OU football: Summer update
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Friday, July 23, 2010
7/23/10 at 3:45 PM
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR Kenny Stills: After a strong spring, Stills led all receivers in the Red/White game (6 catches, 84 yards and a TD). "He looks like he could be one of our more comfortable, instinctive guys, ahead of the curve," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "If we're playing today, you would think he would have a nice role."
DB Jonathan Nelson: Nelson's intelligence and athletic versatility allowed him to experiment at all four defensive back positions this spring. If a safety steps up, Nelson will play cornerback. If two corners emerge, he'll play safety. "I love playing corner or safety," he said. "It's whatever the scheme asks for each week. It's been sort of half and half."
LB Ronnell Lewis: Last year, Lewis was dynamite: explosive, powerful, inconsistent. This spring, at both middle and strong linebacker, he learned the defense. "He's playing smart," said junior linebacker Travis Lewis. "It's one thing to have all that strength, but you have to know what to do with it. … I think he's come a long way."
THREE POSITIONS TO WATCH
Wide receiver: Count on Ryan Broyles. Everyone else? Not so much. It was a big spring for the WR corps, but in the Red/White game, wideouts dropped five passes — more of the same curse that haunted them last year. Freshman Kenny Stills might help; Brandon Caleb hasn't regained his consistency; Cameron Kenney may have fallen off the depth chart; Jaz Reynolds and Dejuan Miller still look like the best candidates to help Broyles. More freshmen arrive in August.
Offensive line: The unexpected return from injury of center Ben Habern and guard/tackle Jarvis Jones ramped up the competition and, because of their playing time in the 2009 season, improved their overall consistency. Guard Stephen Good sprained an ankle in the Red/White game but is expected to be OK. Tavaris Jeffries and Tyler Evans also remain in the mix at guard. Left tackle has become an interesting competition between Cory Brandon and Donald Stephenson; the loser will play right tackle.
Cornerback: Replacing Dom Franks and Brian Jackson — a pair of two-year starters — won't be easy. Jonathan Nelson and Demontre Hurst are the front-runners, but they are far from game ready. If Sam Proctor can't be an every-down safety, a third cornerback will be needed as Nelson slides inside. Gabe Lynn and Lamar Harris got the longest looks in the Red/White game, but both showed up on the wrong end of too many pass completions.
Landry Jones said he still needed to win the job over Drew Allen, but it's clear: This is Jones' team. Jones was good in replacing Sam Bradford last year (26 TDs, 14 INTs, 3,198 yards, .581 completion percentage) but needs more accuracy and better decisions. This spring, Jones stepped into more of a leadership role. This, however, is the offseason that will define him in his teammates' eyes. Lead by example, and he'll have their attention.
Kenny Stills catches a touchdown pass over Lamar Harris during April's Red/White game. Tulsa World file
DB Jonathan Nelson
LB Ronnell Lewis