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August 10, 2011It's tough to say a team returning most of its starters is going through a rebuilding process, but after Oklahoma rushed for just 3.3 yards per carry in 2010, regrouping might be a better term.
The status of Jarvis Jones puts that regrouping into overdrive this fall as Oklahoma looks to find a true right tackle to take over during key contests at Florida State and against Missouri.
Jones is still rehabbing from a torn patella tendon suffered last spring.
"He's great, he looks good, he's moving really well," said offensive tackles/tight ends coach Bruce Kittle. "He finished all his classes up and he had a great summer as far as rehab goes. He's got good flexibility, his range of motion is exceeding what we had hoped for at this point.
"It's just a matter of rebuilding the strength before he starts going full-speed on that. But he's on pace for, what I think they said, the Texas game and there's nothing that's happened so far that makes us not believe he's going to be ready to play for us at Texas."
The good news is the Sooners seem to have zeroed in on Jones' replacement in redshirt freshmen Daryl Williams.
"He's just kind of cemented himself at that position," said Kittle of Williams. "His fundamentals and technique are very good and he's an exceptional athlete. He's playing around 305 right now, he's real physical and he's a very bright guy. He does a great job.
"Daryl is right on pace and we couldn't be anymore pleased with a redshirt freshmen starting at right tackle for us."
TIGHT END VERSATILITY
James Hanna had a slow start to his junior season in 2010. But Hanna came on like a house of bricks late as he caught the game-clinching 76-yard touchdown pass from Landry Jones.
Hanna has always been a talented receiver for a tight end, but he's looking to build on his 18 catches from 2010, and OU coaches believe he will.
"James is one of those guys that can kind of come out of nowhere because we have perimeter players that do a good job," said wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. "He can come out of nowhere on a naked (bootleg) or a power pass like he did in the Oklahoma State game, he can kind of get lost in the shuffle and really hurt a team. I think that just gives us more flexibility."
The Sooners are also finding Austin Haywood to be a surprising weapon this fall. Haywood was thought to be another tight end prospect who was more receiver than blocker.
But Haywood is proving himself more and more as a physical presence on the line.
"Austin Haywood at tight end is blocking as good as anybody. He's a very physical guy that rips his hands and gets a good drive," said Kittle. "He really made up his mind to get after it and he's probably one of, if not the most physical blockers we have in our offensive line group."
"Austin is really a good receiver. He's a tremendous blocker and those two guys give us versatility at the tight end position," added Norvell.
Hanna remains the starter going into the season, but he, along with Haywood give the Sooners more options than they may have expected this early in fall camp.
"He and James are really close right now but James is up there with that year of experience and kind of knowing all that stuff," said Kittle. "James also gives us some flexibility working (inside and outside), so he's there but they're very close. We'll play three guys (add Trent Ratterree) at that position."
The early buzz about freshmen standouts has mainly been about Kameel Jackson at this point of camp.
Kameel really is showing a lot of things for a young player. He's got savvy and understanding," said Norvell. "Skill players that have that kind of mentality do well in our offense. It's hard if you're not a quick thinker, to play well in a no-huddle offense. You've got to be able to think quickly, you've got to be able to flow with the defense and you've got to think like the quarterback thinks.
"If you can do that, you can have a lot of success and Kameel has shown a lot of savvy. We had him in camp a couple of times and we absolutely loved him. He's a physical kid, he's got really good hands and he has the ability to focus. That's the hardest thing for young players, the ability to focus and make plays. He's shown ability to do that, so that's exciting."
Part of Jackson's early success is that he is able to listen to what he's told and reproduce that instruction on the practice field.
"He's like a sponge," explained Norvell. "And the best thing you can do as a young player is shut your mouth, and listen. If you shut up and listen you've got a chance and he's done that. He respects the older guys but he's learning from them and he's taking advantage of his chances when he gets them."