August 4, 2011

Sooners kick off fall camp early on Thursday

The most noticeable difference in the start of this year's first fall practice for Oklahoma was not in the players on the field, or the fact three players from the Class of 2011 had yet to arrive. The difference was in the amount of camera crews standing on the field and running up to players to get an up-close and personal shot of the action.

ESPN is in town filming their All-Access program during the Sooners fall camp, and between camera operators and sound engineers, their numbers almost climbed into double digits.

"It takes a little getting used to but you forget about them and go about your business," said Stoops following Thursday's first practice. "Every now and then you've got to tell one of them to get out of the middle of things because they almost get run over.

"I don't want to get any of my players injured. I'm not worried about him so much."

ESPN isn't just providing camera men either. Sophomore wide receiver Kenny Stills took off across the Rugby Fields to join his teammates in one-on-one drills with a camera stuck to his helmet.

"One of my twins was out there and asked why Kenny had a camera on. I didn't even know. I'll have to see what Kenny was looking at," joked Stoops.

The first day of fall camp can be a letdown with players just getting into the flow of the action. With just shorts, jerseys and helmets, it wasn't likely the ESPN film crews would be capturing a lot of action.

At least not until true freshmen Nila Kasitati stepped up and performed the Haka dance for his new teammates.

It put the team into a frenzy as Travis Lewis and Tony Jefferson started going wild in the circle which had formed around Kasitati.

So does this start a new trend for Oklahoma? Will they now become a Haka dance team?

"No, they usually call somebody out. You know how they do it," said Stoops of their pre-practice ritual. "They call someone out every day to give an impromptu dance so there'll be somebody different at times."

Stoops was asked to give a grade from one to ten on how well the dance went over.

"Well, Nila, I give him a 10 or an 11," he answered. "The rest of the guys are about a four. They don't know what they're doing. All I know is I heard a few of them say it's gonna take a while for them to learn it. We'll have to have Nila give everybody a little education on it."

Regardless, it was the most exciting moment of day one in practice. Usually fans have to wait to hear about the first time the Oklahoma drill is run. Now it appears the Haka could be added to the Sooner tradition.


The other big news from day one was players missing from the first day of fall camp. and others have been reporting on the expected omissions of defensive tackle Jordan Wade and wide receiver Trey Metoyer, but on Thursday morning, the Sooners were also down another true freshmen defensive tackle in Jordan Phillips. did speak with Phillips through text message following Oklahoma's first practice and he confirmed that he still had some work to do in the classroom in order to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

"I need one more math class and it ends tomorrow and then ill be ready once the NCAA clears me," said Phillips through a text message.

Phillips also confirmed that he was taking the math class at OU. His final takes place tomorrow and if he passes his class, it is expected he will be cleared for competition by the NCAA.

Trey Metoyer is still enrolled in classes at Tyler Junior College trying to become eligible for competition and the earliert he could arrive in Norman would be Aug. 12.

Wade has been working to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. Wade cannot receive his high school diploma until he passes the test. If Wade cannot clear the TAKS hurdle, sources have told that he will continue working to pass the test and enroll at OU in the spring.

"We have a couple of guys still finishing up some classes. You guys all know we have a couple of defensive linemen still working on classes to finish up," said Stoops of the situation. "We anticipate that happening here pretty soon - and a receiver still finishing up some classes. That will probably be determined here in another few days, I guess."


Oklahoma players arrived at the Rugby Fields as early as 6:30am for the start of practices at 6:45. It was still dark out as practice started, but the temperatures were in the low 80's thanks to continuous cloud cover on Wednesday.

The weather was a welcome break for Stoops and the entire team, who have been suffering through 110-plus degree weather over the last week.

"I thought it was great. It was a great move going early," said Stoops. "It couldn't have been better out and we didn't have one issue whatsoever of any problems.

"That part was great and we got about 80 team snaps in and probably 40-some, almost 50 pass-skell snaps in. So we got a bunch of work, no problems and guys looked good. Like we always do anymore, most people are year-round so you can start and almost go out and play a game. Everybody retains everything pretty well. It was real positive."

The Sooners are trying some subtle position changes early in fall camp. The most notable change is moving Tony Jefferson to a true safety position instead of the outside linebacker/nickel/roy-back spot he played last season.

"For Tony's future, he needs to know the deep positions as well as the nickel position," explained Stoops. "As a true freshmen a year ago, that wasn't the right thing to do. It was too much to grasp. But just one day out there you can tell he's already grasping playing the deep safety positions. We'll experiment."

"We're looking at Tony Jefferson some in the deep positions. We're looking at Corey Nelson, not only as the outside weakside backer but as the nickel-outside-strong backer. To us it's always about getting your best 11, 15, 16 on the field. We're just looking at the possibilities of that."

Stoops also said that Damon Williams has moved from the offensive line back to defensive tackle. Williams was moved to the offensive line last spring in an effort to bolster the offensive guard position.

With Nila Kasitati now in at offensive guard, Williams can move back to a defensive tackle position which is now thinner until Phillips and Wade's situations are cleared up.

It was also noticeable that projected starting linemen Jarvis Jones wasn't suited out with his teammates today. Jones is recovering from a torn patella tendon suffered early last spring.

In the meantime, Daryl Williams and Lane Johnson are the most likely fill-ins until he can return in September or early October.

"I'm gonna have to watch practice," answered Stoops when asked how Williams and Johnson looked on day one. "I've got to admit when I'm at practice I've got to watch more of the defense. I recognize good plays and complement guys here or there but to say I'm sitting here eyeballing the offensive line, that wouldn't be fair.

"They look great. They look like they're in really good shape."


* Jamell Fleming has returned after serving an academic suspension during the spring. Fleming didn't come in and takeover his starting spot from a year ago. He was working with the 'B group' on Thursday as Gabe Lynn took all the snaps with the No. 1s during the time media was allowed to watch practices.

* Jerry Schmidt told Bob Stoops that the players didn't need to do a conditioning test this fall because he felt they worked especially hard over the summer.

"Coach Schmidt felt that in his opinion, the way they handled their summer, we didn't need to do a conditioning test," said Stoops.

* Bob Stoops has brought in two walk-on kickers to compete with Jimmy Stevens and Michael Hunnicutt this fall. Eric Hosek and Michael Hill.

"Jimmy was solid and Michael Hunnicutt was really night and day compared to a year ago. He really looked good and solid and hit a bunch of good balls. Tress hit a couple of 80-yard punts," said Stoops of the kickers on Thursday.

* The Sooners will continue to practice early mornings the next couple of days as Meet the Sooners day will be at 10am on Saturday underneath the stadium.

"The next couple of days, because of fan day, Thursday and Friday it will be 7am and Saturday because of Fan Appreciation Day we'll probably have to move it up to 6:45am. So we can get off the field, get them showered and get involved in that soon enough," said Stoops.

* Jermie Calhoun was back at practice after a severe knee injury suffered last season. Calhoun didn't seem to be limited at all and run drills with the rest of his teammates like a player at full strength.

"He did look good. It looks like he's in really good shape. It looks like he's worked really hard so it was good having him back out there", said Stoops.

Video by Eddie Radosevich

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