Practice report: Freshmen DEs will play

It’s been a surprise to see Oklahoma freshman defensive ends Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha play themselves out of redshirt seasons.

That doesn’t mean they’re become difference-makers quite yet.

“The more they play, the better they’re going to get,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said following Monday’s practice in preparation for OU’s opener against UTEP on Saturday. “They’re like newborn colts, running around out there, legs going everywhere, they look like they just hit ground. The more they get to play, the more they get to see it, they’re going to be good players.”

Tapper and Onuoha are likely to see their first collegiate action this week, particularly if the Sooners get a big lead against UTEP.

• Wright updated the status of P.L. Lindley (high ankle sprain) and Chaz Nelson (MCL injury) on Monday.

“Those guys won’t be ready this week,” Wright said. “Hopefully we’ll get PL Lindley back next week. And Chaz, I’m going to guess, would be after the open date, Kansas State maybe. That’s just a guess. If he’s back before that, that would be great from a depth standpoint.”

With those two players out, Tapper, Onuoha and Rashod Favors will backup Chuka Ndulue and R.J. Washington at defensive end.

• Even though defensive tackle Stacy McGee’s suspension changed things on OU’s defensive line, particularly with the move of David King to defensive tackle, it didn’t change things for everyone.

“Even before then Coach Stoops told me, I need to be ready to play this year,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said.

There are high hopes for Phillips, who could be the most athletic defensive lineman on the squad. The redshirt freshman said he is nervous for his first game in crimson and cream but teammates have told him just to study film and be prepared because knowing what he’s doing will lessen the nerves come Saturday night.

• Early in preseason camp, cornerback Aaron Colvin wasn’t happy with his play. Coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had lauded his efforts but the junior said he needed to “step it up” at the time.

On Monday, Colvin said he’s ready.

“I feel like I’m doing the things I want to do,” he said. “I want to over-exaggerate everything I’m doing this year and I feel like I wasn’t doing that at first, maybe because I wasn’t as comfortable. I’m comfortable now in the defense and in the schemes.

“I’ve been doing the things I need to do to be that great corner I need to be.”

During Bob Stoops weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, the OU coach said he’d put Colvin up against Jamell Fleming, who was a third-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, noting he didn’t feel like the Sooners lost much with Colvin stepping into Fleming’s starting cornerback spot.

• In the past, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables was reluctant to make substitutions at linebacker, even during blowouts. But should the Sooners find themselves in a situation where the margin is no longer in doubt over the next two weeks, first-year linebackers coach Tim Kish said he would like to get younger linebackers Frank Shannon, Aaron Franklin and Eric Striker on the field as much as possible.

"If there's ever a time to get guys in there to get them some experience, you want to help keep developing them, and there's nothing like game experience," Kish said.

Shannon, Franklin and Striker will be playing major roles on special teams, especially on the cover units. But the next two weeks against UTEP and Florida A&M, all three could see time at linebacker, too, which should help elevate the depth of what's becoming one of the deepest positions of the entire team.

• Freshman cornerback Gary Simon appeared on the two-deep depth chart this week, despite arriving in Norman just a couple of days before the start of fall camp.

"He's definitely big time," said junior cornerback Aaron Colvin, who noted that Simon's ranginess has wreaked havoc against the pass this preseason.

Colvin said the No. 3 CB job is down to between Simon and senior Lamar Harris, who has had a solid camp. But if Simon continues on his current trajectory, it's difficult to envision him not having a role similar to what Colvin had as a true freshman as the primary corner reserve two years ago.