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The Sooners have passed Jerry Schmidt's strenuous strength and conditioning program with flying colors, but now it's time for the team to wave goodbye to the agility, speed, and various other drills that Schmidt uses during the summer. The time has now come for the Sooner coaching staff to take their team back to the practice fields in preperation for another Big 12 and national championship title run.
The team has begun it's fall ritual with fan appreciation day this morning, followed by the Sooners first practice of the fall this afternoon. In a late change of heart Bob Stoops has opened the practice -all practices will be held on the Rugby fields, just west of the Lloyd Noble Center and just south of the Tennis and Soccer facilities- to the public.
With Oklahoma's highly regarded recruiting class, and abundance of nationally known upperclassmen this fall could be one of both youth and experience. However practices turn out here's betting that highly rated recruits like Rhett Bomar, Adrian Peterson, and Marcus Walker among others suffer from some culture shock due to the pace of Oklahoma's practice routine, but also the ferocity of coaches and players alike.
While Bomar and Walker both came in with tremendous press clippings, as well as working hard this summer with Schmidt and the rest of the Sooners. However, there is only one player arriving for his first fall semester that has Oklahoma fans in a buzz. Peterson is quite possibly the highest rated recruit to walk onto the Norman campus in nearly 20 years, and hopes are high.
Here is a look at some story lines for this fall:
The running back battle
When Kejuan Jones nearly rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore, it should have been enough to get the monkey off of his back, and take his spot as Oklahoma's starting back next season.
However, Jones' fate of a battle for the positionw as sealed just days before his national title game tilt with LSU. How could a player with 1,500 yards rushing in two seasons not have a near automatic spot as Oklahoma's starting back?
Well, just days before the Sugar Bowl, it became clear that the nation's top back, and top player, Peterson would make a commitment to sign a letter of intent with the Oklahoma Sooners. The story has been playing itself predictably out ever since.
Along with Jones, Donta Hickson and Tashard Choice put in tremendous summer workouts in an obvious acknowledgement of the talent lurking around the corner. However, as the coaching staff has shown time and time again, talent doesn't always mean a starting job. Players that play with talent, and an understanding of their assignments play. That means that Peterson will have to learn his blocking assignments and excel at them, not just run with the ball. Because, Peterson may be the star of tomorrow, he has to protect the backside of the star of today, quarterback Jason White.
Will Paul Thompson Redshirt?
While many are spending their time mulling over what kind of amazing numbers White could put up this season, an interesting question involving his back-up has come about. With the emergence of Tommy Grady in the spring, and the arrival of Bomar, is it possible that Thompson who was probably the MVP of the spring camp, could be redshirted?
This question will be judged very early on, because after the first few days of practice, players that will figure into Oklahoma's starting line-up will begin seeing more and more live snaps. If Grady is to figure in as Oklahoma's possible back-up he must get a lot of snaps early, and be prepared to make the most out of each and every one.
Simply put the coaching staff has to feel confident that Grady can handle the job of coming off the bench should the unthinkable happen to White. Because, with the talent around him, mop-up duty doesn't figure to be all that trying for any of Oklahoma's talented roster of quarterbacks. However, should White suffer a massive injury again, it's doubtful that Thompson would stay redshirted.
How will Oklahoma replace Derrick Strait?
While the replacement of Tommie Harris, in all likelihood will be a familiar face with the move of Dusty Dvoracek, and Gayron Allen almost certain to jump into Teddy Lehman's spot there is only one marquee player who has left an unfilled space. Strait is widely considered the greatest cornerback in school history, and is currently making waves as a New York Jet, but as of yet no player has truly emerged as his replacement, thankfully for Sooner fans the reason for the indecision is quality talent, and not a lack of.
The odds on favorite is junior Eric Bassey, but Chijioke Onyenegecha, and even the freshman Walker figure to push him mightily for the starting position. Onyenegecha may be more suited for the field corner, but his tremendous athletic ability may be too much to keep him off the field. Walker meanwhile will have to show his ability to grasp one of the most crucial positions in Oklahoma's defensive scheme.