NORMAN — Oklahoma football's 2017 fall camp is entering its second week and the position battles are starting to take shape. Special teams coordinator and running backs coach Jay Boulware, senior linebacker Emmanuel Beal, senior wide receiver Jeffery Mead and senior cornerback Jordan Thomas gave SoonerSports.com thoughts on what they've seen so far in the second installment of the new series, "The Hurry-Up."
Special Teams Coordinator/RB Coach Jay Boulware
Now that you’re more than a week into camp, what has been your take on the running backs battle?
“They’re working hard. Each and every day we have guys getting better. They’re making plays out at practice, which is what I want to see, as well as (displaying) an overall understanding of what we’re doing, not just offensively in terms of schematics, but situational. We try to teach them situational football and grow them up pretty fast.”
How are the H-backs shaping up behind Dimitri Flowers?
“Carson (Meier) had a great spring when Dimitri was out and he’s followed that up with an impressive week or so of camp. He’s doing a great job. Jeremiah Hall is continuing to get better every single day, understanding all the things and the dynamics that position entails, whether it’s pass catcher or run blocker. At the line or in the backfield, there are so many things that position brings to the table, and he’s learning that stuff every single day and getting better at it.”
Has anyone emerged in the kicking game to help out Austin Seibert and take some of the load off him?
“(Austin’s) in a punting battle right now with our young punter (Reeves Mundschau). No one has taken over that spot. Obviously in order for Reeves to get it, he’s going to have to beat Austin out, but he’s doing a good job so far. We’re not far enough along to know if in fact he’s going to be able to handle the full load of the things we have to do with directional punting, but early on he certainly shows the ability. His get-off times are really good, as well as his ability to strike the ball and repeat that same deal over and over again. So right now it’s a pretty good battle.”
How’s the competition playing out in the return game?
“There are a lot of guys there. We have a lot of good guys at both (punt return and kick return); I’m really pleased where we’re at. The key is going to be just to see once we get going a little bit who has the best feel for it and can get after it. We only get one shot (during a game) so we want some consistency there, and we want a guy that really wants it and has some bounce in his step. We’ve got some guys to choose from, but I don’t want to single any guys out right now. I want to see those guys continue to work and see where we are.”
Senior LB Emmanuel Beal
How much more comfortable do you feel coming into your second camp compared to your first one last year?
“Last year I feel like I was just thrown into the fire, and that’s the way it had to be because we were low on linebackers. So I feel like I had to rush everything to learn the plays and get comfortable playing football here, so I wasn’t too comfortable. But this year I feel really comfortable and now I can lead others, as well as doing my job compared to last year.”
Outside of you and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the linebackers are pretty young. How have you embraced that role of being a mentor? “
It’s all about me and Ogbo setting a tone for them. If they see us slacking then they feel like they can slack. They’d come back their senior year and try to work but it doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to start now, start strong and finish strong.”
How has the change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense affected you?
“Honestly I just feel more free because there are fewer guards getting to me fast and more holes to fill. It allows us linebackers to play faster.”
Obviously you have UTEP to open the season, but since you’re from Columbus, Ohio, how excited are you to play at Ohio State in week two?
“I feel great. I get to see my family and play in the Horseshoe. I can’t wait for that game. I’m still looking for tickets from my teammates. When I went home before camp started everyone was asking me for them.”
Senior WR Jeffery Mead
What are you most focused on now in your final preseason camp?
“It’s really about making the best of it and taking advantage of all the opportunities that I get. That’s the biggest thing – making my presence felt and making it to where I’m an important part of the offense.”
How is this camp different for you than previous camps?
“The biggest part for me is being a leader and teaching the new guys the plays. Before, I was more worried about myself figuring everything out. Now, it’s more of teaching the younger guys and people coming in what they are doing and how they are supposed to do it.”
What are some things you are focused on improving to be more of an impact player?
“It’s the same thing it has always been, which is improving the deep ball. It’s too early to tell what my role will be. I’m just focused on making my reps count and being the most productive I can.”
What is it like going up against the defensive backs as they battle for playing time?
“We have a lot of talented guys and a lot of fast guys. There are a lot of them who are starting to figure out where they need to be, when they need to be there and how to use their hands and their bodies to make the plays they need to make. Every day they are getting better and the competition is getting stiffer.”
Senior CB Jordan Thomas
What is your mentality knowing you’re in your final preseason camp?
“My focus and mentality is based on my team. I just want to do whatever I can as a player to make sure we have the utmost opportunities to win every game, and if I can do that by playing on special teams or doing everything I can on defense, then I’m going to do that.”
Are there any names to keep an eye on for secondary position battles?
“Watch out for Chanse Sylvie. Chanse is one of our younger guys who has been in the system for a while, and now he is starting to separate himself.”
How do you transfer last year’s late-season defensive success to a good start this season?
“That’s just practice habits. Last year was last year. Our mentality is different, our focus is different. We don’t have anything to do with last year because it’s over and done with. We have to have up-tempo practices and have our younger guys on board. We need to start with that fire. We have a lot that we want to accomplish and we are not going to do that by starting slow.”
What are your thoughts on the wide receivers group?
“We have a lot of everything. We have guys who are strong, we have guys who are fast and we have guys who are long, so no matter where you put the ball they are catching it. It’s a mind-boggling experience sometimes because you don’t know what you are going to get.”