Carter says knee injury was a blessing in disguise

Senior center Vince Carter talks about the progress he's making this summer after going through knee surgery at the end of last season and the possibility of redshirting should he not be 100 percent to begin the season.

NORMAN, Okla. — Vince Carter is one of the best centers in the country and will become a rare four-year starter at the Oklahoma this fall. And that's saying something. Carter, who sat out last spring to rest his knee and is now going through summer workouts to get back into playing shape, talked with James Hale last week for another installment of the Two Minute Drill.

JH: There's been very few four-year starters in the history of Oklahoma Football. Do you realize how incredible that accomplishment is?

VC: There hasn't been, and I've had the privilege to be one of them. I take a lot of pride in that, and it's really important to me. I was also told I'm the first black center to start for OU, so I take a lot in everything I've been a part of at OU.

JH: How healthy are you coming off the knee surgery? How's the knee coming along and how are workouts going for you this summer?

VC: Workouts are going fine. The month of July is usually when we turn the heat up and increase the intensity of our workouts. We just recently had our running tests on Monday. We had 100 percent, and I think that's the first time that's happened since Coach Schmidt or Coach Stoops had been here. It was the first time that 100 percent of the guys had passed the running test. Me personally, this has probably been one of my best summers as far a my strength has come. Early in the summer I wasn't able to do most of the drills that we were doing. They were just trying to hold me out of some of the stuff, but progressively I've been doing more and more and just really focusing on getting back in football playing condition.

JH: Talk about what you weigh right now and what you're doing to try in your workouts.

VC: I'm about 300 right now. This is the heaviest and strongest I've been. I kinda look at my surgery and injury as a blessing in disguise because during the spring I was able to focus mainly on my lifting and my strength. So, I was able to gain a lot more muscle mass and just improve my overall upper body strength. That's the one thing that I've been struggling with since I've been in college, and that's basically carried over into the summer. Just being able to do more on my upper body lifts and gradually increase my lower body just trying to build back up to where I was.

JH: In your opinion, are you back to 100 percent at this time?

VC: I'm not 100 percent, I don't believe. But as far as my straight-line running, I think I'm about 100 percent and full speed all the way. As far as being able to get down and block a 300 pound defensive lineman, if I had to do it today I don't think I could do it. Give me two more weeks of training and I think I'll be as good as I can be.

JH: Will go through all the drills in two-a-days?

VC: I think I will. Just the progress and improvement I've made this fall, I think I'll be ready to be full-go come two-a-days.

JH: If anything happened and you couldn't go through the practices, would you consider redshirting?

VC: No, not at all. At this point in my career, that's just something that was thrown out there as an option. To me, just thinking about redshirting will be like accepting that I'm not going to be able to get back or be 100 percent. So, my mentality right now is that I'm going to be ready for two-a-days and be ready to have my best season at OU.

JH: All five starters return on the offensive line. Could this be the best year for the offensive line since you've been at OU? Do you see that kind of potential?

VC: I really do. From the improvements that we made, even without me being in the lineup, with the improvements that we made during the spring with the backups and everybody becoming more fundamentally sound, we're all a year older, a year stronger, a year smarter. Overall, we have a better outlook. We're all excited about this season and really looking forward to the kind of year that we can have with the majority of our offense coming back. The sky is the limit with how far we can go.

JH: How are some of the other guys looking in the workouts?

VC: There are three o-linemen in my group — myself, Jammal Brown and Davin Joseph. Jammal, he's probably the faster of all of us. Coming in as a d-linemen, he already had the speed. Davin has been doing really well. Paul Thompson is in our group. Like I said, everybody passed their conditioning test. Guys are just having great summers and just becoming better all-around football players.

JH: I understand you guys are going through some 7-on-7 drills of your own like the skill guys do?

VC: We meet twice a week as units and we go through our rushes just to try and get our timing down. It's not real physical because you don't want to hurt somebody, but the d-line just works their hands and we're trying to work out position and that kind of thing. We get some good work in with our pads on.

JH: From what you can tell, how are the young linemen coming along?

VC: They're coming along pretty good. J.D. (Quinn) has the biggest advantage of all the incoming freshmen because he was here during the spring. So, he already knows how we were, where a lot of guys fresh out of high school really don't understand the intensity and the level at which we work. J.D., for him being in here a full semester already, he already has a good grasp of the kind of program that we have. For a kid that should've been in high school, he had a real good spring and really showed that he could be a good player.

JH: Obviously, finding backup tackles behind Jammal and Wes is the key. What's your impression of Akim Millington and Chris Messner this summer?

VC: I haven't really seen Messner because he works out later in the day, so I really don't know how his workouts have been going. I've worked out with Akim a few times and he's showing a lot of improvement. He's really maturing. One thing that I think really hindered him last season was level of maturity. He's growing a little bit, and he's beginning to understand how to work hard. That's where I think a lot of guys really have trouble with coming in as freshmen — just understanding how to work hard day in and day out. I think he's really starting to understand how to do that.

JH: Ten starters return on an offense that averaged 42 points a game last year. How optimistic are you that this will be a good offense in 2004?

VC: We know with all those guys coming back that there's not going to be a drop-off and that we can only get better. After going through spring together, the only way for us to go is up. That's the way we see it. We had some games where our offensive production was down, but just from growing another year as men and football players and learning how to deal with tough circumstances, I think that's only going to help us in those games where we didn't play so well.

JH: You had a tremendous year last year, but at Oklahoma it's all about winning championships. How much has the way last season ended been a driving force this summer?

VC: Yeah, it has. For me personally, being at the Sugar Bowl standing next to the trophy, but not being able to bring it home with me was really tough. That night, I didn't go to sleep until about 8 o'clock the next morning. I was just laying there in the hotel room staring at the ceiling pretty much in disbelief. That's one of the things —besides me coming back from injury — being able to bring that trophy home was something that I really want to accomplish this year.

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