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OU football's Jeff Lebby praises freshman Jackson Arnold. 'He understands what it means.'

NORMAN — Even though Dillon Gabriel is set to return as OU football’s No. 1 quarterback this season, freshman Jackson Arnold continues to make a big impression.

“He’s come in and he’s picked everything up and he’s worked incredibly hard,” Sooners offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said after Tuesday’s spring practice opener.

“He’s spent a lot of time building on his own. He understands what it means to be the guy here and understands what it is going to take for him to get to that point.”

Arnold, a five-star prospect out of Texas power Denton Guyer, went 28-3 as the starting quarterback in high school, passing for more than 7,000 yards and 67 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.

Lebby said Arnold has also built a strong relationship with Gabriel, a redshirt senior who started 12 games last season for the Sooners.

“It’s been huge,” Lebby said. “They’ve hit it off and I knew they would from a personality standpoint. Dillon’s an incredibly unselfish guy. He wants to be great himself and he wants everyone around him to be great. He’s finding ways to lead every single day and he’ll continue to do so.”

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OU football opened spring practice Tuesday, with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby praising freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold (10).
OU football opened spring practice Tuesday, with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby praising freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold (10).

Gentry Williams situation ‘scary’

Woodi Washington wasn’t far away from fellow cornerback Gentry Williams when Williams suffered recently from what Sooners coach Brent Venables said was an “exertional collapse.”

Washington said the players were doing a tug-of-war type drill.

“There were two guys going and after they finished, he just kind of fell out,” Washington said.

Williams was quickly attended to by trainers and was eventually transported to a local hospital.

“It’s scary because you never think a situation is as serious as it is,” safety Billy Bowman said. “It can happen to anybody. It’s a situation where you have to take it very seriously. You’ve seen a lot of people around in the sports world going down just randomly.”

More:OU football: Sooners punter Luke Elzinga aims to fill big shoes Michael Turk left behind

Jalil Farooq bonding with new WR coach

Junior receiver Jalil Farooq said it hasn’t been difficult adjusting to new receivers coach Emmett Jones.

“We’re building a great relationship,” Farooq said. “He’s a great coach. Fundamentally sound coach. He like to build us from scratch so he has a lot of details. He focuses on details so I feel like I’m improving my game a lot.”

Farooq said Jones has particularly helped with his route releases.

“First and foremost he dove into getting in and out of my breaks,” Farooq said. “Top of the route, releases. He has a great release package. I love it. I can’t wait to add some of that to my game.”

More:Tramel: Brent Venables needs portal people to come through for OU football defense

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof works with players during OU's first spring football practice Tuesday in Norman.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof works with players during OU's first spring football practice Tuesday in Norman.

Ted Roof: Defense ‘way ahead’

OU defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the defense is much further along that it was last year at this time.

“I think we’re way ahead of where we were last spring,” Roof said. “But we should be. We’ve made a lot of progress this offseason. So pleased with where we’ve come. But at the same time we’ve got so far to go. But the attitude and commitment and the work ethic — we’re ahead of where we were last year.”

Roof said his biggest point of emphasis in the spring comes down to approach.

“The right mindset. An attack mindset,” Roof said. “We attack everything. Every day. And if we do that, we’ll be just fine. But to understand the difference between winning and losing. Very, very small things. When you go back and watch the third downs, watch the fourth downs. What some people may not see.

"Some people making little mistakes. But big mistakes because they allow other teams down the field. So many times in the game of football when you make a mistake in those situations, the other team ends up scoring.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: Jackson Arnold is already impressing Jeff Lebby, Sooners