Onyenegecha impressing in summer workouts

Mark Clayton talks about junior college transfer Chijioke Oneyenegecha, plus news and notes on OU's other cornerbacks, defensive ends, safeties, linebacker Lance Mitchell and recruiting.

While Chijioke Onyenegecha has yet to live up to his hype in front 85,000 fans at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, he is living up to his hype in Sooner workouts.

Onyenegecha continues to get bigger and stronger and nobody around the OU program believes he has lost any speed. He is still getting his hamstring back to 100 percent, but he is almost there and his speed and quickness is evident every day. Chijioke weighs 220 pounds, sports a bench press at 320 pounds and yet will challenge Mark Bradley and Antonio Perkins for the fastest Sooner on the team.

Chijioke is very tough at the line of scrimmage and excels in man coverage. When he lines up on the line of scrimmage to check a receiver, he is very tough.

"I would have to say that Chijioke and Marcus Walker are the two most difficult players to get off the line of scrimmage against," said All-American Wide Receiver Mark Clayton. "Chijioke is so big and strong and I think he is going to be a great player for us, and Walker is just a great competitor and competes so hard. Neither give you an inch, so as a receiver you better go to the line of scrimmage with the mindset that you are going to have to bust it to get off the line of scrimmage."

Onyenegecha apparently has a sledgehammer jam at the line of scrimmage, and of course if the receiver does get by him he has the speed, or at least they feel that he will have, to catch up to the receiver. OU does not play much man coverage in the secondary as they have become the best cover-two zone cover team in the country. Their main rival would be USC, but I would take the Sooner defense any day. Chijioke is still learning how to play zone coverage, and right now he is still learning how to play in space. He is so used to just jumping on a receiver that when he backs off and covers an area he is still learning what to do. However, that is only a matter of time and with the short-side corner spot so wide open you can't rule Chijioke out as a possible starter this season.

One other thought on Chijioke, if he can get totally healthy and get his classwork in order, he will give Coach Brent Venables a lock-down cover corner that can lock on to their opponents wide receivers. These kind of corners are not easy to find on the collegiate ranks, but Miami always seems to have one or two and now Oklahoma is beginning to attack that kind of corner as well. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see all the coverages that Coach Venables and his staff can come up with with cover guys like Chijioke and Walker coming onto the scene?

What a battle is going to take place in two a-days for the short-side corner spot between junior Eric Bassey, junior Jowahn Poteat, redshirt freshman Darien Williams, Chijioke and Walker for the starting job. This spot is more wide open than any other position on the team. All five players are outstanding and one or two of them will also move over and back-up Antonio Perkins on the wide-side.

The more you are around the OU program the more great things you hear about middle linebacker Lance Mitchell. All with the program brag on his personality, athletic ability and his good nature. There are a number of great guys on the Sooner team as players and coaches, but one of the very best is Mitchell.

You have heard Coach Venables say that before his career is over he just might be the best linebacker he has coached and that has played at OU during the Stoops era. That is saying something when you consider how many great linebackers have played at OU during the Stoops era. His toughness has never been more evident than in his comeback from ACL-surgery. Watching him in the spring and watching him workout you would never know that he is coming off ACL surgery. Lets hope that Mitchell becomes Coach Venables next Butkus winner.

Wide receiver Will Peoples continues to impress this summer. He has the ability to be tremendous and he always seems to make the tough catch. This wide receiver core is incredible, especially when you consider that a super player like Peoples can't crack the starting line-up, or at least hasn't yet.

Free safety Brodney Pool has received a ton of publicity thus far, but the Sooners coaches still feel that his upside is tremendous. Believe it or not, Pool is still a work-in-progress and that is why the coaches feel he will play a lot better this year.

Also, keep an eye on redshirt freshman Tony Cade. Cade is learning the system better and better every day, and he is learning how to be a student/athlete better every day. Managing time is so important to any student/athlete, and Cade is growing up a great deal this summer at OU. As far as hitters go, Cade is the best in the Sooner secondary, and before his time is up at OU he will be known for his collisions over the middle.

Senior receiver Mark Bradley is working to make up for lost time now that he has been released by the doctors following knee surgery. Bradley is a tremendous talent, but needs to work hard on his routes the rest of the summer. He has so much to learn as a receiver, but injuries have kept him from important practice time in the spring and this summer.

Defensive ends Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson are two of the most impressive players on the Sooner team period. Both are big, strong, fast, aggressive and intelligent players. And Both understand the importance of working out and both practice hard.

Junior Calvin Thibodeaux is the back-up that seems to workout with a sense of urgency to him. Thibodeaux knows that nothing is going to be given to him and he gets after it every day as if this will be his last day to play football.

Sophomore Larry Birdine is a more talented athlete, but doesn't always play with that urgency. That has hurt Birdine at times, but at some point the red light is going to come on and he is really going to be good.

Redshirt freshman DE John Williams has a good motor and always practices with a purpose in mind. Fellow redshirt freshman Alonzo Dotson is more laid back and needs to become a little more intense.

In recruiting, OU has offered Claremore defensive tackle Billy Blackard. They just told him today that they were offering him. It will be interesting to see what happens in the couple of weeks now that OU has offered.

1968 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens has become a member of our OUInsider.com. Every time I talk to Steve I realize how great of a person that he is. Despite his lofty status in college football and in business, he always takes time out for a grunt like me and everytime I talk to him he makes my day.

How many websites like ours can say that they have two Heisman Trophy winners as members on their board. 1978 winner Billy Sims joined a couple of weeks ago and now we have Steve Owens proving that even the greatest of Sooner football legends now a good thing when they see one.

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