Savage building on success

It's a new day for Dionte Savage. Coming off his first start at OU, he's ready to end things in style for his senior season.

There were so many things that stood out in Oklahoma's 45-31 upset victory against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl that some of them might have slipped through the cracks.

The story of the game was the brilliant performance of quarterback Trevor Knight, nobody is debating that. Add in the electric defensive performances of Geneo Grissom and Eric Striker and there were stories to be told across the board.

One reason Knight was able to throw for 348 yards and four touchdowns was because of the protection he had from the offensive line. A makeshift offensive line that had never seen those five guys start together, and the first OU start for offensive guard Dionte Savage.

It has been a long road from Flint, Mich., to Norman, but Savage seems to have found a home with the Sooners.

"Dionte is doing a great job," coach Bob Stoops said. "He's a big, powerful guy, and he continues to get better."

Heading into the final weekend before the Class of 2013 signed their letters of intent, it didn't look like OU was going to land an interior lineman.

The Sooners had offensive tackles in Christian Daimler and junior college product Josiah St. John locked up but nothing from the guard or center position.

Savage was committed to Baylor at the time but decided to take a trip to OU to check things out. The last-minute trip paid off as he flipped to the Sooners 48 hours before signing day and there was no drama in his signing from Arizona Western.

All there was, however, was excitement about somebody his size. The coaches raved about his frame, around 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, but size alone wasn't going to get him on the field.

Savage saw limited time throughout the 2013 season before finally getting the call to start at guard against the Crimson Tide. Knowing the start was coming allowed him to prepare with a different mindset for the bowl practices.

"It helped me a lot," Savage said. "Definitely with the experience of the game and playing a team like Alabama, I feel like I played pretty decent. I just feel like me coming into the spring and working on the technique and everything that I need next year to make me a better player."

Savage wasn't talked about for his performance, which might have actually been a good thing. Offensive linemen sometimes only get mentioned when things didn't go well. What mattered to Savage was that offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was pleased.

"He thought I did a pretty good job," Savage said. "He just told me to come back and get to work so we can have an even better season next season."

That next season is here. With Bronson Irwin graduating, the guard spots should be wrapped up with Savage and Nila Kasistati.

Savage said he weighs around 339 pounds right now with the hopes of getting down to 333-335 when the season comes around. His teammates have noticed a change with Savage because of his Sugar Bowl outing.

"That game for him really helped him out," offensive tackle Daryl Williams said. "He has game experience now. He knows what he's doing now. He fills in perfect with us.

"I'd say Savage has the highest ceiling on the o-line because of his size. And he's fast, too. He's faster than me."

Savage is taking the spring with a different mindset. He's happy with how the first couple of weeks have gone. And as a senior, he knows this is his last chance.

"I'm excited," Savage said. "Knowing it's my last year, I got to do what I can with my opportunities. It's all or nothing at this point."

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