Bob Stoops spoke Tuesday with media members for the first time since the start of spring practices last weekend. It was the first time since Sugar Bowl practices Stoops was able to evaluate his players in a practice setting.
"It's been great. Really excited about it," said Stoops after three days of practices. "We've got a lot in, a ton in, already just in a few days and the guys are working really well. I'm very pleased with it."
Stoops has been as excited as anyone to evaluate the turnover of his football team since the 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
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With Trevor Knight firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, Stoops is looking to rebuild key aspects of his offense and defense. One of the biggest keys for the Sooners is re-establishing leadership after losing team captains Gabe Ikard, Trey Millard and Aaron Colvin from his program.
"I watch them in the winter as much as anything, who's stepping up and doing that," said Stoops of his developing leadership. "Daryl (Williams') been awesome for the whole team and offense and has really taken hold of that in the weight room and here at practice."
Stoops has even more returning starters on the defensive side of the ball this spring, and he senses a greater sense of leadership on that side of the ball early in spring practices.
"The whole d-line looks awesome," he said. "Heck, all those guys. Linebackers are more sure of themselves in what they're doing. Q. Hayes, Julian Wilson in the secondary are doing a great job, so it's been good."
One of the biggest topics of conversation Tuesday was the move of Blake Bell to tight end. The former starting quarterback is hoping to make a name for himself at a new position, while finishing his career where he's always wanted to be.
"It was a tough decision," said Bell of the change in positions. "Obviously playing quarterback was my dream. But another dream of mine was to play at OU. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to go anywhere. So that's why I stayed around. I love these guys and I love my teammates. I just wanted to get on the field somehow."
"I'm really excited about it," added Stoops on Bell's position change. "Blake has got soft hands, good hands, he's running around really well. He's a huge target. So I believe that's going to be real positive."
Bell might be the headline in the first few days of spring football practices, but the Sooners have a lot of new faces they are trying out over the next month.
Replacing Aaron Colvin at cornerback and Gabe Lynn at safety are two key position battles to track over the next 30 days.
"They've shown the experience of all last year. They're better," said Stoops of safety candidates Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd. "They understand what they're doing more and more. They're where they need to be and they're playing well, as are the corners.
"All the corners got a tight battle going."
Nila Kasitati was the lone surprise sitting out practice Tuesday afternoon. Stoops updated his status following the workout.
"He has a minor deal that will be cleared up in a day or two. He'll be back when we get back after break," said Stoops.
The Sooners also welcome two junior college transfers into spring workouts in linebacker Devante Bond and tight end Isaac Ijalana.
Stoops has a bit more feel with those two after three practices.
"They've been good," he said. hey handled their workouts in a really positive way through the winter, which is a big sign, and now out there running around they look good. They look like they belong."
Stoops continued to praise quarterback Trevor Knight who comes off the best performance of his career against Alabama in the season ending bowl game.
Knight, feels his performance has been a springboard into these 15 practices this spring.
"There's momentum coming from it but I feel like I've been the same guy from the moment I've gotten here," he said. "The guys are still around me in that way. But yeah, riding that momentum after the Sugar Bowl has been great. I felt like we carried that into the offseason like we want to and hopefully we can carry that into next season."
Oklahoma will continue spring practices Thursday.
PRO DAY AWAITS
Oklahoma will host their pro day Wednesday inside the Everest Indoor Training Facility.
The usual senior suspects will appear such as Gabe Ikard, Brennan Clay, Trey Millard and Bronson Irwin. But there is also a cast of players who will show up to workout at OU under the blessing of Bob Stoops and Jerry Schmidt.
Some of those players included former Sooner Damien Williams, who was removed from the team late in the 2013 season.
Former quarterback transfer Drew Allen will also serve as the camp quarterback Wednesday morning.
"Excited for him and he was out at practice today and hopefully it goes well for him," said Stoops of Allen.
Former Sooners Dominique Whaley and Brian Jackson are also scheduled to workout tomorrow during pro day.
Bob Stoop has also welcomed in his brother Mark's staff to Norman. Mark Stoops is the head coach at Kentucky and his staff arrived in Norman yesterday to be a part of OU's spring football camp.
"They just got in yesterday afternoon. Steve Jr. is here as well, Spurrier. It's been good to have those guys around," said Stoops.