NORMAN — Oklahoma's football players wore full pads in practice Monday — the first such practice of the 2013 preseason — and anyone who's played football or been around the game knows what happens that day each fall.
The Oklahoma Drill.
A blocker and a defender square off in a small area, confined by tackling dummies. A running back tries to sprint through the open space as the defender works to shed his blocker. The exercise is designed to teach — and test — toughness.
Oklahoma practices are closed to the public and media, but an OU athletic department staffer tweeted a five-second clip of Monday's action.
Depending on your perspective, the video of true freshman running back Keith Ford, junior offensive guard Dionte Savage and sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is cause for celebration, or a dreary reminder of the Sooners' inexperienced defensive line entering the 2013 season.
Phillips sheds Savage's block before Ford (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) lowers his shoulder and crashes into Phillips (6-6, 324 pounds), knocking him on his back as Ford easily skips past the two fallen linemen.
“It's a one-on-one drill and the poor D-lineman has a 350-pound lineman hanging onto him while Keith's putting his head down and running him over,” OU coach Bob Stoops said after practice. “Let's not get carried away.”
Of course a definitive verdict on anyone can't be reached based purely on one short clip, but watching a freshman running back plow through a veteran defensive tackle — particularly a former four-star prospect and projected 2013 starter like Phillips — can't make Sooner fans feel much better about a unit widely viewed as Oklahoma's weakest.
Nearly all of OU's regular contributors on the defensive line last year were seniors, and that group struggled to consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and be much help in run defense.
Longtime defensive line coach Jackie Shipp was fired and replaced by the young, energetic Jerry Montgomery in February.
The Sooners had only three defensive tackles on the roster before spring practices began, causing coaches to move junior defensive end Chuka Ndulue inside to tackle. He and Phillips started the spring game.