Sooners forming pipeline to California JC

San Francisco Community College Head Coach talks about Chijioke Onyenegecha and OU's recent success signing players from his school.

Head Coach George Rush of San Francisco Community College is one of the leading junior college coaches in the country. Every year his SFCC squad is ranked among the nation's best and considered a favorite to win the JUCO national title in their area.

Coach Rush has become quite a friend to the University of Oklahoma coaching staff sending three of his better players to OU in starting linebackers Pasha Jackson and Lance Mitchell, and the latest in cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha. In all, Coach Rush and his coaching staffs graduate some 17-25 players a year to various Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA schools.

Coach Rush will have more great players in the future and you can bet that the Sooners will be very much in the running for them as well. Coach Rush agreed to sit down with for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Coach, you have a tremendous program at SFCC and it is hard to believe how many players you turn out to various collegiate teams every year.

GR: "It is easy to turn them out if you have some good athletes to start with. We have a great coaching staff and they do a wonderful job of developing young talent. So, it is a combination of the two things."

JH: Don't you get most of your players from the San Francisco area?

GR: "I would say that we get 90 percent of our players from the metropolitan bay area."

JH: There must be so much talent in your area, because you know the D-1 programs are also recruiting out of the area, yet you have a top five JUCO program every year?

GR: "Our target groups are two guys, obviously the people that are athletically recruited, but they didn't qualify academically or on their test scores. The second group are pretty talented kids that were just a little undersized or they didn't weigh quite enough, or they played on a poor football team and never got the recognition they deserve. They are kind of undiscovered guys."

JH: What was the story behind Lance Mitchell and Pasha Jackson?

GR: "Pasha was a real interesting guy. He was a quarterback in high school and who never played linebacker in his life. When we got him over here we knew that he wasn't a quarterback, but he had the temperament, the body size and the speed to be a linebacker. It was a good transition for him.

"Lance had always been an outstanding linebacker and he was a linebacker/fullback type in high school. He was a highly recruited guy. Pasha would be an example of a guy, because of the position he played, wasn't recruited although he qualified academically. Then Lance didn't qualify, but was heavily recruited coming out of high school. Then he ended up with us.

"Then Chijioke Onyenegecha was the premier defensive back in junior college football a year ago."

JH: The Sooners have been waiting on Chijioke for over a year, and don't you have to admire a guy who stuck with his pursuit of his degree and stuck with his commitment to OU. I am sure you helped him as much as you could?

GR: "As you know, life isn't always fair to everybody. Sometimes all of us need help somewhere along the way, and if you are in a position to help somebody then you certainly want to do it. You hope that the lesson learned is that one day when they get into that position they will help somebody like I helped Chijioke or some other guy. Then it kind of takes care of itself. Chijioke is a real honest young man with a lot of personal integrity. When he told Coach (Bob) Stoops and Coach (Brent) Venables that he would be going to the University of Oklahoma he meant it. I think it is something that he has been really, really interested in and looking forward to."

JH: Is the exit test to graduate from junior college a good thing, which Chijioke had to go through in the end?

GR: "It is kind of a two-way sword. It is just giving people their final test in junior college, but that wasn't actually quite his case. California has in place a law that requires all community college graduates to take an exit exam, but again what does that say about the quality of education that preceded it. If they don't pass the exit exam what does that say about the instruction at SFCC? If it was solid instruction in the first place, then why do they need to retake the test for a second time, especially if they have already passed the class work in the class? It is kind of duplicative.

JH: What kind of player is Oklahoma getting in Chijioke?

GR: "He is a tall kid at almost 6-foot-3 and he has exceptional speed. He's got great football instincts and he is an outstanding tackler. He runs well, plays hard and he is very, very coachable. Chijioke is very bright and he likes to win. I think Oklahoma is a real nice fit for him, because of the reputation of the defense. He will get great coaching there and they will take great care of him."

JH: I understand he is a great cover corner isn't he?

GR: "He is unbelievable. He gave up only 10 pass completions against him his entire sophomore season. =That was playing basically man coverage every down."

JH: Is he better playing wide-corner or short-corner?

GR: "He can be any corner that you want him to be."

JH: How is he on special teams?

GR: "He was a cover guy on the kick-off and punt teams and he didn't do returns. He was an outstanding high school running back."

JH: In track and field he posted a 10.27 100-meter time, but tore a hamstring in a track meet. How is that hamstring coming along and when do you feel he will be ready to play for the Sooners?

GR: "That is correct. Matter-of-fact, he ran at Stanford in the open 100, so he was running against the professional track athletes and he beat them all. He is finishing his rehab and he should be ready for spring ball. (OU doesn't feel that will be the case and they feel he will be able to go through some minor drills during the spring, but no physical contact. However, OU feels he will be at 100 percent for two-a-days.)

JH: How many athletes that are getting scholarships out of your program this year?

GR: "We had 11 sign in December and we will probably have another nine or 10 sign on the fourth of February. We will have right around 20 to 21 this year."

JH: Isn't that pretty much standard for your program?

GR: "Yeah, usually 15 to 16 athletes get scholarships."

JH: What role do you play in helping your athletes get scholarships?

GR: "You would like to think that the point of the program is not for the coaches, but for the student-athletes. If that is the case then the primary focus should be on them, in terms of what they need to do academically, what they need to do athletically to get the exposure they need for a program, such as Oklahoma, to evaluate them."

JH: You had the No. 1 junior college offensive tackle in the country sign with Tennessee, so what are some of the other programs that your athletes have signed with or will sign with this year?

GR: "Our tight end went to Kentucky and it appears that our other offensive tackle is going to go to Nebraska. I guess he committed there over the weekend. Our quarterback went to Kansas. Our running back and a defensive back went to Temple and we had our free safety and other corner went to Kansas State.

"We are literally all over the country. I guess I need to get the list out and keep track of it. We had a linebacker go to Arizona and our second linebacker went to South Florida. We had a couple of our defensive linemen go to UNLV and another defensive lineman went to Cal-Berkeley. Again, it is a pretty broad section of college football and you want guys to get a chance to get exposed and take advantage of those opportunities."

JH: Who are your top freshmen that we will watch for as sophomores next year?

GR: "We have a linebacker returning that I feel will be as good as anybody in the country. Desmond Bishop had an outstanding freshman season and I know they are looking at him at Oklahoma already. We have a great running back and we have a fabulous quarterback. We also have a great wide receiver. I am confident that we will have a strong team in 2004."

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