Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, seen here in a November game at West Virginia, said he saw progress in his team in Saturday’s first fall practice but also added that there is much work to be done before the season opener. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Sooners ‘look better physically,’ Riley says

Oklahoma held its first fall football practice in unseasonably cool weather Saturday morning in Norman.

OU coach Lincoln Riley said the team looks different than it did from the first spring football practice, but he cautioned that a lot of work was needed.

“There’s definitely been progress. Learning the schemes, the guys that were here for the spring being a little bit more comfortable and then you can already see that a little bit here in the beginning,” Riley said after the workout. “And then, we looked better physically. The guys that have been here developed well over the summer and then certainly the newcomers that we added just make us look better as a team going overall.”

Riley was asked if there were ever instances of players making his “jaw drop” during past first practices in his career.

He mentioned former East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy before shifting to OU players.

“In the last few years, CeeDee (Lamb) kind of had that presence a few years ago where you could tell he was going to be pretty good, pretty quick,” Riley said. “Kenneth Murray had a little bit of that. Right off the bat, you could tell this guy can play the game.

“You know me, I’m not going to say anything if I did see it today,” he added, drawing laughter. “I knew where you were going with that (question). There were a lot of good signs today, I will say that.”

Returning to the field

Linebacker Jalen Redmond and defensive backs Robert Barnes and Chanse Sylvie went through the first workouts.

Redmond was limited after battling blood clots last year during his redshirt season.

“He’s moving around well. We were kind of slowly building him up a little bit, not throwing him into everything right now, so he didn’t go through the entire practice,” Riley said. “Mentally he seems to be in a really good spot. I think he’s got a good feel for what we’re doing schematically. He was taking advantage of that today.

“He’s really lost a lot of body fat, done a good job with his body. We’ve got to keep seeing how he responds to increased workloads, but so far, very positive.”

Barnes was injured in last year’s Orange Bowl and sat out the spring.

“Robert came in and was full-go today. It was good to have him back. He’s played a bunch of ball for us, both on defense and special teams. It looked like he was moving around well,” Riley said.

Sylvie has continued to recover from Achilles surgery last season.

“Chanse finally looks healthy and running like he was before the injury,” Riley said. “He was pushing through it in the spring but wasn’t quite himself. He’s much more fluid.

“With our training staff and strength staff, Chanse has done a really nice job and is much better athletically than he was.”

Sooners welcome new face on offensive line

R.J. Proctor, a graduate transfer offensive lineman from Virginia, went through his first practice with the Sooners.

For a team needing to discover four new starters, his emergence will be important. Proctor played in 32 games (12 starts) over the past three seasons with the Cavaliers.

“From the times I saw him — I’m not with him every single period of the day — it looked like he had a pretty good idea of what we’re doing,” Riley said. “He’s a really, really smart kid. As a graduate transfer with one year to go, that’s pretty big. You need someone who can pick this thing up pretty quick, especially for a guy who wasn’t here.”

While Proctor played guard at Virginia, Riley said his flexibility could help them find a spot at either guard or tackle if he wins a job.

Eric Bailey



Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391