Players mature in different ways. On the field, off the field, you never know when the light bulb is going to come on.
The time is now for Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Better known as Obo, if the time is not now, the question is when would it ever be?
A Class of 2013 recruit, Okoronkwo was seen as a major addition for the Sooners because of his ability to rush the quarterback.
There have been glimpses of that, signs that OU wasn’t off the mark in trying so hard to get Okoronkwo to Norman. But too few and too far in between.
Instead, his stay in Norman has been characterized by being an able backup not quite ready to break through and somebody OU couldn’t necessarily count on to take care of things on and off the field.
He knows it. The foolishness ends now.
“I just feel like I’m older now,” Okoronkwo said. “There’s no time to make silly mistakes like that. It’s time to be responsible. It’s time to be an older guy and take on the role I know I can have on this team.”
And he will need to have a big role. With starting outside linebackers Eric Striker and Devante Bond both graduated, no excuses for Obo.
The energy of Striker is something few can ever duplicate, but Okoronkwo knows he can bring his own flair to the locker room.
“I’ve been here. I know how to do things,” Okoronkwo said. “I know what the coaches want so I feel like I have to set an example for the young guys that play my position. If I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do, I feel like that’s contagious. I feel like every day I have to go 100 percent.”
He’s not wrong. It just took Obo a little bit longer to piece it all together. And he didn’t do it alone. Okoronkwo said conversations with his father and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops helped put everything into perspective.
“The meetings are tense, but people think he’s just like a super mean grouch, but he’s really a cool guy,” said Okoronkwo about Mike Stoops. “He’s a really good coach. I came a long way because of his coaching.”
But there’s still ways to come. Known as a pass rusher, Okoronkwo said it has been an adjustment learning to cover in space. He’s trying to get the feel of that this spring so he’ll be ready in the fall.