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Football Notebook: Sooners install new offense during spring practice

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Members of the Oklahoma football team warm up before their first football practice after Spring Break on Monday Mar 23 at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. 

After an intrasquad scrimmage over the weekend, Oklahoma football returned to practice Monday. Working toward mastering new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's pass-heavy scheme, several players said they are exhausted after every practice.

Installing new system comes at a price

When Riley was hired by Oklahoma, it was well known the 31-year-old liked to run an up-tempo offense. Now, through a week of practices, players are finding out just how quickly Riley likes to go.

“It’s real fast,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “He gets things going real fast. I mean, we haven’t even gotten in half of the plays but it’s still moving fast.” 

Riley, however, said the team is moving nowhere near the speed he would like it to be.

“We're slow right now, but we'll get better,” Riley said. “The emphasis right now is on the installation and the execution, and when that comes, we'll continue to speed it up. But compared to where I think we can get, we're pretty slow right now. Which is pretty fast for most people.”

Riley said his quarterbacks are taking a brunt of the beating this spring through more reps in his pass-heavy scheme.

“We're getting a ton of reps,” Riley said. “Their arms are hurting right now, which they're supposed to be.”

Despite the pain, the offensive coordinator was impressed with the work ethic and progression from the relatively young quarterback group.

“They've really, obviously, put in the time,” Riley said. “Everybody puts in the allotted hours, everybody in the country does that, but these guys have put in time behind the scenes, not with me, because the progress that they're making right now, you just can't do based on 20 hours a week.”

Sooners lose Smallwood, Ford in the same day

Oklahoma confirmed on Twitter Monday sophomore wide receiver Jordan Smallwood has injured his ACL and will miss the first few games of the 2015 season. 

“It's real tough,” Shepard said. “I mean, Smallwood is coming along. He was playing with great speed early on.”

Riley said it is tough to lose a player to injury, be he expected the unit to get banged up while installing the new offense.

“Oh yeah, they should be beat up right now,” Riley said. “If they're not, they're not playing hard enough. We're repping them like those guys have never repped before.”

The program also announced running back Keith Ford has been suspended indefinitely for violations of team and academic rules.

Ford rushed for 392 yards and five touchdowns in 2014. Riley said he expects the other running backs to fill the void left by the junior.

“One man gone is another man's opportunity,” Riley said. “Those other guys are stepping up. That's why we have a lot of depth at that position.”

Westbrook standing out at wide receiver

Blinn College-transfer Dede Westbrook has practiced with his new team for just a week and is already turning heads. 

“Dede has been a big play guy for us,” wide receiver Durron Neal said. “He’s made a lot of big, down-the-field plays, and he’s another person that’s very elusive and dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Shepard, a senior, has been impressed with what Westbrook has been able to do on the field despite his short stature.

“That's a name you'll keep hearing because that guy can go,” Shepard said. “He's every bit of what the media blew him up to be at the beginning. He plays fast, plays big, even though he's not very big.”

Shepard said he has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma receiver Jalen Saunders, now with the New Orleans Saints in the NFL. 

“Jalen played big, [Dede] plays physical,” Shepard said. “They definitely have a resemblance.”

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