Practice report: OU names team captains

Bob Stoops named his five captains for this season, as voted on by the players. The offensive captains are Landry Jones and Gabe Ikard; David King is the defensive captain; and Tress Way is the special teams captain. Fullback Trey Millard, who also got votes for special teams, is the fifth captain.

Both Jones and Way were captains last season, along with Ben Habern, Travis Lewis and Ryan Broyles.

• Offensive tackle/tight ends coach Bruce Kittle revealed that Lane Johnson has the “nod” at the moment for the starting job at left tackle. Johnson and Tyrus Thompson have been battling since the spring. Thompson actually started the spring game over Johnson.

Kittle said he plans to use Johnson also at right tackle, where he played last season, to spell Daryl Williams at times. When that happens, Thompson will be in at left tackle.

“To be able to do that with Lane is huge,” Kittle said.

Williams, who had one of the best springs of any Sooner, has continued that into the fall, solidifying the starting job at right tackle. Williams started one game there last season, before losing the job to Johnson after an ankle sprain.

Asked what his mindset is in 2012, Williams said: “Keep starting.”

“He’s very consistent,” Kittle said of Williams. “Strong in pass protection.”

For the moment, the tackle position remains a three-man rotation with Johnson, Thompson and Williams. The fourth in the pecking order, redshirt freshman Derek Farniok, is “not quite in that three-man rotation,” said Kittle, who believes Farniok’s future is at right tackle.

• Guard/center Nila Kasitati said he’s feeling good since underdoing a procedure three weeks ago to correct an arrhythmia. Kasitati said he’s been dealing with it for years, but didn’t understand what it was and figured it wasn’t serious. Kasitati said his heart rate would get really fast, and he’d have to relax to slow it down. One day this summer, he woke up and couldn’t slow it down. He had to step out of a workout, and figured it was time to see a doctor.

“It hit me when I woke up,” he said. “Before I didn’t really think much about it.”

Kasitati has since returned to the practice field, and is currently OU’s top reserve at either guard spot and center. He admitted he still needs a few more days of practice to get his conditioning up, but said he should be good by opener at UTEP.

• Once again, Bob Stoops was quizzed about the health of running back Dominique Whaley.

“Is he 100 percent? He sure looks it,” Stoops said.

Running backs coach Cale Gundy said Whaley hasn’t had “an episode where he’s had to come out.

“He’s healthy," Gundy said.

• Gundy discussed at length his thoughts on OU’s running backs. Gundy said Whaley, Brennan Clay and junior college transfer Damien Williams are the top three backs and most likely to see the bulk of the playing time. That leaves freshmen Alex Ross and David Smith on the outside looking in.

“Everyone knows I like to play 2-3 guys,” Gundy said. “But I don’t want to play 4-5.”

Gundy said the reason Williams has separated from the two freshmen is because “he’s learned the system faster.”

But Gundy had plenty of praise for Ross and Smith.

“When they have known what they’re doing, they have looked really good,” Gundy said. “They don’t look like most freshmen that way.

“They break tackles, outrun people, and they don’t get caught.”

It will be interesting to see if the Sooners redshirt either back.

• Even though much of the media discussion has focused on others, Clay said he doesn’t feel overlooked – even though he opened the 2011 season as the starter and yet his name rarely is mentioned when talk of the Sooners running backs comes up. Clay doesn’t worry about what people think of him or his ability because he knows he’ll have the opportunity to prove himself on the field.

Clay was highly regarded when he stepped on campus but injuries have hampered his first two seasons. Gundy likens him to former Sooner Chris Brown in terms of his dependability with OU’s offensive attack.

“He’s a guy you can count on,” Gundy said. “When you put him out there, you know what you’re going to get out of him.”

Geneo Grissom spoke for the first time since being declared the Sooners’ starting tight end by Bob Stoops. The former defensive end said he went up to Stoops shortly after spring ball, to ask if he could give tight end a shot. Grissom said he was “surprised” Stoops was as open to it as he was.

Grissom thought the opportunity was there for playing time at tight end, considering the Sooners had no returning letter winners at the position.

“I felt like that could be to my advantage,” he said.

Since, Grissom has beaten out both Brannon Green and Taylor McNamara to be the starter.

“I’m still learning,” said Grissom, who admitted he was surprised he has risen to the top of the depth chart so quickly.

Grissom said one of his favorite athletes has been Jermaine Gresham, and he’s trying to model his game after the former OU All-American tight end.

“I love catching the ball,” he said. “Who doesn’t love scoring touchdowns?”

• Bob Stoops admitted his staff has discussed which true freshmen will redshirt and which will play this season. Stoops declined to single out anybody, though implied the majority of the class won’t redshirt.

“We intend to play all of them,” Stoops said. “Come game week we'll see who ends up in the game and who doesn't.”

Among the freshmen who appear to be locks not to redshirt include WRs Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard, CB Gary Simon, TE Taylor McNamara, DE Charles Tapper and LB Eric Striker. WR Durron Neal, DE Michael Onuoha, DB Zack Sanchez, C Ty Darlington and RB Alex Ross could also be in line to avoid redshirt.

Kenny Stills talked of the competitive nature of LaColtan Bester: “It will be a running play to the opposite side of the field and he’s on the other side trying to take people’s heads off.”

Bester’s competitive nature could be a driving force behind his smooth transition into the program. He appears poised to be on OU’s two-deep even though he didn’t arrive on campus until shortly before preseason camp began.

• There’s no update on the status of receiver Jalen Saunders, who is hoping to be declared eligible to play immediately by the NCAA after transferring from Fresno State. Saunders has impressed during fall camp with his speed, quickness and playmaking ability.

There is no timetable for a decision.