With a bit of cloud cover and a slightly cooler temperatures than normal, the Oklahoma Sooners partook in their first padded practice of the fall, and with high expectations that surround the team in the preseason, both the offense and defense appeared to be dialed in.
Some offensive players and coaches talked to the media after practice, and here are some of the highlights:
Offensive line coming along
With three returning starters on the offensive line, one would think the Sooners are plenty experienced up front heading into the first game against Houston, but offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh believes this group still needs a lot more practice time.
“We are so young, we need reps," Bedenbaugh said. "We’re so inexperienced, we have to have reps...I'm looking for guys to go out there, get reps, play physical and show me they can do it on Saturdays."
Bedenbaugh returns freshman All-American Orlando Brown at left tackle, while Jonathan Alvarez will make the switch from guard to center this upcoming season. Dru Samia started nine games last season at right tackle, but has been rotating some at guard.
“He’s rolling at tackle and right guard," Bedenbaugh said. "That’s what he’s going to continue to do. It doesn’t matter who the right tackle is going to be, whether he starts at tackle, whether he starts at guard, he’s going to roll at both positions and play both positions through the whole season.”
When discussing who else has been practicing with the first team offense, Bedenbaugh said that Cody Ford has been playing at left guard, while Ben Powers, Bobby Evans and Samia have been rotating on the right side.
“Ideally you’d like to have a two-deep, but like I said before, that doesn’t happen very often," Bedenbaugh said. "What you like to have is eight guys, a starting five and then a tackle who can play both positions and a backup center but, I don’t know how it’s going to work out.
"We’re still young and inexperienced, so we’ll see how it shakes out, but Ideally you’d like to have a two-deep. There’s been very few times in my career that’s happened, but if we can get eight guys and some guys can roll, then we’ll be fine.”
Austin Kendall feeling comfortable with offense
After the departure of backup quarterbacks Trevor Knight to Texas A&M and Cody Thomas to the OU baseball team, the Sooners' second string quarterback this fall will be none other than true freshman Austin Kendall. Despite having no experience at the college level, Kendall is confident he'll be able to step in and run the OU offense if he's called upon.
“Yeah I do, the whole first part of practice I’m working with Baker (Mayfield), me and him are switching out with the first offense, so I’m getting those reps so if I have to go in I think I’ll be ready, Ill be able to help lead the offense," Kendall said with confidence.
Kendall, who graduated high school early and enrolled at OU in the spring, is grateful he got a head start on learning the offense.
“I wouldn’t know what I know now, being able to run the offense like I have in the first five days I’ve been out here," Kendall said. "Being here in the spring has helped out a ton.”
Along with his head start learning the system, Kendall has also received a lot of help from starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“It’s great working with him. He’s behind me every practice," Kendall said of Mayfield. "When I’m going through drills, when I’m going through seven on seven, team, he’s just there telling me what I need to do better, what I need to work on. He even tell me what I’m doing well, too. He’s definitely been the biggest role model for me out here.”
Mark Andrews ready for more opportunities
Tight end Mark Andrews is one of the many OU playmakers returning on the Sooners' offense, and he's ready and willing to make up for some of the production left behind with Sterling Shepard's graduation.
“With him being gone there’s a huge role to fill, I don’t think one person is going to fill that role obviously but you know there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to have, so I’m just going to keep working hard to get those opportunities," Andrews said.
While catching passes will make the headlines, Andrews is fully aware of how important blocking is at the tight end position. Andrews said at media day that he worked hard in the offseason to improve his blocking, and after Monday's padded practice, he said he can see the improvement on the field.
“I definitely see myself getting better at blocking, just having pads on kind of reassures you that what you did in the summer is helping out so I definitely see the progress," Andrews said.