Lackawanna College, a junior college football powerhouse where major conference coaches walk the practice sideline looking for the next great talent, is in the Northeastern Pennsylvania town of Scranton – a population of 75,000, significantly smaller than Norman.
Beal from Columbus, Ohio; Doucet from Williamsburg, Va.: The two came together at Lackawanna, rushed the passer with furious aggression as an outside linebacker duo and brought their talents to Norman as a unique pair, where they’ve flourished in less than two months on campus.
“We’re the Looney Tunes,” Doucet said.
Doucet made the first start of his career against Louisiana-Monroe in place of injured Will Johnson, but he could make another one this week as Oklahoma tries to heavy-up against the power running spread of Ohio State. Beal jumped in almost immediately in the first game against Houston and proved that his 215-pound frame isn’t a liability at inside linebacker.
Beal and Doucet were both outside linebackers at Lackawanna, and despite being in a similar defensive scheme in junior college, the two have taken on very different roles at Oklahoma.
Doucet is playing more as a coverage outside linebacker, while Beal has moved inside to become another undersized athlete in the middle of Oklahoma’s defense – following in the recent footsteps of Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans.
“Speed and athleticism is way more important than bulk in the games we play,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “This one will be a little more physical than even the Houston game.”
To no one’s surprise, the ‘Looney Tunes’ are roommates. They were at Lackawanna, and they are again now.
Evans said that Beal has made the transition to middle linebacker by focusing on film work and taking extensive notes in the meeting room. Doucet and Beal both came from a well-regarded junior college, which made them ready to contribute despite sharing just five recruiting stars between them.
“The coaches there are preparing us. It’s really like a college program there,” Doucet said. “They really get us ready for the next level. That was the biggest thing for us at Lackawanna: Going there and the program they have there is kind of similar to here, but not exactly. They definitely prepare you for the next level and get you ready for college.”
Arizona was about the only other school that offered both Doucet and Beal, who are joined at Oklahoma by offensive lineman Ashton Julious and will be joined by running back Marcelias Sutton next year.
Doucet got the Oklahoma offer first, but Beal followed shortly thereafter. Neither waited very long to give a verbal commitment and join the 2016 recruiting class. It was an opportunity to play at a tradition-rich program that neither could pass up.
“I can only control what I can control,” Doucet said. “ When an opportunity is presented to me, I’ll just follow the system that they want to play. . . . That’s just how it is to me. I just take it one day at a time.”
It might not be a stretch to see both Beal and Doucet make the start against Ohio State. Tay Evans saw limited work in practice Tuesday, and Stoops wasn’t sure about his availability Saturday. Jordan Evans could slide back over and give Beal a chance to start alongside Doucet.
Start or not, the ‘Looney Tunes’ will have an impact Saturday.
“They’re extremely talented athletic-wise when you watch them play,” Stoops said. “They have some burst, some suddenness and some quick twitch that really helps them cover the field.”
Beal, who grew up in Columbus but only went to one Buckeyes game clad in a Michigan State sweatshirt, said that he knows all eyes will be on him because of how close he grew up to Ohio State. Eyes could be on him for a different reason.
Beal has been able to fight off his size disadvantage with athleticism and a willingness to stick his nose in a hole, but the matchup against Ohio State could be the most physical game of the season.
Doucet will be tested on the edge by Ohio State’s speed, most specifically Curtis Samuel. The running back has become a bigger emphasis in the Buckeyes’ passing attack out of the backfield and will stretch the Sooners from sideline to sideline.
The two never played in front of 87,000 fans like they did last week, but expect that number to climb over 90,000 by Saturday night. The pair from Lackawanna – ‘The Looney Tunes’ – and the rest of the Oklahoma defense will be under the lights and on the stage. The Lackawanna fans will be watching too, most likely.
“I think they’d be happy for us and excited that we are getting to play and live out our dreams on this level,” Doucet said. “It’s definitely an honor to be here and a privilege.”