was here. You see the whole place is wearing 14 but it isn’t just because of you [Sam]. There is probably some still wearing it because of Coach [Josh] Heupel."

Targeting the Targeting Rule With Big 12 Officials
The institution of new rules in 2013 to encourage player safety has been widely applauded by the OU coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

While the Sooners head coach and defensive staff hasn’t specifically addressed the targeting rule yet, it’s on the agenda this week. 

“That’s coming on Thursday,” Bob Stoops said. “I have a DVD from the Big 12 office along with having Big 12 officials that day and have them explain to the players how they see it and how they will judge it.”

Big 12 referees were also on hand for Saturday's scrimmage to officiate the action on the field. Oklahoma's final major scrimmage in the preseason will also be officiated by Big 12 crews to help simulate game situations before the club’s opener.

Russell Expected This Week
Incoming junior college defensive end Quincy Russell is expected to join the team this week according to the head coach.  Listed at 6-4, 315 pounds, Russell racked up 75 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 last season at Trinity Valley Community College. If all goes according to plan, Russell will get a couple solid weeks of work prior to OU’s opening contest. Fortunately for Russell, the head coach doesn’t anticipate a steep learning curve for the talented Texan.

“I don’t want to say it’s easy to learn but basically it’s just about technique,” Stoops said. “The learning part of it, what he’s going to need to do, he’ll learn that fairly quickly. From what we understand visiting with him and people he has worked with he has worked really hard and is in really good shape. If that’s the case, then he will pick it up rather quickly.” 

Notebook & Links
- Coach Stoops announced that there will be an official announcement regarding freshman defensive end D.J. Ward on Tuesday or Wednesday. Ward has been sidelined with a spleen issue.
- Stoops also said that redshirt-freshman quarterback Trevor Knight was playing at a higher level than he was in spring ball.
- Hot 100 Seniors from featuring Aaron Colvin, Trey Millard and Gabe Ikard.
- Week-by-week top match-ups from Sports Illustrated, including week seven vs. TCU.



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