Clayton ready to step up

Junior receiver Mark Clayton talks with about OU's offseson progress and his role among the Sooner receivers

NORMAN, Okla. — Junior receiver Mark Clayton has become a solid leader on the Oklahoma football team and a big year is expected for him as he moves to the inside slot position next season. Clayton talks about the Sooners' 2003 season ahead.

JH: Bob Stoops says that you have a chance to become the Sooners go-to receiver this year. How do you feel about that, and is that possible in an offense that seems to rely so much on balance among its wide receivers?

MC: "I believe that it is possible. It would give the team a cushion, and a confidence knowing that we have somebody on the field that is good in the clutch. I know right from the way that we are working that there are three or four guys on the core who have the ability to go downtown in a clutch situation. I think I can be that guy if the team chooses me to be. I think I can make plays at any time in the game, but certainly when the game is on the line."

JH: You lose a lot of experience from last years wide receiver corp in Antwone Savage, Curtis Fagan and Trent Smith. So just how good can group be with the young receivers stepping up?

MC: "We are not going to drop off at all. We lose some very good receivers, but they taught us everything they knew and some little tricks about playing receiver when we came in. We have learned at an early age, which will make us even better. We are not going to slack off any and if anything we are going to get better."

JH: Isn't this year's group more athletic than any of the others that you have been apart of?

MC: "I like this corp a lot. We have a lot of skill, speed, agility, are great technicians, and we all have good hands, which is the key thing. This receiver corp looks like a pro receiver corp. The athletes are so big and fast. I really like this group and feel like it is going to be very good. We have some great talent. Will Peoples is a big receiver who came up big for us last year. Brandon Jones got a taste of success last year and he may be the best talent. He will play a much bigger role this year. Travis Wilson is similiar to those two, very big and fast. Travis is very hard to tackle. Then we have JeJuan, who is very much like me in that he is small, but quick and shifty. Defensive backs have a hard time getting their hands on him."

JH: You will move inside to the slot as the starter this year, but also still play some at wide receiver. Do you feel good about that move?

MC: "Whatever the coaching staff wants to do is fine with me, because I have all my trust in them. They are not going to tell us anything wrong, and wherever they line us up will be the best for us."

JH: You are great at making something happen after making the catch. Do you consider yourself a running back after you catch the football?

MC: "That is exactly right, because our coaches stress making plays after the catch. Every day at practice our coaches stress to make a big play, put a move on a defender and practice getting into the end zone. Making the catch first is the top priority, but what you do with the ball after making the catch really makes the difference in the offense having a big game or not."

JH: In all the preseason polls OU is ranked from first to third in the country. Do you pay attention to that stuff?

MC: "To be honest I haven't seen anything about our preseason ranking yet. That doesn't surprise me, and that is why we came to Oklahoma, to be ranked in the top three in the country or to be number one in the country. We are working hard and if hard work pays off and hard work shows, then everything that we do will speak for itself."

JH: This program has always been built during the off-season. Do you feel like the off-season is going well for you?

MC: "I compare what I have seen so far this summer to the summer before our national championship year. There is a lot of focus and determination this summer just like there was that year. Everybody is on time, nobody is missing workouts, and nobody is complaining about how hard the workout is or how long we have to run. Coach (Jerry) Schmidt is doing a great job with us. We are toning up, getting bigger, stronger and faster. It is going to show for us in games. Everybody is working hard and I know it is going to show up on the scoreboard."

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