Oklahoma's young DT's developing nicely

Defensive tackle Jackie Shipp talks about the Sooners' defensive tackles.

NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp is one of the most underrated assistant coaches in the country. The former Sooner All-American linebacker took no shortcuts in getting back on the coaching staff at Oklahoma, and he takes no shortcuts in developing his defensive tackles.

The frontline defensive tackle group was considered outstanding going into the season with All-American Dusty Dvoracek and senior Lynn McGruder leading the way. However, who would back them and form the four-man rotation that Coach Shipp likes to use was a big question mark.

At least one of those spots has been filled by redshirt freshman Carl Pendleton, who actually started for the first time against Houston. Junior Remi Ayodele saw his first extensive action and played very well, while Steven Coleman also saw game action. Will Mo Dampeer be a factor this year?

Those questions and more answered by Coach Shipp in our OUInsider Extra.

JH: You are beginning to play more guys in your rotation, so how is your DT group coming along?

JS: "We are playing more and more guys because the younger guys are showing improvement and they are starting to understand the technique. We are very big on technique here at Oklahoma, because there is no room for a mistake playing that close to the football.

"Look at a guy like Carl Pendleton, who was in basically the same kind of situation that Kory Klein was a few years back. Carl has made great strides and improvement since the first day he stepped on campus. He is hard working guy, who works hard mentally as well as physically, and who wants to be a good football player. Because of that, he made good strides and that is why he is playing more. And he has been productive when he has been in there.

"Steve Coleman is another good young man, who is learning, who works hard on his technique. He is just now mentally beginning to understand blocking angles. As he gets physically stronger, he is going to be a lot better football player. Mo Dampeer has made great strides as he is losing weight and he is getting the technique down, and we all know what kind of athlete that he is. He has been doing very well in practice.

"Then we have a young man in Cory Bennett, who is a true freshman and who is learning. I watched Cory Bennett the last two scrimmages, and all of a sudden he is not looking in the backfield. He is taking the right steps and he is understanding the technique better. With more reps he is going to get it. We all know about Dusty Dvoracek and Lynn McGruder."

JH: Remi talked today about how he has learned that technique is so important at this level. And Carl said the same thing, so learning technique at defensive tackle is not easy to pick up is it?

JS: "I try to tell the kids that if they would watch a professional boxer — the great ones like the Ali's, the Sugar Ray Leonard's or any of those guys who are special fighters — that they are great because of technique. We call them professional fighters, but professional fighters are good at technique. I am sure if those guys walked into the ring as street fighters they would get knocked right out going against a boxer.

"Like Remi was saying just coming in and playing defensive line — saying that I am just going to run over this guy and I don't need any technique — is not true. Look at the guys playing on Sunday's and look at the guys we have had playing here. Look at the guys who are successful. To play the position you must have some kind of technique to be successful, especially when you are playing against guys who are just as big and just as good an athlete as you are. You have to play with leverage and you have to have a good first step, good with your hands and good with your eyes. That teaches me how to play the game of football and to be a good defensive tackle.

"Now, they are beginning to understand that. And like when Remi said that he had to learn the technique to be successful to put me in a position to make a play. That is what Remi wants to do and in his heart he wants to be the best football player that he can. He understands that better, and in our last game he ended up making some plays for us."

JH: Is there a certain slogan that you go by that constantly reminds your group of the proper way to play?

JS: "We always talk about the five basics. The first step is to get the foot up and down, playing with leverage, playing with your hands, playing with your eyes and a good get off. You have to work these five things and they really happen at the same time. Once they understand that and they use it looking at the blocking angles, and guys have been using their eyes all their life. They get it by doing repetition, and then it becomes a part of them, which is important for a defensive lineman because you don't have time to think you only have time to react."

JH: When Carl Pendleton was recruited everybody thought he would never make it on the defensive line and that he would switch over to offense. That is everybody but you, who always said that Pendleton was going to be a very good defensive tackle.

JS: "You know me James. I am not paying any attention what anybody else says. I have seen the kid in high school and I work with the kid every day. Some of that is what you media call ‘stirring up the pot a little bit."

JH: Pendleton is turning out to be a very good defensive tackle isn't he?

JS: "He has done a good job this fall, but is he where he should be or is going to be? No. He has made great improvements and he has put himself in position to get on the field, to be successful and to help our team and to make plays. As you talk to him look at his eyes now, because he is starting to get it and gain confidence."

JH: Pendleton says he needs to get bigger and stronger, but you don't like tackles that are real big do you?

JS: "Carl is 19 years old and I don't know if he is quite 20 yet. Right now he weighs 275 pounds. Eventually, Carl Pendleton is going to be a 295-pound guy and is going to look like a brick house. That is going to come with maturity and he is going to get that every year. It is good weight that he has now and we don't want to put bad weight on him. Coach (Jerry ) Schmidt does a good job with him, and eventually Carl is going to be 6-4 and he is going to be able to carry 295 pounds."

JH: What about Mo Dampeer?

JS: "Mo is doing a good job thus far. He is loosing weight, working hard in practice and he has gotten better at practice. His technique has gotten better. I am happy with Mo. He is taking care of his business in the classroom and taking care of the things that he should do. He has become a better student, a better football player and he is making progress.If Big Mo keeps it up the sky is the limit for Big Mo."

JH: What does Mo have to do to get on the field and suit up for the Sooners?

JS: "I don't think that is important. We just talked about those three things right now, and he is making progress in those types of things we talked about. If he keeps taking care of business like that, then Big Mo is going to be alright."

JH: So despite the fact he has not suited yet, he has kept a great attitude and he is working his tail off at practice?

JS: "Nobody has ever given up on Mo Dampeer. We have said that all along. We are never going to give up on one of our players. Now, do we as coaches have to do things right? Of course, we have to do things right. You have to do things righ. Mo is making those strides to do things right. Everything that we have asked of him he is doing, and he is making improvements. Like I said, if Big Mo keeps doing that the sky is the limit for him.

JH: What do you think of Oregon?

JS: "They are going to be a very good challenge for us. They are a good football team, a good football team in the Pac 10. I think they have played in the Rose Bowl since that coach (Mike Bellotti) has been there. They have been winner's year-end-in-year-out. It will be a good test for us and a good physical football team. We are looking forward to it."

JH: Finally, it sound like you think the future is bright for you at defensive tackle?

JS: "Do I think we have some good football players? Yes. Will recruiting make us better? Yes. We need some more defensive tackles in recruiting. These guys are making improvements, but you are always working every day to get better. We are getting better and we are recruiting to make the position better, which will eventually make this group of defensive tackles the best in the country and who can help this team win."

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