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March 30, 2011

Sooners must find answers to replace Jones

The cold, hard facts are that Oklahoma has lost their starting right tackle to start the 2011 season.

That doesn't mean Jarvis Jones won't return in time to help Oklahoma make a title run next season, but it means for the time being, the Sooners must continue looking for a right tackle to open the 2011 season.

But will he back back for Florida State? Will he be back for the start of the conference schedule?

Nothing is certain.

At least that's how Oklahoma players and coaches are approaching things right now in spring football.

"Instead of Josh (Aladenoye) being a second team guy, he's the starting right tackle at the University of Oklahoma," said offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle on Tuesday. "With that title comes a lot of responsibility."

The Sooners had all their pieces in place just a week ago with five returning starters along the offensive line. And yes, Jones is expected to return at some point during the first part of the season after tearing his patella tendon during Friday's practice.

That's something offensive line coach James Patton feels certain about even as Jones still recovers from surgery.

"Jarvis has been hurt before when he broke his heel against Nebraska and that was a bad injury and he came back strong after that," said a resolute Patton on Tuesday. "He came back strong and played every game last year, so he's a tough guy. Jarvis is very tough. He didn't say anything when he got hurt. He just knew something wasn't right, so he'll be back. He'll rehab and he'll be back."

But with Jones being out, there is urgency in OU's spring camp to find players who can step up and help Oklahoma's offense become productive right away.

"It forces the issue but they were competing today to get that spot," Patton said. "It's not good that Jarvis goes down but at least there's silver lining on our side and on his side to get back during the season."

Aladenoye starts out as the heavy favorite to win the starting right tackle spot heading into the fall. But the Sooners will also give a hard look at Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams.

Williams was thought to be another potential replacement for Jones when news first leaked out about his injury, but according to Kittle, Williams is being groomed as a potential left tackle, and that does complicate things just a bit.

Williams spent most of last season working at right tackle, but the coaches are also in need of a strong backup to Donald Stephenson at left tackle, and they were hoping to work Williams at that spot during the spring.

"We just made that move thinking he's the heir apparent to Donald (Stephenson) and he hadn't played a lot of left and then we have Jarvis and Josh was at the right. I just feel like he has the talent level to be a left tackle," explained Kittle. "He has a really long frame and really long arms and he has that prototypical frame to be a left tackle down the road."

But Jones injury might sidetrack Williams development as the heir apparent at left tackle. They'll continue to work him at both spots, hoping to find the best possible replacement or Jones coming out of spring practices.

Because of the shortage of left tackles, the Sooners will also give defensive end Lane Johnson a look at the tackle position in the weeks ahead.

"He's up to 275 and he's got about eight percent body fat. That may be something and he's got more years in here than Mensik did and he's bigger," said Bob Stoops. "That may be something that we stumble into. We're going to look at it and make sure Lane has a good attitude about it. He seemed to like it and we'll give him a look."

With Jones out, Patton and Kittle will work to revamp their tackle position with almost three weeks left in the spring.

It'll be time well-used and much needed.

"We have good numbers, but those tackles we've got right now, they've got a bunch of ability and they just need to step up and do it," said Patton. "That's why this spring is pretty important."

SCOUTING REPORTS

James Patton on Josh Aladenoye - "He's a big guy that was weighing about 340 when he came in here and he's down to about 315 and he's got fast feet and quickness. He's got a chance. We have to refine some technique with him and he's a little bit more stout at the point of attack than Jarvis. Jarvis was quick footed and a really good athlete. Josh is the same kind of way he just needs to play more. He needs to get more reps. He's doing that right now."

Bob Stoops on Daryl Williams - "Out there he's doing a good job, but so is Josh and so are a lot of other guys. I think a little bit too much has been made of that and at the end of the day he's doing well. He's young and he has to keep getting better. He's shown good progress with it."

Ben Habern on Aladenoye and Williams - "They're good players. They're young and they still have to get used to our system and how fast we go and some of the schemes that we run but they're hard workers and they try hard and they finish. It's good to see if we have a guy go down there are guys stepping up and coming in and doing a good job for us."


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