Sooners impress Stoops during spring

Monday, April 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma's football team is sure to feel the loss of two All-Americans on defense, although spring practices left coach Bob Stoops feeling sure the unit will be just fine anyway.

``We are going to be awfully good this year,'' Stoops said after Saturday's Red-White game, which marked the end of spring drills. ``When everyone is back and healthy, we'll be strong.''

Strong safety Roy Williams and linebacker Rocky Calmus have moved on to the NFL, leaving significant voids. But the first-team defense was not scored upon during the scrimmage, despite playing without some of its best, including tackle Tommie Harris and cornerback Derrick Strait, who were among a handful of players held out due to minor injuries.

Stoops said Teddy Lehman will have no trouble moving into Calmus' spot. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said no clear replacement for Williams emerged, although he said Eric Bassey and Michael Thompson each had solid springs.

Oklahoma's coaches feel especially good about the defensive front and cornerback. Harris was an all-Big 12 player as a freshman last year, and Andre Woofolk, said Bob Stoops, ``is one of the best cornerbacks I have ever seen.''

``We have the talent to be just as good, if not better, than last year's defense,'' Lehman said. ``We have the capability of being quicker, stronger and faster.''

That's saying plenty, since Oklahoma's defense was among the best in the country last year as the Sooners finished 11-2.

In the Red-White game, Nate Hybl was 12-of-24 passing for 84 yards when he led the first-team offense against the first-team defense. In the same scenario, Brent Rawls was 5-of-10 for 38 yards.

Playing with the second-teamers against the second-team defense, Hybl was 10-of-13 for 119 yards and Rawls was 12-of-17 for 172 yards.

``It's pretty tough being the guy going against our (No. 1) defense,'' Bob Stoops said. ``It's no picnic to go against them.''

Hybl and Rawls are expected to battle this fall to be the backup to Jason White. White became the starter midway through last season, then suffered a season-ending knee injury. He went through spring practice on a limited basis and should be healthy when two-a-days begin. Stoops even said White probably could have played Saturday.

The spring was used to develop what Stoops hopes will be a stronger running game next season. New offensive line coach and run game coordinator Kevin Wilson has tweaked things a bit, narrowing the gaps between linemen and not having them stand as upright as in years past.

``As a coaching staff on offense, we really feel good about it, where it's going and what it's capable of,'' said Chuck Long, who completed his first spring as offensive coordinator. ``You can feel the confidence level growing within the offensive guys.''

Long said tailback Quentin Griffin had ``a fabulous spring,'' and that Renaldo Works and Jerad Estus played well. Redshirt freshman Kejuan Jones also stood out. He led all rushers in the Red-White game with 91 yards on 10 carries, and finished the spring scrimmages with 187 yards on 29 carries.

``I think if Kejuan Jones pushes himself to improve, he can be a guy that goes in there and makes a difference,'' Stoops said. ``He needs to work on his dependability and reliability, but he has an opportunity to be a strong factor.''

Oklahoma opens its season Friday night, Aug. 30, at Tulsa.