Southern Hills Surprise
You would think that the subject of golf would never rear it's ugly head around the University of Oklahoma football offices - but this staff has more than a few coaches on it that relieve the pressure by slamming the little white object around a bit.
So there was quite a bit of honest excitement coming from the 3rd floor of the Switzer Center as the staff was watching former Sooner Todd Hamilton win the 133rd British Open a week ago at Troon.
But that excitement was topped Tuesday when Hamilton was a surprise guest and joined the Sooner coaching staff for a round at Tulsa's Southern Hills before returning home Wednesday. Joining Hamilton, (and the British Open's Claret Jug), was ultimate Sooner fan Toby Keith.
Hamilton shared his headline making experience with the staff: "I had total confidence in my game, but I was worried a bit going into the last day because I could not sleep all night and finally drifted off about 6:30AM. I was not nervous, only anxious to complete the opportunity at hand. All I could think about was all the practices, all the effort and finally I had my chance that I‘d prepared a life time for. I literally could not wait."
"I was totally confident until Ells birdied 16 and 17 and we approached 18. I thought for a moment that I had let it slip away but when he missed that putt on 18 he gave me the opening. Then I promised myself that I would not mess this opportunity up, and I kicked him over the next 4 holes."
The staff could not help but draw comparisons to the opportunity that the football team has in 2004. Several coaches commented that the impromptu talk was highly motivational and just what was needed to jump start preparation for two-a-days.
Bomar Wows Texans
As if the Hamilton surprise wasn't enough Tuesday, Sooner coaches returned to Norman in time to see freshman Rhett Bomar to show the state of Texas what he can do with a set of receivers and some blocking up front in a stunning display of arm strength and accuracy.
Bomar, who was 9-of-12 for 124 yards and two scores in the first half, needed just more than a minute to engineer a 62-yard touchdown drive on the game's opening possession. Bomar accounted for every yard on the drive, capping it by hitting his receiver in stride for a 34-yard score. The performance earned Rhett MVP honors as his North team easily beat the Texas South All-Stars, 51-25, in the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game at Rice Stadium.
Bomar all but shut down the critics in Austin who have been hoping that Rhett's disappointing senior stats were for real. "I had a great time," Bomar said. "This offense sets you up for success, especially as a quarterback playing with all these great receivers."
Playing roughly 60% of the game, Bomar completed 12 of 15 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns out of coach Todd Dodge's spread offense. Bomar also had a couple of great runs and bounced off the turf after taking a few nasty hits, one that knocked his helmet skyward.
Apparently Dan Cody's comments on dedication and preparedness at the Big 12 gathering were not just idle words. Several OU players have reported that Cody is the hardest working dude they have ever seen and Jerry Schmidt echoed those thoughts. Cody's bookend, Jonathan Jackson has not gathered the praise he deserves and some say it's because JJ' only' weighs 235. But don't count the OU staff among the doubters. Jackson is the perfect compliment to Cody and possesses great speed and a phenomenal ‘game smarts.' Jackson will play at 238 this year while Dan has settled at 260 as his optimum weight for maximum power and speed.
Two-a-days will determine the other two in a four man rotation, and right now junior Calvin Thibodeaux is having the best summer followed by sophomore Larry Birdine. Thibodeaux is currently the front runner and has had a great summer, because he wants it more. He has more of a urgency to him, while Birdine and a couple of the freshmen still need to mature mentally and grow up.
Redshirt freshmen Alonzo Dotson, (6'4" 235), and John Williams, (6'5" 233), have also had good summers. However, Alonzo still needs to get bigger and stronger and will probably not be a factor his year. He is a very good football player, but needs to grow into the position and get stronger. Williams has the strength and size to play and looks as if he is going to make an impact earlier than Alonzo. Both are good DEs for the future. Sophomore Laenar Nixon, (6'3" 223), has had a great summer, but he is in no man's land. He's not yet big enough to play DE or TE and he's not quite fast enough to play WR or LB.
Birdine may have the best body outside of Cody at DE, but right now doesn't want it as much as the first three. But that's what two-a-days are for. Any of the group could surge ahead, but right now the #3 slot looks to be solidly in the grasp of Thibodeaux.
Reports out of summer workouts are that Mark Clayton, Cody, Dusty Dvoracek and Jason White were the team leaders this summer. Offensive stars Wes Sims, Jammal Brown and KeJuan Jones have all gotten better with a great summer along with several defenders, most notably Eric Bassey and Antonio Perkins, who has had his is best summer ever at OU. Also earning an ‘A' in Schmidt's class were safeties Brodney Pool, (6-3 198) , and senior Dante Nicholson, (6-2 210).
Junior Clint Ingram, (with 5 added pounds - now up to 235), is determined to hold onto the strong side LB spot - but look for RS freshman Demarrio Pleasant, (6-3 222), to challenge in two-a-days. Pleasant may still be a year away, but continues to show excellent promise.
Senior Gayron Allen put on eight pounds, (up to 228) , and he laughs as he says; "but nobody noticed." Nobody notices Gayron but he'll likely be the starting WLB and probably lead the team in tackles.
No doubt at MLB where senior Lance Mitchell has added 10 pounds, and is an animal at 253, sporting a 380 bench and just monster workouts in the weight room. Funny how some disappointments can turn out for he best. With the extra year and a dominating season, Mitchell now has a chance to get better NFL money as well as a shot at the Butkus. But good guy Lance is focused on team awards first.
RS Freshmen Jacob Gutierrez has a 465 bench has is incredible in the weight room. He is a team favorite because of his work ethic. I don't know if he will every play, but it won't be for lack of effort. Stoops & Co have a way of rewarding people like Gayron Allen and Gutierrez, who exemplify the determination needed to keep the Sooners as a championship program.
True freshmen earning high marks this summer were: Rhett Bomar, Adrian Peterson, Brett Bowers, J.D. Quinn and Cameron Schacht.
Offensive Line a weakness?
The Sooner offensive line appears ready to go into two-a-days in the best shape of any group since Bob Stoops became the head coach.
Senior LT Wes Sims, (6-5 312), has the best summer since he has been at OU and is ready for the year we've all been waiting for. Sims has worked this summer to improve his quickness, especially with his feet, which would allow him to pass block better at tackle. Although the general public and the media have never rated Sims as one of the nations' best, Coach Kevin Wilson has always said that Sims was much better offensive tackle than given credit for. Perhaps this year they'll agree. Of all the offensive linemen, Sims may be the one who plays the longest in the pros, as he will move into offensive guard or center — his more natural position.
Another player benefiting from staying one more year is senior Jammal Brown, (6-6 310). Brown, who is already a dominating pass blocker, wants to be a dominating run blocker as well, and has worked hard to get bigger and stronger. Brown has increased his bench by 20 pounds his squat by 50. With this improved strength Jammal may be a first round top 15 player pick in the next NFL draft.
Davin Joseph, (6-4 298) , had only an average season a year ago and that has driven him this summer. He has worked on explosion off the line of scrimmage and feels he has improved his overall strength and speed numbers.
As James reported on Vince Carter, (6-3 288) , the other day, he has a chance to become a rare four-year starter at the Oklahoma this fall. Carter, who sat out last spring to rest his knee and is now going through summer workouts to get back into playing shape, feels he is having his best summer.
Junior guard Kelvin Chaisson, (6-5 300), has worked incredibly hard on his strength and on becoming a better athlete. The OU strength and conditioning feel he has had a good summer. He will be pushed once again by junior Chris Bush, (6-4 283). Chris Bush is still the sixth man in the offensive line. If Carter isn't totally healthy he may be the starting center, or he could be the guy that rotates at center and both guard positions. One thing for sure is that Bush will play quite a bit next year.
A big key is how well Akim Millington, (6-6 300), and Chris Messner have progressed this summer. Messner has added 20 pounds and will go into camp at 290 and now looks like an offensive tackle. He has always been a good athlete, and apparently he has kept his quickness which allowed him to play quarterback in high school. Millington has worked to improve his 300-pound body, but lowering his body fat and improving his strength. He has worked hard every day in the weight room and OU coaches are looking forwarding to working with him in two-a-days.
Depth is still a problem in the offensive line and that is why signing five linemen this year and five next year is a key to the Sooners recruiting classes over the next two years. However, as Bob Stoops loves to say, "You only need five offensive lineman to play. And if you can have eight quality linemen that can stay healthy then you can have a quality offensive line for the year." The Sooners certainly have enough quality depth to do that this year.
This afternoon James reported that OT Brandon Braxton is still a hair short of qualifying and is considering sitting out the semester to continue to take the ACT test in hopes that he can raise it a point. He would have time to take the test several times during that time span and if he was successful then he would be eligible to go through spring football and still have four years to play.
The Sooners gathered two recruiting commitments this week: defensive end Auston English, (6-3 233 4.65), Canadian, Texas on Wednesday and fullback Matt Clapp, (6-3 235 4.60), of Phoenix, (Paradise Valley HS) on Friday. Both players look like the 'Energizer Bunny' as they constantly go at 100% every time they touch the field. This staff loves players that don't take plays off, and these two are perfect examples of the kind of players Bob Stoops loves.
With plenty of talent at tailback, coaches figured this would be the year for a perfect prototype fullback. Clapp will likely be the only RB signed, although the Sooners would probably make room for Terrius Purvey of Gainesville, TX, and possibly Richie Rich, from Marietta, GA. Both are very talented smaller backs and could be used in a number of ways. Other than those two, look for the Sooner coaches to look for talent at other positions.
Merv Johnson explained that current fullback J.D. Runnels, (6-1 238) , is critical to our offense against some defensive schemes and is a key figure in making it go. He pointed out that the conference championship game vs Colorado a year ago was a dominating game for Oklahoma and was so primarily because of the work of Runnels. With a tailback like Adrian Peterson around, Oklahoma can not afford to have an offense without a devastating blocking back. Few high school stars relish that position, but Clapp and Runnels are the exceptions. If Clapp can come in and learn under Runnels' - the Sooners should be set there for several years to come.
RS freshman Dane Zaslaw has made the move to fullback, but until his knees allow him to go through practice, he remains an unknown, but a very likely talent also.
We've mentioned here a few times that Chuck Long, under no pressure to bring in a QB this year, never less would like to sign one, if a prospect projects as someone that might fit our offensive plans. Long would prefer to let the season get under way before deciding on his favorite, but right now the one QB the Sooners are looking at most seriously is California's 3rd ranked QB, (#12 nationally), Josh Portis, (6-3.5 190 4.53), of Woodland Hills.
Also moving up the charts is Missouri receiver D.J. Hord, (6'1 190 4.38) , of Kansas City Rockhurst. Hord is visiting this weekend and realizing that the window of opportunity is closing quickly after commitments by Manuel Johnson, Eric Huggins, and Malcolm Kelly. Obviously the Sooners are holding one scholarship for the nation's top recruit, Derrick Williams. Recruiting ‘guru' Tom Lemming must have been smoking something this week when he theorized that Williams was now tilting toward Penn State. James extinguished that fire on Wednesday when Williams confirmed that he has no leader at this point.
The sudden avalanche of receiving talent may leave Howard Morrow, (Fossil Ridge, Texas), on the outside waiting for an opening. Howard is a real talent but the Sooners have a couple ahead of him on their baord and are hoping that the situation will clear up soon.
Coaches remain confident that LB recruiting is in good shape as no player on their top eight has yet committed: Ryan Reynolds, (Bishop Gorman Las Vegas); Curtis Lofton; Luthur Brown, (Lakewood, CA); Eugene Hayes, (Madison, FL); Rey Maualuga, (Eureka, CA); Todd Cox, (Memphis, TN); Rico McCoy, (Washington D.C.) and Brian Cushing, (Oradell, NJ).
The Sooners had offered Jenk's Phillip Dillard, and probably would have pursued him much harder, had some of the guys above him committed elsewhere. But Dillard obviously felt more 'love' from Nembarska and committed there earlier this week. Recruiting is always a gamble, but in this case the numbers should justify the decision.
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