Perkins ready for his turn

Antonio Perkins celebrates after returning a punt for a touchdown in last year's Rose Bowl. Perkins is hoping he'll get a chance to do more than return punts in 2003.

NORMAN, Okla. — There might not be a better role player on the Oklahoma football team than Antonio Perkins. But in 2003, the junior-to-be is ready finally ready to step into a bigger role.

While waiting for his chance to take over one of the starting cornerback spots, Perkins became one of the best punt returners in the country and was named the Sooners' Special Teams MVP. Perkins also got several snaps in the Sooners' nickel package where he recorded four interceptions and broke up six passes.

Perkins solidified himself as OU's other starting cornerback alongside Derrick Strait this past spring. It's been a long time coming for the Lawton native, and he talked with James Hale last week about his summer progress and the bigger role he hopes to have with the Sooners this season.

JH: I was talking to Mike Stoops the other day and we was saying, ‘It's Perk's time. He's played safety and he's played the nickel for us, now it's his time to play corner.' Do you look at it that way?

AP: "I look at it like I finally have a opportunity to play what I came here to play. I feel like I've sat and waited and waited while playing the positions they've wanted me to play, but now I think I'm ready to play the position that I can play."

JH: I always see a smile light up on your face when you talk about playing corner.

AP: "Well at corner you're more of a coverage person so you get to cover and you get to tackle. It's more fun for me, I just like being out there at corner. I've learned from the best — Andre (Woolfolk) and all those other guys — so I'm real confident out there at the corner position."

JH: You are so much bigger now then when you got to Oklahoma. Wouldn't you agree that you're a totally different athlete right now?

AP: "The coaches have been working on me being a more physical player, so I've been hitting the weight room real hard getting stronger."

JH: Talk about how much working out in the weight room helps you when you make the move to corner.

AP: "It will give me a chance to get a good jam, and I've got the speed to hang with them (receivers). I'm just worried about getting a better jam and being a better tackler."

JH: So even if a receiver gets by you you're confident you can turn and run?

AP: "I've got great confidence in my speed right now. I've been working everyday on getting faster and stronger. I've got a lot of confidence in my speed right now."

JH: A lot of the preseason magazines have mentioned you as one of the best punt returners in the nation. What do you do to prepare for that in the summer?

AP: "I haven't really worked on that yet, because the punters work out at a different time than I do. But that doesn't matter to me. I'm just trying to go get the job done the best I can."

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