Justin Hite - Sooners Illustrated

Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is ready to make a jump for the Oklahoma Sooners

After a needed redshirt season, Gallimore could make a big impact this season

NORMAN – Neville Gallimore just looks different. Standing on the edge of the practice field waiting to talk to reporters, he doesn't even appear to be the same player that he was just a year ago at this time, when a redshirt seemed an almost certainty.

Gallimore came to Oklahoma very raw: An out-of-shape prospect who didn’t quite understand the intricacies of the defensive line after playing much of his prep career out of a two-point stance. In high school, he was more of a linebacker than a hand-in-the-ground pass rusher.

Surprisingly, there was no off-the-field culture shock from Gallimore, who grew up in Ontario, Canada. He’d never been as far south as Oklahoma, but he’d made trips across the board to cities in upstate New York for basketball tournaments before. There wasn’t a shock on the field, either. It was only the realization that there was a lot of work to be done, something he had always anticipated.

With a no-nonsense defensive line coach that sees his potential, Gallimore is finally ready to seize his real freshman season. It’s just in his second year on campus.

“I have to demand more out of myself,” Gallimore said. “I need to just continue to build. Even though I’m doing better than I was before, the position I’m in, I need to see results a lot faster.”

Gallimore came to Oklahoma in the 2015 recruiting class a 303-pound, four-star defensive tackle. The tools were there: The quick feet, the fast hands and the natural strength. The rest of his game wasn’t. He wasn’t slow to study, but he was studying something he had never been exposed to before.

Now, Gallimore hasn’t lost weight, but he’s just carrying it higher on his body – moved a little bit from his stomach to his chest. He’s a stout 305 pounds and appears to be competing for a starting spot on the edge of the defensive line.

“He’s a totally different player than he was a year ago,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Neville’s a guy, another young guy, that’s really making progress. . . . He’s got a chance to be a special player. We need him out here to continue that development.”

Gallimore, who said his football IQ has risen dramatically since last year, has been fighting an injury through most of camp but said that he is looking to his new defensive line coach, Calvin Thibodeaux, and some of the leaders on the defensive line to keep supporting him. Thibodeaux’s experience – 13 career sacks at Oklahoma and two years of professional football in the CFL – and the experienced players on the defensive line around him have given Gallimore something for which to strive.

“They’ve always been on my side and have my back,” Gallimore said. “As players, they push me. They make me want to be better.”

This was the process that Gallimore expected when he traveled more than 1,500 miles – a full day of driving – to attend Oklahoma. Gallimore had his pick of schools, Ohio State among others, and most of them would have been closer to Gallimore’s home – a place he said he doesn’t get to visit often but is always welcomed back.

It was a long way to go for a guaranteed year of hard work with minimal reward. But there he is: On the edge of the Sooners’ practice field and on the verge of starting what is likely to be an impactful career with the Sooners.

“Compared to last year, I’m in a way better position,” Gallimore said. “. . . The sky is the limit. It’s only going to get better. Just being here, I feel like I’m doing a lot more, and I’m demanding a lot more of myself compared to last year.

“Now, it’s just time to pick it up even more. There’s still a ton more I can do to improve my game. It’s up to me to be strong mentally and continue to build.”

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