One of the highlights of fall football camp is open practices, and I make it my business to be there at every possible one. These things are fantastic. The weather is usually gorgeous, the crowd is excited and the players look great.
Besides all that, it’s a chance to get a sneak preview of the best college football team in the nation.
This morning I attended the first open practice and here are a few things I’d like to mention:
1. Right off the bat, it looked to me like our players were leaner, stronger and meaner than they’ve ever been. Brian Kariya, for example, looked like he put on 10-15 pounds of pure muscle. He seemed to be kind of an afterthought last year, but this year he looks like he could be a major contributor.
2. I paid special attention to Riley Nelson, the transfer QB from Utah State, this morning. I see him as the possible starter when Max Hall graduates, so I was interested.
He looked like a vocal leader, but you can tell he’s still learning. The highlight of his practice session, though, was during an 11-on-11 drill. He was facing a third and long, and just as his pocket collapsed he scrambled free and hit Rhen Brown for a big gain (40+ yards). He led the offense into the end zone a few plays later, which was good to see (I was starting to think our second and third teams were physically unable to score touchdowns).
I was happy, though, because that’s what Riley Nelson will give us—a guy that won’t give up, and one that will make plays when things break down.
3. Speaking of future QBs, Jake Heaps was in attendance, as well as Kyle Van Noy and one other mysterious recruit dressed in black.
4. McKay Jacobsen looked like a tiger with the head of a cobra. He runs the crispest routes, and while he may not look terribly fast, he got behind the defense easily during 1-on-1 drills. If anyone has any doubts about his WR ability, put it to rest right now. He will be a fantastic receiver for us. A Collie clone, even.
5. Speaking of which, how sweet would it be if we had Austin Collie on one side, and McKay Jacobsen on the other? *sigh*
6. Our defense was looking pretty good today. I was impressed. They were really being physical, and they were going after every ball in coverage drills. Brandon Bradley, in particular, was a beast. He locked down O’Neill Chambers all day, and he always had a hand on the ball. The defense broke up quite a few passes, and I was happy to see them going after it.
7. Play of the day: Max Hall throwing a deep bomb to McKay Jacobsen on third and short. Hall threw a TD pass just a few plays later.
8. Riley Stephenson, the punter, can boom. That dude was hitting punts like you’ve never seen. They were deep, long and tight. Riley is going to be a great punter for us.
9. Mitch Payne, on the other hand, is still spotty. They attempted two 40-yard field goals, and Payne missed both of them badly. Doesn’t seem like ol’ Mitch is improving much from year to year.
10. JD Falslev: keep an eye on this kid. He’s a freshman H-back. He’s tough, he’s speedy and he can catch the ball. He was making nice grabs all day from the slot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw the field a little bit this year.
11. Spencer Hafoka made a nice diving catch that drew applause from the crowd, but he got up a little slowly. Probably knocked the wind out of himself or something.
12. Max Hall was talking to the fans after practice (yes, I was there), and someone asked him if Matt Reynolds would be back for Oklahoma. “Yep,” said Max, without hesitation.
13. He also said that his long pass to McKay Jacobsen was an audible. “I had to give you guys some excitement,” Max said.
Okay, here are some answers to a few questions from my friends:
Who was the best looking player out there? McKay Jacobsen
Coach? Brandon Doman. Now that is one sexy dude.
Who was the loudest player? Riley Stephenson
Coach? Patrick Higgins (WR coach)
Who's looking big and mean? Braden Hansen, TE; Harvey Unga, RB; Tui Crichton, OL;
Who was sitting out? The only person I noticed sitting out was Terrance Hooks.
What's with the story of Max Hall's bum knee in practice? He hurt it yesterday, but today he looked fine. Not a hobble or a wince or anything.
Did Bronco seem agitated and annoyed with the fans (like normal)? Or was he more cheerful/fun? Bronco looked like he was in a good mood today. He was kind of behind the scenes, but he looked like he was having fun.
How is our kicking situation looking? We’ll be in great shape as far as punting. Kicking will be just like the last couple years, I think.
Does Jacobsen look short? Compared with our other WRs, yes. We've got a tall group there. But his speed more than makes up for it. He was the only WR who consistently got open.
I read that Chambers looks lazy in practice. Can you confirm? Now that you mention it, I can remember a few times where I was surprised at his behavior. Little things, like when one receiver is supposed to jam the other to practice getting separation. Chambers wasn't really putting his heart into it. He still looks pretty dang impressive as a WR, though.
Is our defense going to be better than last year? Yes, yes and yes. Our defense is going to be a lot better. I see this year as very similar to 2006--I think we'll be surprised at the improvement. Like I said above, our defense looked very aggressive today.
What about running backs? Is Harvey going to have any support? The running backs are a good looking bunch. Harvey just looks like a beast. That dude is a physically impressive specimen. I was also impressed by Brian Kariya, J.J. DiLuigi and Anthony Heimuli. That being said, Harvey is definitely the man. There's going to be a drop-off after big #45.
If you were an NFL scout and you were to select one player to play at the next level, right now as they are, who would that have been at today's practice? Good question. Honestly I would either choose Jacobsen or Brandon Bradley. Bradley was really all over the field today. He was fun to watch.
Does Bronco know that I kicked a 52 yard field goal and ran a 5.7 second forty on that field? Yes, I told him today. He didn’t seem impressed.
If anyone has any other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section. I’ll address every single dang one of ‘em.