Head coach Bob Stoops officially inaugurated his 16th campaign at the University of Oklahoma with a pair of spring practices over the weekend. Saturday the club worked inside the Everest Training Center before basking in the sun on Owen Field on Sunday afternoon. The Sooners will conduct two more practice sessions this week on Tuesday and Thursday before OU’s spring break begins on March 15.
Pro Day Set For Wednesday
Sandwiched between Tuesday and Thursday’s practice sessions will be Pro Day. Currently, over 20 NFL coaches and scouts have reserved credentials for the event. Last year all 32 teams were represented to watch the departing Sooner seniors show their ware for pro scouts. In addition to the likes of Gabe Ikard, Jalen Saunders, Trey Millard, Aaron Colvin, Brennan Clay and others, a number of former Sooners like Dom Whaley will be working out for the NFL contingent assembled at the Everest Center. We’ll have full coverage on SoonerSports.com and SoonerSports.tv.
There’s Only ONE Dominique Alexander
Sooners are fond of proudly proclaiming, “There’s only ONE Oklahoma!”
Starting this spring, that refrain will take on greater significance for the OU defense as sophomore linebacker Dominque Alexander makes the jersey switch from No. 42 to No. 1. Alexander enters spring football with many accolades after a strong freshman campaign that saw him earn Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors, as well as a spot on the Freshman All-American squad after registering 80 tackles to rank second on the squad. He also added 3.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two QB hurries, a sack and a pass breakup.
“Just seeing how hard I worked this offseason, [I want to see] those things translate to the field and see myself become a better player, that’s it,” said Alexander when asked of his goals for spring football.
While a new jersey number won’t give Alexander a competitive advantage, it does give him the number he’s wanted since his high school days. Since that number was unavailable during his prep days, he put in his claim after the Sugar Bowl and received a much-coveted single digit.
“I won’t allow a guy, unless no one else wants it, to hold a number if they aren’t playing,” explained head coach Bob Stoops of the annual ritual of players looking to “upgrade” to a more desirable numeral. “It is a work in progress all the time, massaging those numbers. When you have 85 scholarship guys who all want a single digit, it is kind of hard. Heck, even (Charles) Tapper and Jordan Phillips came up requesting a single digit and I said that wasn’t going to work.”
While there is only ONE Oklahoma, there will be TWO players wearing No. 1 for the Sooners in 2014. Redshirt freshman wide receiver K.J. Young will wear that jersey when OU is on offense.
Young is among of number of young receivers who Stoops took time to praise for their work since the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.
“K.J.’s done a good job – had a good winter,” Stoops said. “Definitely that receiver group – Dannon Cavil, Austin Bennett. Derrick Woods made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl, has really come on. Durron Neal played a lot last year. Some guys don’t have a ton of experience, but I believe there’s a lot of really good ability there.”
Onuoha Glad to Be Back
After playing in four games as a true freshman in 2012, it appeared that Edmond, Okla., native Mike Onuoha was poised to take on an even more prominent role for the Sooners last season. While shoulder surgery eventually forced Onuoha to take a medical redshirt, he has looked explosive in his return to the practice field.
That could mean even more headaches for opposing offensive coordinators as the Sooners already own a pair of pass rushers in Charles Tapper and Eric Striker, who both showed the ability to create havoc a year ago. Oklahoma’s defensive unit was one of the best in the conference in passing situations in 2013, ranking first in pass defense and second in third-down defense, allowing a Big 12-low 60 third-down conversions.
It’s evident after seeing him in two practices that Onuoha is anxious to earn an opportunity to get some playing time on the edge of OU’s defensive front.
“I’m more of a pass rushing guy,” said Onuoha. “I’m not really heavy set and I have speed off the edge so hopefully this season I’ll be out there on third down, making sacks and making plays.
“We’re not losing anybody this year (on the defensive line),” he continued “We have a whole bunch of great players. I believe we’re just going to get better this year.”
Another player coming off an injury to keep an eye on in spring practice is wide receiver Jordan Smallwood, who redshirted as a true freshman after much of his season was curtailed by injury. The Jenks High School sensation gave OU coaches a glimpse of what they could expect this spring during the practices leading up to the Sugar Bowl.
“Jordan Smallwood was really impressive,” said Stoops of players who helped themselves in the off-season. “They finally turned him loose to practice in the bowl practices – really was impressive. Also, Mike Onuoha really is a guy ready to make a big move in that defensive line.”