Back on the Field
Head coach Bob Stoops welcomed his squad back from spring break as the Sooners conducted their fifth practice of March on Tuesday on Owen Field. While sunburns appeared to be minimal, enthusiasm was high as the club returned to practice mode with three more practice sessions slated before the final day of the month on Monday.
It’s All Attitude
Stoops was asked this week about the most important attribute needed to be a good blocker. His answer was simple: “To me it’s all attitude,” he explained. “We’ve had some coaches that have been visiting us who were marveling at how well our receivers are blocking out on the perimeter. It’s attitude and effort.”
That’s music to the ears of Oklahoma’s co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who also coaches the Sooners’ receivers. Those fortunate souls in the OU inner-sanctum who frequently attend practice can often hear Norvell harping on his troops to finish blocks downfield, both in the running game and during passing periods.
“The whole mentality is that if you’re a great receiver, you’re only going to get your hands on the ball probably eight to 10 times a game and so you’ve got another 60 plays where you just have to play as hard as you can for your teammates,” said Norvell. “We always talk about, you’re playing at Oklahoma, you have great teammates. We’ve got great backs and ball carriers, and if we just get one block, we’ve got a chance to spring for a big play and that may be the difference in the game.”
Norvell can easily rattle off dozens of big plays made by the Oklahoma offense in recent years because of a receiver taking a great angle to slow down a potential tackler.
“We call them “hustle blocks,” and we always talk about, if you don’t get the ball in your hands then find some work,” he concluded. “They’ve got to find work downfield and find the nearest man and put a body on him until the whistle blows. That’s a big, big emphasis, and we always take a lot of pride in outworking the opponent. We want to outwork them in every way and have a body on a man at the end of the play.”
If you needed a reminder of how important a downfield block by a receiver can be, here’s a look at OU’s Kenny Stills making one of those “hustle blocks” vs. Texas in 2012.
Knight to Bell – A New Oklahoma Tradition?
“Trevor Knight out of the shotgun. He drops back, good protection. Pump fake. He hits Blake Bell down the seam. Touchdown, Oklahoma!”
You might just hear “Voice of the Sooners” Toby Rowland make that call in 2014. With Bell making the move to tight end in 2014, it’s not outside the realm of possibility and it won’t be on a trick play. In fact, in Tuesday’s practice, Knight and Bell connected on such a play
“He looks great,” Stoops said. “He caught a touchdown out there today, a long one down the middle. He’s a big target down there and he looks natural. His obviously not having had the experience blocking will be the biggest thing we’ll concentrate on, but he works hard at it.
“He’s got strength and size,” the head coach continued. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t pick it up and continue to do well with it. He has a natural feel as a quarterback trying to find
open space what the quarterback is looking for from the receivers. He looks pretty natural at it. Everyone is always working on it, but he has good feet and he knows how to find space, and that’s how a tight end needs to be.”
But Bell isn’t the only big target that Knight will have at the tight end position. Sophomore Taylor McNamara measures in at 6-5 made a big play in the Sugar Bowl. And while McNamara has a great appreciation for Bell’s skills, he’s looking to get on the field even more himself in 2014.
“I think they want to use as many as they can,” McNamara said of getting more tight ends involved offensively.” Coach (Jay Boulware) always says if we can do both – if we can run and block – he wants to get as many on the field as possible, so that’s what we’re all competing to do. Heck, we want to get four of us out there if we can.”
In fact, Stoops indicated that in 2013, the Sooners had at least one tight end on the field more frequently than they didn’t. With Aaron Ripkowski owning the ability to line up in that role, along with fellow fullback Dimitri Flowers and JUCO transfer tight end Isaac Ijalana (6-4, 248), the evolution of the tight end spot this season may conjure up positive memories for OU fans.
“It makes it more versatile as an offense, really,” McNamara continued. “If you have them in there and don’t know what personnel to put out there, you can run it and throw it so it’s a benefit for sure.”
According to Stoops, finding players with the physical attributes necessary to play tight end in this offense isn’t as easy as it might sound.
“There’s just not a lot of Jermaine Greshams running around there (on the street),” Stoops quipped. “You have to have the right people and they have to be experienced, so when they go on the field they have to be better than another personnel grouping you might have out there.”
Speaking of Gresham, the Ardmore, Okla., native and the legendary Keith Jackson may be the two most prolific tight ends to play for the Sooners. Here are some highlights on those two Pro Bowlers, as well as their career NFL stats.
21st overall pick by Cincinnati in 2010
NFL career stats – 218 catches for 2,262 catches (10.4 avg.) with 19 TDs
13th overall pick by Philadelphia in 1988
NFL career stats – 441 receptions for 5,283 yards (12.0 avg.) with 49 TDs.
One-handed catch vs. Nebraska in 1986
Mark Your Calendars, Get Renewed & Get Free Spring Game Tickets
Oklahoma Football fans still have time to renew their 2014 season tickets online by Monday, March 31. Fans renewing their season tickets online by March 31 can request a free OU Spring Game ticket for each season ticket purchased.Fans who have already renewed their 2014 season tickets and have not requested their complimentary OU Spring Game tickets, may still do so by the March 31 deadline.
The OU Spring Game will also salute the Sooner Jr. program with partnering elementary schools, including the Norman, Moore, Mid-Del and Oklahoma City public school systems. Students in those districts will receive a flyer at school in the coming days that can be redeemed for one complimentary admission. Students can present this flyer at Gate 5 between 12:30 p.m. and kickoff on game day. Parents can purchase tickets on SoonerSports.com.
OU Students (with current ID), members of the Sooner Kids Club, children five and under will also be admitted free. For more information on joining the Sooners Kids Club, call (405) 325-6353 or view information online at SoonerSports.com.
Cast Your Vote to Paint Owen Field For the OU Spring Game
Fans can help design the field for the University of Oklahoma Spring Football Game presented by U.S. Fleet Tracking. Online voting through Sooner Rewards begins today with six end zone choices and three paint selections for midfield. One fan will be randomly selected to win a VIP experience that includes field passes and a pregame photo session highlighting their field design choice.