OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (10/3)

An inside look at what happened last week in Sooner football.

Chijioke's big chance?

Mike Leach and his pass-happy Texas Tech Red Raiders should finally give us our first good look at Chijioke Onyenegecha as he is slated to rotate opposite Antonio Perkins and share time with Eric Bassey. Co-Defensive Coordinator and secondary coach Bo Pelini commented on CO and Bassey: "Both had a good week of practice last week and both started off well this week. We are going to alternate them against Texas Tech and see what happens."

"Chijioke has been a factor in the secondary, but it was just the Oregon game probably wasn't the right time to get him a lot of snaps. I thought all of our guys made some strides during the off week as Marcus Walker did some good things - as a true freshman he is very good. Chijioke keeps getting better and the more snaps he gets the better he is going to get. I think you will see him out there a little bit more this week."

Less Turnovers?

This week the media has been hyper ventilating over no interceptions. Pelini comments on that: "We missed a couple of opportunities, but they haven't been challenged out on the field a whole heck of a lot. But over the next couple of weeks that should change. You don't want to be guessing and fighting it to get interceptions. The interceptions will come through the natural progression of the game. The ball will be there and we just have to go and make the plays. We had our hands on a couple of balls that we didn't make the plays on."

Pelini thinks his secondary has played pretty well, but sees room for improvement: "There's always room for improvement, but we have been fairly solid overall. Obviously, we haven't given up a lot of big plays, and any time you haven't been giving up a lot of big plays you are doing something right."

Cody comments on the D-Line

Ask one Dan Cody how the D- Line is playing so far and you get some definitive answers. "Larry Birdine is really playing well. And has been since two-a-days. He started right then and hasn't stopped. It is not like he has just now made that move. It started back when we started two-a-days. Maybe that was when it all switched on for him."

The play of Birdine has cut down on both starting DE's PT. Does Cody mind rotating especially when it may cast some sacks and some stats? "Those things will come - especially with the way we rotate, because we play a lot of different guys up front. I'll take being able to go out there for three downs and going as hard as I can go whether they are throwing the ball or not and then have him (Birdine) come in there for the next set and they are throwing the ball and he gets the sacks. That doesn't matter to me as long we get the sacks. It is all going to work out the best for all of us as long as we go hard every down. It doesn't matter if they are running or throwing the ball and it doesn't matter who is making the tackles, just as long as we are making them and we are going hard."

He also looks for some turnovers to come soon; "I was telling somebody the other day that by this time last year when we played Alabama and UCLA we had a couple of picks against Alabama and Bassey returned a fumble for a touchdown against UCLA. Also, against UCLA Tommie (Harris) had a fumble recovery. It is things like that which is definitely separating our defense this year from last year. There is no question that is the difference. We are not really sticking out right now and it is no question that is because of our lack of turnovers."

Does Cody see a difference in how defenses are playing him this year? "A lot of times they are fanning the guard out with the tackle when they are dropping back in protection. That way that guard can just kick back as far as he wants and he can just run backwards, and then the tackle stays where he is and there is no place for me to run inside. They are also lining up a slot sometimes off the edge or tackle, and he is trying to knock me off my path up the field. Oregon did a lot of slide max protection and that didn't make any difference because they weren't singling anybody out. When a team slides max protects, it doesn't matter who is lining up on the edge — they are just trying to block everybody."

Does he get frustrated by these tactics: "Yeah, sometimes, but in the end it doesn't make any difference. If I have two or three guys on me that is just as good as getting a sack, because that will open something up for somebody else. That has always been the case and always will be."

The day we've been waiting for . . .

Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops announced Tuesday that Adrian Peterson will get his first career start against Texas Tech. Junior Kejuan Jones is still bothered by a bad ankle and is not scheduled to play Saturday. And Donta Hickson has a bruised knee, leaving Peterson, D.J. Wolfe and Tashard Choice in line to get most of the carries.

Will the start mark a goal for Peterson? "Yes, personally it is a goal to start here at Oklahoma. Like I say, it really doesn't matter as long as we go out there and win. That is all the matters to me. That is more important to me than anything else. It doesn't matter to me if I start, but it is nice to start, don't get me wrong."

How do you feel your play has been so far? "There are a lot of things that I can improve on. Jason (White) talks to me all the time about my steps, so in practice I just work on my steps. When I get my steps down then I will get to the hole quicker. I feel I have been doing well, but I have to get better."

And AD admitted that he was as surprised as anyone to see himself on the cover of this week's Sporting News. "I didn't know abut it until somebody showed me, but I thought it was pretty cool. I guess you can say that was one of the reasons why I came to OU."

Recruiting the Big Ones . . . .

Although OU coaches always want a balanced class, the focus of the upcoming 2005 class is LINEMEN. Some of the pressure for offensive linemen may have eased a bit this week as February signee Brandon Braxton, the 6'7" giant from Youngstown, Ohio, moved to Norman in order to prepare for another chance at the ACT, and to improve his living environment.

Braxton was denied entry into OU in August after missing his ACT score by a point. The 300 pound lineman was recruited by LSU, Miami and Georgia but settled on Oklahoma last winter. Braxton plans to be successful in his quest and could enroll in January with an improved test score, making him a freshman in eligibility next season.

More so than in any other year, the
Sooners are literally in on many of the nation's top linemen, on both sides of the ball. For example, on offense: (#1 ranked) Reginald Youngblood, (Houston); (3) Dace Richardson (Wheaton, IL); (4) Michael Oher, (Memphis); (5) Dan Doering, (Barrington, IL): (8) Matt Hardwick (Orlando); (9) Chris Scott, (Atlanta); (14) Cory Zirbel, (Murray, KY); (19) Paul Duncan, (Dallas, GA); (27) Chris Barney,(Miami, FL); (35) Jesse White, (Denver, CO); (42) Jon Cooper, (Ft. Collins, CO); (67) Duke Robinson, (Atlanta, GA); and sooner commit (72) Ben Barresi, (Edmond, OK).

What are OU's chances ?

The Sooners plan to offer five high school OL scholarships, and perhaps as many as six. Who's most likely to land up in Norman? Let's start with a sure thing, Edmond's Ben Barresi, (who OU coaches think is much better than his #72 ranking), received the OL MVP at the Stanford all star camp this summer where he out performed all of the offensive linemen in attendance, some of whom were considered the top OL on the West Coast. Barresi is smart enough to realize that patience is an offensive lineman's best virtue and will most likely benefit from a redshirt year next season.

Houston Washington OT Reggie Youngblood is arguably the top offensive line prospect in the nation. This 6-5, 285-pound specimen has the work ethic, technique, balance, get-off and athleticism rolled up into one dominating package. "Yes, I have a top five," in no certain order, it's Miami; Oklahoma; Texas; LSU; and Florida State." Next week's Red River Shootout could virtually eliminate one of these contenders. Let's give the Sooners a 25% chance at Youngblood this week and hope for a victory to boost those chances on October 9th.

Dace Richardson, the No. 3 offensive line prospect in the nation from Chuck Long's hometown of Wheaton, Il, may be the toughest to read. The Sooners may, or may not have a shot here, and Richardson is not giving away anything when he lists his favorites: "I'll visit Tennessee (10-23) when they play Alabama," said Richardson. "I also like Iowa (camp), USC, Wisconsin, Michigan and maybe Oklahoma. Right now I do not have a favorite team." Richardson, 6-6 and 300 pounds, grew up in Southern California and moved to Illinois seven years ago. Put the Sooners at a slim 5% chance here as long as a glimmer of hope remains.

Michael Oher, 6-6, 330, Memphis Briarcrest maybe OU's best shot for a dominating offensive linemen outside of their traditional hunting grounds. The ‘intangibles' for Oklahoma are strong and Kevin Sumlin and Kevin Wilson have done an excellent job of keeping Oher focused on the Sooners. Oher says he's looking at, "LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and N.C. State," as his top five. Oher was supposed to go to Oklahoma this weekend, but the 11:30 start cancelled his opportunity to visit. He will try to visit for the Kansas game on October 23rd. OU is going against the very best here, but Memphis is wide open, (with Ole Miss being the closest favorite), and it looks like OU's chances are about 40% at the moment.

The nation's fifth ranked offensive line man is Dan Doering, (6-6, 290, 5.0), who at this time denies a leader, is thought to favor Miami, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. "My leader changes week-to-week and I'd rather decline in saying one than get people talking. When January comes along, I'll have my leader," says Doering. The Sooners? "Oklahoma is low on their OLs and the program right now is good. I like what I hear down there and it's a good location. Coach Wilson is a great guy." Give the OU a 15 – 20% chance here.

Oklahoma appears to have made up some ground with Orlando's Matt Hardrick, (6-5, 337, 5.5), the nation's #8 rated OL. Currently LSU and Florida State lead, with OU and Miami right on their heels. We'll rank OU's chances at 20% at the moment.

We haven't talked a lot about Chris Scott, (6-4, 315, 5.3), who hails from the same high school as Tashard Choice. Scott is one of the premier offensive linemen in the country, and currently holds the #9 ranking. Four teams, Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee and LSU will definitely get visits and he is now deciding between Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Florida for his fifth. OU coaches expect Scott to stay in the SEC, but would welcome a chance to show him more about their program. Give the Sooners a very slim, but possible, 5% chance here.

Literally everyone in the country is after Philadelphia Catholic OL Marques Slocum, (6-6, 330, 5.0) and ranked as the #11 OL prospect. After a trip through the Big Ten with stops at Michigan, Indiana, Notre Dame, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State this massive tackle has narrowed the field down to eight. Slocum lists Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, Virginia, Miami, North Carolina, LSU, and Oklahoma as the eight schools in which he is most interested. Slocum has taken unofficial visits to all of his favorites except LSU and Oklahoma. Geography alone makes the Sooners a long shot here, but as long as he visits there remains a glimmer of hope – 5%.

Can the Sooners turn the head of #14 ranked Cory Zirbel, (6-7, 292, 5.3), this weekend? Up to this point Michigan dominates Zirbel's discussions when it comes to recruiting. He visited Ann Arbor last week. "I liked it quite a bit. It was my first time in the 'Big House' - so it went pretty well. I was impressed because I have never seen that many people at a football game before. There were 110,000 people at the game and it was just amazing." But he does admit that he'll give OU a chance; "I really like Oklahoma. I was really impressed when I went up there this summer. It is going to be a good game between them and Texas Tech. I can't wait to get there and see what a game day atmosphere is like, so that I can compare it to Michigan." Miami sits behind Michigan and OU and Zirbel is also considering them, (as well as offers from almost every top program in the nation). This weekend will determine the Sooners real chances, but at the moment, make them 25%; Michigan 65% and Miami 10%.

Paul Duncan, the 19th ranked OL prospect recently was added to OU's wish list. Duncan is a four-year starter playing defensive end and offensive tackle his freshman and sophomore season, tight end and nose guard last year and this year he is concentrating at offensive tackle. The 6-foot-7, 288-pound offensive lineman from Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding says that Notre Dame, Duke, LSU, Oklahoma and UCLA are his favorites and there is no leader at this time. "I am definitely interested in OU. I have my eye on them," said Duncan. "I am working with them right now to set an official visit. They have been so successful and the history OU is incredible. Now they are just adding to that history, so they have a real exciting program." Give the Sooners another ‘20%' here.

(#27) Chris Barney, (6-6, 330, 5.7) Miami, FL, remains solid in OU's scope, but trails the local favorite Hurricanes. "Miami's at the top still," he said. "It's just that I've been around here, know about everything. I've been talking to the coaches, going to games, and stuff like that. They're always winning, they have good coaches, and they prepare people for the NFL. What more could you want? But I know there are other teams out there who are recruiting me pretty hard. I need to check them out." "NC State is right up there," he said. "Oklahoma's a place I want to visit, Rutgers, USC, places like that. I'll take my visits after the season and I'll make my decision at the end." We'll give OU a 10% chance with Chris.

Ranked #35 and quickly moving way up OU's chart is Colorado's Jesse White, (6-3, 287, 4.85), who may not yet be as famous as dad, (WWF's ‘Vader'), but is catching the attention of recruiters nationwide. The OU coaches see a lot of athleticism in White and project him as a perfect guard or center. Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington are the most serious contenders. OU chances at 33%.

Another Colorado prospect is Jon Cooper (6-3, 273, 4.95) of Fort Collins. He favors Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Iowa St, Oklahoma St, Missouri, Colorado St and Iowa. All have offered. He also has offers from Cal and Nebraska. "I'm really looking for good people," said Cooper. "I want to surround myself with people I'm comfortable with. They all have great football programs and they all have my sports marketing major, so it'll be the people that will make all the difference." Jon has already set up official visits to Oklahoma on October 23rd and Iowa St on October 8th. "It's gonna depend on my visits. If I feel a place is right for me I'll commit. It can happen anytime during the trip. I like the prestige at Oklahoma. That really caught my eye. They have good academics and are a great team. I've never been to Norman, so I still have a lot to learn about them." OU has good people, give them a 50% chance.

Duke Robinson, (6-5 320 5.7), Atlanta Washington, is ranked #67 on national lists but much higher on OU's board. Robinson can't seem to get to excited about anyone outside of his top three: "Oklahoma, LSU and UCLA are the only three schools that I am sure about. I am not sure about any others." And how do the Sooners stack up? "I am very interested in Oklahoma right now and they are at the top of my list." We'll take his word for it: OU 60%.

OU coaches love Carl Albert's Dain Wise, (6-5, 270, 5.1), and could offer him if the above prospects opt elsewhere leaving them less than five. At the moment, Wise's competition appears to be ‘inside' prospects White and Cooper. If OU does offer, their chances at Wise would seem to be over 50%.

Curtis Crouch, (6-6, 315, 5.2), Fayetteville, NC is another lineman unranked by recruiting services but never less is high on OU's board. Five schools have the best shot for an official from Crouch. "I'm looking at Tennessee, NC State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, ECU, and that's about it," says Curtis. The early start of the Texas Tech game also knocked Crouch out of a visit this weekend. OU at 20%.

And on Defense . . .

At DT the Sooners are in on the every best, in addition to commit Roy Miller who is ranked as the nations #18 DT, the top candidates are: Callahan Bright, (6-2, 312, 4.9 Bryn Mawr, NJ), ranked #1; #2 ranked DeMarcus Granger, (6-2.5,320, 5.2 Dallas, TX); #4 Vince Oghobaase, (6-5, 300, 5.2 Alief, TX); and #5 ranked Ekom Udofia, (6-1, 290, 5.1 Scottsdale, AZ).

Callahan Bright, (6-2 315 4.9), the nation's top ranked DT; Bright, from Pennsylvania, is a long distance long shot, but still has Oklahoma in his top six, and also is considering LSU, Miami, Florida State and Miami. Credit Jackie Shipp for his work with the nation's elite defensive tackles. OU chances? 15%.

There's been no change with DeMarcus Granger (6-2.5 325 5.2). DT #2. Granger is still unsure of his top five, but has Oklahoma firmly in there, along with OSU and LSU. OU likely has a 35% chance of signing Granger at the moment.

Vince Oghobaase, (6-6 300 5.2) DT#4. The 6-6, 310-pounder recently narrowed down his long list of suitors to a final seven. Those teams (in alphabetical order) are as follows: Arizona, Duke, LSU, Miami, OU, Oklahoma Sate, Texas A&M, and admitted that Oklahoma is still among his final three. Give the Sooners a 33% chance.

Udofia has Oklahoma among his top five and will visit on October 23 (Kansas). Others are Stanford (9-25); USC (10-9); OSU (10-30) and Miami (12-4). "I do not have a favorite right now. After I take all of my visits I will compare the schools and make a choice." Oklahoma 25%.

Another New Jersey DT standout is Kade Weston, (6-5, 300, 5.0), Weston says Georgia and Florida may have a slight lead, but that he's also looking at Maryland, Tennessee and Oklahoma . "All five are really pretty even. I am really interested in all five of those schools." Weston said last week. OU gets another 20% here.

Ranked as the nation's 15th best, Plantation, Fla. defensive tackle Jeffrey Owens, (6-2, 270, 4.9), admits he's looking at OU hard. "I really like Oklahoma a lot and they are playing some pretty good football right now." Owens is also interested in Miami, Florida State, Georgia and N.C. State. I don't have a leader. They are all equal right now." Give OU 15% chance on Owens.

A new name at DT surfaced lately and it should be a candidate for the ‘Bob Barry Challenge: Etta Etta-Tawo (6-3, 294, 4.98), from Powder Springs, GA said he's been contacted but is not sure about Oklahoma. The defensive tackle prospect said; "I'm trying to set visits to Georgia, Clemson, Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Auburn. I am also looking at Oklahoma, but I am not sure if I will take a visit there or not." Until Etta is a little more sure of himself, we'll give OU a 2% here.

Dusty Dvoracek's spotlight has only heightened the focus of most OU fans on defensive tackle recruits. But even before his problems, Dvoracek was due to graduate and leave a hole at DT. There have been discussions of Dusty taking a redshirt year to get his life re-aligned, and returning next year. All of that depends on three factors: his willingness and his progress in licking his problems; Coach Stoops' consent, and his NFL prospects next spring. If Dvoracek's issues dropped his NFL stock, he may elect to return, but that door is not yet open, and will depend on several factors beyond his control. Chance at returning: 5%.

Other Recruiting tips . . .

Rumors continue to fly surrounding one of OU's top cornerback recruits. Alton Dixon, (6-0 190 4.48) from Lufkin Texas, (who was rumored to have committed to Texas last month), now is said to have his eyes drifting toward College Station where many of his friends attend. All the more puzzling as last week Dixon said; "I am starting to lean a lot more to Oklahoma. They contacted my mother about the school and she likes the academic program at Oklahoma. I have always like Oklahoma a lot and now my mom also like's them quite a bit as well. I want to take a couple of visits before I commit. I know that I am going to visit Oklahoma and I will also visit Florida and Washington State." It's still very early, and the Sooners probably still lead, but it looks like it may take another 77 – 0 Sooner thumping to get Dixon back in a solid crimson mood.

Top linebacker prospect Ryan Reynolds, (6-2, 220, 4.65), visited Florida last week and battled hurricane warnings.: "We had to take off early Saturday night, so I didn't get a chance to hang out with any of the players. We had to beat the hurricane before it hit so we had to drive to Atlanta to get a flight out. We got a chance to enjoy the game, but we didn't get to much time one-on-one with the coaches. It was still an OK trip. I just wish we could have done everything that we would have been able to do if the weather was better. Oklahoma is still my lead. I just have one more trip to take and that is to LSU (10-30) and then I am going to make my decision."

OU commit Curtis Lofton, (6-2, 240, 4.6), wowed the Sooner coaches last week with a monster game in which he had 22 tackles. "That'd be an entire season for some folks," one OU coach commented.

The nation's number one prospect, at any position, is Maryland Wide Receiver Derrick Williams, (6-0, 193, 4.4). Williams also visited Gainesville last week and actually enjoyed the hurricane warnings. "The wind was kind of cool. I know this sounds weird, but it was a little fun. I realize it is not fun for the people that live here. I wanted to step outside and check it out, but I was scared that I would fly away. A lot of trees are down around here and the electricity in our hotel room went off." Williams is set to visit OU in a couple of weeks. Gee, do you think we could arrange a tornado when Derrick visits OU?

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