OU's man without a position

Incoming freshman Dalton Wood brings size, athleticism and diversity to Sooners

One by one, each position coach on the Oklahoma staff watched Dalton Wood and wanted him.

They wanted him for linebacker, for tight end, for defensive line and even running back.

Maybe even with a little bickering the Sooners’ coaches tried to figure out where exactly to put Wood and what position he would take and whose additional roster number he would take up.

Bob Stoops stood up and stopped the debate.

“I said, ‘I don’t care where he plays. I’m gonna offer him a scholarship,’” Stoops said as the staff laughed in the meeting. “. . . I love what he does. He’s got size, quickness and athleticism, speed, he’s got everything. We’ll figure out where he’s gonna play.”

Wood, who made the 5-A state semifinals with McAlester in his senior season, really doesn’t seem to care.

He works a construction job until usually after dinner and works out year-round. When Wood committed to Oklahoma, he had a designated position. Wood was going to likely play tight end in the Sooners’ power read option offense, able to use his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame to maul linebackers and his unique quickness to find open spaces in the secondary.

Then came Oklahoma’s change in offensively philosophy. Wood, the man who could seemingly play any position, was left without one.

He didn’t need new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to sit down with him and settle his mind. Wood wasn’t worried.

“It doesn’t matter to me if I’m playing offense, defense, running down on kickoffs, punts, punt return,” said Wood, who played every position except cornerback and offensive line during his high school career that was shortened because of different health issues. “Just being on the field is a special thing. I just want to do everything I can to help out the team.”

Oklahoma hasn’t been reliant on a talented tight end since Jermaine Gresham left campus. It’s not that they haven’t had any, the Sooners just haven’t made it a focal part of the offense. Still, the position that Wood is scripted to play has always been one that gets close to the hearts of Sooners’ fans. The names Aaron Ripkowski, Trey Millard and J.D. Runnels are forever in Oklahoma lore.

Maybe Wood will be the next, but there’s one part of his 30-minute conversation with Riley that makes it seem like he might be a bit different.

“He just said don’t listen to whatever everyone talks about, that we don’t use tight ends or anything,” Wood recalled of his conversation with Riley. “Don’t get used to putting your hand down a lot because you never know where you’re going to be in my offense. You might be spread out. You might be at wide receiver. You might be at H-back. Just don’t get too used to having that hand on the ground.”

After finishing his senior season with more than 3,500 total yards and 57 touchdowns (29 passing, 25 rushing, 3 receiving), Wood has proven that he can play any position. He played both ways for the Buffaloes.

That might also be the case at Oklahoma.

“They talked about moving me to D-End or a little bit of power running back, all kind of stuff like that,” Wood said.

It’s that kind of diversity that made Wood, who grew up less than two hours from Norman, so valuable to Stoops from the first moment that the Sooners’ coach saw the surprisingly athletic player, who won the seventh-grade state wrestling championship in his first year of playing the sport.

Wood doesn’t have an assigned position at Oklahoma. He has all of them.

“I just like to do whatever I can to help out the team – help out the team as much as I can so we can win as much as possible,” Wood said. “I just like to be helpful. I’m not worried about myself.

“I just play the game and let everything else happen.”


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