Oklahoma went through three practices last week coming off spring break. The Sooners have two more weeks of spring ball — three practices this week and two practices next week, culminating with the April 14 spring game.
PUNT RETURN CANDIDATES
In addition to setting nearly every school receiving record, Ryan Broyles handled punt returns most of his career.
Running backs coach Cale Gundy said the leading candidates to replace Broyles are Kenny Stills, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
“That was the unique thing about Ryan was how good he was at it,” Gundy said. “He was so natural. Kenny is pretty good at it. Roy is fairly good at it. But it's not easy. First you have to catch the ball and then learn how to set things up to know where your returns are.”
Catching punts is a unique skill.
“There are not very many guys on the team that can catch a punt,” Gundy said. “You have 100 guys out there, 85 on scholarship and there's probably three guys that can do it. It's not like catching kickoffs. Everybody can catch kickoffs.
“When you catch punts it's spiraling down at you or away from you. Which way is the wind blowing? It's a whole different monster. I can watch somebody catch two or three punts and tell you right away whether they can do it or not.”
BACKUP QUARTERBACK UPDATE
Quarterback Landry Jones returning for his senior season gives coaches another year to evaluate before selecting his eventual replacement next year.
Junior Drew Allen and sophomore Blake Bell are battling for the backup job.
As a redshirt freshman, Bell made an impact in the “Belldozer” short-yardage, goal-line package, scoring a team-high 13 touchdowns.
Allen has owned a slight edge if Jones were unable to play, but Allen has attempted only 30 passes.
It's a competition that will continue this spring and next fall.
“They're both doing a good job,” Jones said. “Blake is a big kid who can move around a little bit. Drew is probably further along in the offense, but he's been here a year longer so he's expected to be a little further along. They're both progressing. They're both playing good ball.”
FARNIOK MAKING ‘BIG' IMPRESSION
Coach Bob Stoops at his pre-spring press conference mentioned several players that made strides during winter workouts, including redshirt freshman offensive tackle Derek Farniok, listed at 6-foot-9, 325 pounds.
“He had a huge winter,” Stoops said. “He's a totally different guy than when he walked in here (last summer). It's really exciting to see how hard he's worked, how well he's running. He's the biggest of all of them.”
Offensive tackles coach James Patton said spring is an opportunity for the Sioux Falls, S.D., product to get acclimated to OU's up-tempo offense.
“Derek has the want-to. He's just got to keep practicing,” Patton said. “He's a young guy, a redshirt freshman who is still very green from a fundamental standpoint. After running other teams' schemes on scout team, he has to learn our stuff. And he will.”
BUILDING ON WINTER WORKOUTS
Fullback Trey Millard said winter workouts have helped produce more focused spring practices.
“We had a great winter,” Millard said. “We really came together as a team off what we thought was a very disappointing season. We really want to make strides in the offseason. ...
“We've been really competitive, which was something we sometimes lacked last year during practices. We've had guys fighting every play, like wide receivers running down field blocking. It's not going to get them highlight play stuff but just everybody doing the little things.”