OUInsider Weekend Update (7/16)

Get the latest on the progress of the OU defense during summer workouts, inlcuding the latest senior middle linebacker Lance Mitchell (pictured left). The Weekend Update hears that Mitchell is looking better than ever. See inside to read just what insiders are saying Mitchell's progress and much, much more.

In this, our second edition of Weekend Wrapup, we get defensive.

You get an entirely different perspective when you see these guys going through the summer ‘Schmitty' drills. (Yeah, I know, all kinds of take-offs are possible on that name). Catch a few hours on the ‘hill' with sleds and wow, how do these guys make it?

Another thing you notice. We always seem to think 4.5 speed is average. Well, it's not. Watch some of these guys with 4.5 speed up close as they go through ‘7 on 7' and you get an entirely new respect for what 4.5 speed is. That kind of speed let's you reach a pass thrown over the middle just a step in front of an on rushing defender, catch it, and in an instant make a move and then go the other way to elude a tackle. I watched a couple of receivers with 'just 4.5' speed this week and yikes, 4.5 is fast enough when you're standing fifteen feet from these guys.

We'll start our ‘defensive tour' at end. Dan Cody is a certified animal this year: 6'5" 260, and about 1% body fat on a bad day. It's hard to believe that Sooner fans were bemoaning the loss of Duncan's Adam Dorian five years ago. Bobby Jack Wright made the bold statement the summer before Cody's freshman year that he would be a better player than Dorian. (Question, anyone remember ONE memorable tackle by Dorian? We don't - might be the coaching). The Ada senior is now rated as a top ten draft pick. Way to go Dan. This is your year, you've earned it!

On the left side Jonathan Jackson, (6-3 238 senior Houston (North Shore), is solid, motivated and ready to keep improving. He will play in the NFL and be the next Jason Gilden as a perfect outside linebacker. Jackson could also earn MVP status off the field if he can lure fellow North Shore athlete DajLeon Farr, (6' 5" 240 4.62) and the nation's top TE prospect to Norman. Farr will be looking at the Sooners his season to see if they really do employ the TE as much as they did two and three years ago. Naturally, the DE position falls off after those two NFL caliber players are mentioned. But the raw talent is still there.

Speaking of Jason Gilden, maybe ‘big bro' should talk to junior. Last year we thought Larry Birdine (6' 4" 254 sophomore, Lawton Ike), was ready to excel, and he did. But junior Calvin Thibodeaux, (6-1 248, Houston Westbury), has almost caught up and passed him. Thibodeaux probably does not have Birdine's overall size and talent, but appears at this time to just ‘want it' more. However both are young and either could have a break out year. Two a days will likely determine the winner of this battle.

Redshirt freshman Alonzo Dotson, (6' 4" 235 Alief (Hastings), also has to play a bit meaner. There's no lack of talent, but sometimes young players need a year or two to exert their dominance in talent. "It's different for every kid. You never really know how they'll react once they get to this level," one OU coach said. "In high school they were just so much better than everyone - that they played like it. They get up here and it's a shock at first to see an entire squad of similar athletes. But, in time, they regain that awesome confidence and it just happens one day. In a season, it generally takes about three games for that to manifest. So with any new player, we lay off a little at first but expect that confidence to slowly build."

With Cody and Jackson at each end, Leanar Nixon (6' 3" 223 sophomore, Miami (Carol City), might still might be a year away from blossoming. The coaches still love his awesome talent and will continue to stay with him.

At DT, last week we told you to move JC transfer Remi Ayodele to the known category. Coach Dale Patterson told the OU coaches recently that Remi would never miss a class, never miss a meeting, never miss a workout and that he would give 100 percent on every play and that was a very talented 100 percent. Any wonder why this guy is going to play? The coaches are very high on his athletic ability and without question he will be the third DT and play a bunch.

The jury is still out on Big Lawrence 'Mo' Dampeer. He is going to class, but the coaches don't see him much, because of that stress fracture in his foot. No one however is quite ready to throw Mo in the 'Dampster' - (just kidding Mo). On a positive note, the fact that Mr. Dampeer is getting serious about class is a good indication that he wants to play - and no one doubts his ability.

At linebacker, it appears that Lance Mitchell is ‘back' 100%. His toughness has never been more evident than in his comeback from ACL-surgery. Just watching him in the spring and at workouts you'd never know that he is coming off ACL surgery. One coach said: "Lance Mitchell has a chance to be the best ever at OU." (That's saying something when you consider how many great linebackers have played at OU during the Stoops era.)

"His in the huddle presence is awesome. The players look in his eyes and immediately understand he means business. When Lance says; ‘let's stop ‘em here,' everyone turns it up a notch." (Note: If you haven't filled out your Butkus ballot, you may do so now). Look for sophomore Zach Latimer, (6' 3" 218, Denver), and junior Wayne Chambers, (6' 3" 232), to lock horns over the back up spot at MLB.

We talked to Lance this week and got his assessment of what makes his game work; "Ever since I was little and just started playing I always had a good feel for the game. Now, I have played so much football in practice and in games that I think I do have a very good sense of what the offense is trying to do and where the ball is going. Sure, I study film and pay attention to the scouting report on our opponents, but for the most part I just seem to have a feel as to what the offense is doing and what they are trying to do to us, and that goes along with playing within our own defense. I know where my teammates are supposed to be and I count on them being there. Football isn't just a game a muscle, you have to think your way through it as well."

Which brings up our ‘next contestant.'

Did someone notice the atomic sized flash around Norman last month? That was the light bulb finally going off in Clint Ingram's, (6' 2" 230, Junior Hallsville, TX), head when he woke up and suddenly realized he had potential to make ‘mega star' money instead of working for someone. "Yeah, I know, I've been ‘blowin' it big time' for two years' – but I think I'm ready now," Ingram said last week. We're projecting Clint to take the SLB slot, holding off red shirt freshman Demarrio Pleasant (6'2" 220), for possibly another year. Don't give up on Dearrio, who - like Rufus Alexander, is both up and down, and just needs a bit more time to mature this summer.

Ingram, at times, still needs to slow down and think before reacting – but when he's going full speed ahead - look out Little Rock! Pleasant again, is very much like the other young players that have not yet seen the field. Bubbling potential yet to be fully ‘battle' tested. It'll be interesting to test the above ‘three game rule" on many of these first timers.

At weak side LB, the effects of ‘Mono' have probably taken sophomore Lewis Baker (6' 3" 209), out of a starting role this year, and likely will mean a redshirt year. Lewis lost down to 200 pounds, and an ideal playing weight of 220 – 225 may be just out of reach. That would give senior overachiever Gayron Allen the start. "Everyone keeps wanting to move Gayron out of there because his body does not look like it belongs. Forget that, the kid may have been our best linebacker at the end of last season." But Rufus Alexander at 100%, could push Allen by mid season.

Who's been impressive at corner back? Well for one, Chijioke Onyenegecha is everything OU coaches thought he was when they recruited him. What makes CO great? Here's what they say; "His size and speed, plus he's an animal on the field. By that I mean he dares a WR to run by him. Turn in, get smacked hard in the helmet, outside, he'll make you pay. After a few plays you just give up."

Chijioke has flourished under ‘Schmitty' and now weighs close to 220 pounds, with a 320 bench press. What we're trying to say is that getting hit by him is somewhat similar to standing on the train tracks and letting the 3:25 PM freight train smack you. You're guaranteed to want to sit out a play or two after that!

OK, then he's a lock to start? One OU coach responded: "Nope, we're a ‘cover two' team, not a man, and we do it better than anyone else, (with the possible exception of USC). With ‘cover two' you need great DB's that instinctively know how to play ‘in space' and fast linebackers that can cover vertical. Chijioke still needs to learn how to play in space. By that I mean exactly how far do I play off the deep ball and still have the ability to turn it up if they throw short? He played all man in JC, so he still needs a little more time there. But remember too that spring was his first time to do a lot of these things."

Chijioke agrees, (somewhat) saying; "One of the biggest adjustments that I have to make is how to play in a zone. I'm so used to ‘jamming' guys at the line of scrimmage and here we mix things up. I can cover in space or in a zone, but I have to learn to be patient in that zone and let things come to me. It is all a learning process and I am learning something every day. I am just taking things one day at a time, because there is so much to learn, but I am getting healthy and if I can get healthy the rest will take care of itself."

Enter Garland, TX junior Eric Bassey, (6'1" 197), in here until Chijioke learns all the tricks. But don't figure Bassey to be a push over to move out of the position either. Bassey continues to have great workouts, but can he do it consistently over a season? Will he play like he did subbing for Strait last year, or somewhat so-so like he did in the last two scrimmages? That one question gives CO a real chance here, far better than most ‘media experts' around here think.

The coaches like Chijioke, "he's a guy that will put the ‘fear of God' into any receiver, but he has to play our coverage a bit better." Bassey will be more than adequate and will see a good deal of playing time regardless.

Any other possibilities? "Yeah, we could have Chijioke play man on someone's best receiver and have everyone else in ‘cover two.' Miami's probably done that now for several years. That's one reason a one-receiver team never can do much against them. They have the ability to take the star receiver away. CO gives us that ability too."

On the weak side, (opposite the TE), look for senior Antonio Perkins (6' 0" 188) , to start when not exhausted due to setting the NCAA punt return record. As long as Onyenegecha has hamstring problems Perkins probably noses out Mark Bradley for the title of Team Jet. Behind him junior Jowahn Poteat, (6' 1" 197 Ardmore), looks capable, but our big call of the day is freshman sensation Marcus Walker, (5' 11" 180), pushing both of the ‘old timers' on skill alone. (Give Walker his ‘three games' to settle in and then we'll have a race).

Here's what Mark Clayton had to say this week about two of the new corners: "Chijioke and Marcus Walker are the two most difficult players to get off the line of scrimmage against. 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."

Bottom line is that we have several good corners, and we suspect that we'll see several combinations through out the season. As James said this week, won't it be fascinating to see all the coverages that Coach Venables and Bo Pelini can come up with knowing they have cover guys like Chijioke and Walker coming onto the scene? It's already been established that Bo and Bob Stoops like to throw the kitchen sink at all kinds of situations heretofore unknown to mankind. (I'd hate to game plan a passing attack against this defense).

All America candidate Donte Nicholson, (6' 2" 210 senior), was the ‘Big XII Newcomer of the Year' last season and gave the Sooners some stability at the position. Look for Nicholson to turn it up a notch as he impresses NFL scouts at strong safety. Redshirt freshman Tony Cade, (6' 2" 205), is lighting it up and certainly brings the ‘linebacker mentality' to the position. But Cade's volatile personality is almost as explosive as departed DB coach Mike Stoops, (at least we won't have the ‘clash of the titans' at every Sooner practice). Tony needs to focus that intensity toward destroying the opposition instead of his coach's and teammates, and when he learns that lesson he'll reach the unlimited promise we all saw in high school.

Right now newcomer Brett Bowers is behind Cade at SS and is making an impression in workouts. "He just works hard, shuts-up and gets after it." (Interesting that he rooms with Bomar - they both think alike and share the same level of intensity toward their sport). Give this guy some time and he'll be what coaches said he was last year, ("one of the three best high school safeties in the country").

At free safety junior Brodney Pool (6'3" 198 Houston (Westbury), is solid in front of Jason Carter, (6' 0" 187 Sophomore), but Carter has progressed to the point where he'll play and play well. Speculation, (always premature), swirls around Pool's NFL draft plans. Short answer, if a player can go fairly high in the first round and the coaches tell him he's progress about as far as possible - he'll go. (But let's evaluate that next January, not now – as it's just a waste of both air and gray cells). Also look for senior Brandon Shelby to be a big part of any dime package. Who will forget the single handed kicking he put on Seneca Wallace in Norman in 2003? Wallace came to town as a serious Heisman candidate and left black and blue as a result of Shelby's abuse. Quick, think what teams will have run - pass QB's this year and you can catch a little of my ‘drift' here.

You know you're team's ‘OK' when we have to talk about kickers to find a position described as less than all star. At this time, the coaches expect Blake Ferguson to again win the punting job, despite the fact they really would like to see Freeby become more consistent and seriously challenge up to the starting game. But he hasn't proven that he can be consistent with the game on the line or even in scrimmages. Cody Freeby has a much stronger leg, but he has to get mentally tougher.

Garrett Hartley has been impressive in camp. He may have the strongest leg of the bunch. The coaches feel he will be the best kick-off guy this year, but the debate is going to be whether to red shirt him even if he is. If Hartley does get in this year, look for some tricks in the kicking game, much to the delight of Bob Stoops, who recognized early that Hartley can do some fairly amazing things with an inflated object. But with both Trey DiCarlo and Ferguson, OU may try to red shirt him to not blow a year of his eligibility – although Garrett was very much against that idea earlier this year.

Weeend Wrapp concentrated on 'D' this week, but we also got some great stuff on offense. A few OU Insider ‘quick hits' on the offensive side from conversations in the past three days:

Weekend WrapUp concentrated on D this week, but we also got some great stuff on offense. A few OU Insider ‘quick hits' on the offensive side from conversations in the past three days:

Newcomer OL J.D. Quinn, who enrolled at OU in January, played in high school at 270 - but with the prospect of playing the backup role at right guard, (behind Davin Joseph), J.D. has hit the training table and is now up to 295. Right now J.D. looks like the real deal and brings a great deal of relief to the depth chart on the OL.

Likewise, former ‘string bean' quarterback and all around athlete Chris Messner, (6' 7" 270 Fredrick), is also up to 295. The 25 extra pounds would have been handy last year in the Big XII title when K-State saw Jammal Brown come out and doubled up on an out-manned, skinny freshman to harass Jason White. Will Messner now seek revenge in Manhattan?

Adrian Peterson: (on his involvement in the passing game): "I have already caught more passes here than I did in three years of games and practice back home. OU runs a balanced offense, but in the summer all we work on is passing the ball. I think I can be a good pass receiver and be a real weapon for the offense. I have good hands and I like getting the ball in the open field. I just want the ball in my hands and I will do whatever it takes to help the offense."

Vince Carter: (on health on redshirt rumors): "I think I'm going to be ready to go. I couldn't go today - but I don't have to go today. Man, I sound like Coach Stoops don't I ? (laughing). My knee is getting betting better and I have started to sprint and run. This will get my knee stronger and ready to go. I am looking to have a big year and my knee is going to be much better than it was a year ago." (Good luck Vince when Coach reads this Saturday morning!).

Rhett Bomar: (on other QB's wearing crimson): "It is amazing to watch the other quarterbacks throw the ball here, because they all throw it so well. It is easy to see why Jason is the best quarterback in the country, why many feel that Paul Thompson can be a great starting quarterback and why so many people are impressed with Tommy (Grady). But I'm looking forward to is stepping in there to compete and prove that I can throw with those guys. I have always been able to throw the ball and I'm looking forward to starting practice so that I can get into a real football environment and start throwing the ball around."

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