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Spring Football: Oklahoma
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent


2009: 8-5 overall, 5-3 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (9), defense (4)

Overview
If not for bad luck, Oklahoma would have had no luck at all. The Sooners lost their Heisman Trophy quarterback (Sam Bradford), their All-American tight end (Jermaine Gresham) and the offensive line was in a constant state of flux because of injuries. Plus, four of OU's five losses were by a total of 12 points.

But, according to Bob Stoops, the way you change bad luck is to do what you've always done.

"It's pretty evident when you have the injuries we had, we didn't change anything," Stoops said of his team's approach to spring practice. "We've got a pretty strong, proven method for winning Big 12 championships and competing for national championships. Just because of a rash of injuries, we're not gonna change anything."

Oklahoma's offense should be solid. Sophomore Landry Jones, who made an unexpected debut when Bradford was hurt, should benefit from the experience. If the offensive line can become consistent and avoid injuries, the Sooners have the talent to move the ball and score points.

Several key players are missing on the defensive side but there is talent to keep Oklahoma stuffing opponents at a high level.



Who's missing
In addition to Bradford and Gresham, who were missing last season, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of seven starters missing on defense. Linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds are gone along with corner backs Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson.

Who's new
Redshirt freshman linebacker Tom Wort figures to earn a starting spot in the middle while sophomore Ronnell Lewis, who had a notable performance in the Sun Bowl, should also wind up starting in the linebacker unit. Sophomore defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland is expected to fill the void left by McCoy.

You'll hear about
Kenny Stills. The freshman wide receiver enrolled early and participated in spring practice. He made an impression with his skill set. He could give Oklahoma a receiver to help take the coverage and pressure off of junior receiver Ryan Broyles. . "He's a guy that can stretch the field for you and go up and make some huge plays," sophomore quarterback Landry Jones said of Stills.

Spring buzz
* NCAA rules allow 15 spring practices. Oklahoma, though, made sure it crammed as munch into those practices as possible. To do that, the Sooners worked at a fast pace to get as many reps in as possible. OU coach Bob Stoops got the idea after visiting Alabama's spring practices a year ago. "We're getting a pretty good pace," Stoops said during his team's spring workouts. "We coaches get together here and there, share ideas, and usually there are always different ways of looking at things and seeing things through someone else's eyes."

* Little was settled in the competition to become the Sooners' permanent kicker. Jimmy Stevens lost the job during the 2009 season to walk on Patrick O'Hara. Stevens made three field goals from inside 40 yards during the spring game but one of his makes clanged off the upright. O'Hara missed two 43-yarders. Stevens might have an edge but it's unlikely that whoever starts 2010 as the No. 1 kicker will keep the job.

* Oklahoma needs to replace its starting cornerbacks so there are concerns about the secondary. However, sophomore Demontre Hurst and senior Jonathan Nelson proved they could get the job toward the end of last season. Along with senior Quinton Carter and junior Sam Proctor at safety, the Sooners believe they've got a versatile and talented group.

Coach speak from Bob Stoops
"Beating Oklahoma State in a very good way in the last game of the year against an in-state rival, and then to go on and finish with the win in the bowl game. I think both of them gave our players a lot of momentum here in the offseason, and then also it gave them a lot of confidence in what they should expect and what they were able to do."
- On closing out a disappointing season with victories over Oklahoma State and Stanford (in the Sun Bowl).

"I do believe it'll be greatly improved. The work ethic and habits they developed were a lot more consistent and solid through the winter and spring. We've got more depth now, and with all that went on a year ago, there's a lot more experience here this year than there was a year ago."
- On the offensive line.

"Landry's made great progress since the end of the season. Really through all that last year and now getting all the snaps here in the spring, he's just a totally different quarterback with maturity and experience that has made a huge difference for him."
- On sophomore quarterback Landry Jones.

"Kenny is very comfortable, very natural. With body control, going after the ball, running routes - he sure has made some excellent progress in a short time. He has a chance to be a really good player."
- On freshman receiver Kenny Stills.

2010 Schedule
Sept. 4 Utah State
Sept. 11 Florida State
Sept. 18 Air Force
Sept. 25 at Cincinnati
Oct. 2 Texas*
Oct. 16 Iowa State*
Oct. 23 at Missouri*
Oct. 30 Colorado*
Nov. 6 at Texas A&M*
Nov. 13 Texas Tech*
Nov. 20 at Baylor*
Nov. 27 at Oklahoma State*
* Big 12 game.
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