Today's game marks the precise mid-point of the 2004 season, with the Sooners once again prominently in the BCS picture, for the fifth year in a row. But October 23 is also the exact anniversary of another big day in Sooner football history.
Think back just a moment to Bob Stoops' first season. The Sooners were rocking along at 3 and 2, with losses at Notre Dame and Texas after taking big leads in both games. In that 1999 season, the Sooners would have a week off after Texas and prepare for a fine Texas A&M team coming into Norman as the defending Big 12 champions with a at 5 - 1 record and ranked as the nation's tenth ranked team.
No doubt that A&M would be the best team that Bob Stoops had yet faced as the Sooner's head coach. The Aggies had beaten Oklahoma by a combined score of 80 - 7 the last two years and Stoops and his young staff were determined to make October 23 a 'statement' game.
Like Notre Dame and Texas, OU took a commanding lead in this one as well, but unlike the first two, the Aggies owuld not come back. The Sooners scored on their first six possessions and steamrolled the Aggies 51 - 6. It would be the Aggies third worst defeat in their history, and sent a signal to the state of Texas that the Sooners would no longer be a doormat to any power from the Lone Star state, and that Texas recruits would be forced to take a serious look at this new coach and his program at Oklahoma.
The fact that we no longer need 'statement games' is perhaps the best testimony to the job that Bob Stoops, (61 - 11) has done in these five and one half years. 'Oklahoma' is now the statement. It's big news when Oklahoma trails Miami by a tenth of a point in BCS standings. A freshman at Oklahoma can now become a Heisman leader, where the same stats at another school might qualify him as a contender for all conference.
Ties that bind . . .
All of which bring us KU head coach Mark Mangino. Remember, Mangino was Bill Snyder's TOP assistant at KSU. When Stoops took the Oklahoma job, Snyder's brain trust was raided. First with Mike Stoops who announced, as expected, that he was joining his brother at OU. Snyder went ballistic, but took some solace in the fact that Mangino and another young defensive mind would be staying. Then, a few days later, Mangino told Snyder that he too was leaving for Oklahoma. This would be too much and Snyder railed against disloyalty - just as Brent Venables was also ready to tell Snyder some 'More Bad News - Part Three.' (Venables wisely decided to wait a few days and to choose his words more carefully. But his 'resignation speech' would be the longest, resulting in an all night session in front of Snyder's desk).
We bring these historical references up to set the stage for today's game, and to look back at last week's Manhattan experience.
Not only did he coach with Bob Stoops during the 'dark years' at K-State, but Mark Mangino helped Bob Stoops get this program rolling. As much as Bob would like it to be - today will not be 'All Business' for him and the staff. There's plenty of emotion and feelings, all good, on both sidelines.
That said, Oklahoma fully expects KU to throw the book at them offensively. They respect Mangino's abilities and know that KU does not have the athletes to compete head to head, but will try to offset the Sooner advantage with formations and surprise. One Sooner coach gave us his mid week assessment: "Mark's going to put in some trick plays and open up the playbook for this game. I think he's probably circled this date since he left Oklahoma. And as competitive as Bear is, they are going to come and play a good football game. We have to be prepared. I know he's looking forward to it." Coach Mangino also has the Jayhawks playing much better defensively, giving up just 36 yards per game more than OU.
While polls, voters and BCS placement are begging for a Sooner wipeout, the Mangino factor will trump them all. Stoops will follow his heart and let the athletes dictate the score, rather than try for opportunities to score cheap 'poll and BCS TD's' in the fourth quarter.
The OU staff's former KSU ties partially explains why Bill Snyder is obsessed with Oklahoma and spends 90% of his off season looking for a way to beat them. And it might have worked this year, if not for freshman Adrian Peterson. Peterson gives the Sooner's the one ingredient missing from last year's national runner up. And his presence gave Snyder one more hole in the dyke to plug - while all of his fingers were already occupied with Jason White and the Oklahoma receiving corps.
Not Crystal Ball, but . . .
As we foretold in last week's Weekend Wrap Up, Lawrence Dampeer made his debut and showed us something three seconds after his first snap when he 'bull rushed' the KSU tackle, who had to use a headlock under the front of Dampeer's helmet to keep him from sacking the KSU QB inside the ten yard line. Instead of holding, the refs chose to call a lesser face mask penalty, but it would not matter as Dampeer would recover a fumble a few plays later.
OU defensive line coach Jackie Shipp commented on Moe's play after watching film this week: "Moe loves to play the game of football. He really does! Moe is learning that this game is not just about playing the game on Saturday, because you have to do the right things during the week, and we are not just talking about the game of football. We are talking about responsibilities off the field. Moe is maturing and learning and he is getting it down step-by-step and I think he soon will have it all down and do real well with it."
The progress of Dampeer has been chronicled in past editions of Weekend Wrap Up. Normally we would not spend so much time on players like Dampeer and Chijioke, who a month or two ago were not even in the picture for this season. So why did we?
We did so because coaches told us of their potential, not their problems. We chose to look at what they would become, not what they were. Too many times the media is guilty of stating the obvious. You participate in this web site for information, not regurgitated tidbits gleaned from the ten-o-clock news reports and newspaper stories.
We only bring this up because some of our media friends were laughing at us for even reporting on Chijioke and Dampeer. They stated that neither would play, and both were non factors. Of course the easy road would have been to follow suit. But here we are with seven games remaining and both are not only factors - but will be key ingredients in the run to Miami.
After the dismissal of Dusty Dvoracek, we boldly stated that a good portion of the title hopes of this team would fall squarely on the shoulders of one Lawrence Dampeer. Most doubted that, but what would they say today? McGruder may be the Sooner's most steady DT, but with the temporary loss of Pendleton, Dampeer has to be, and will be - the key along the D-line.
Coach Shipp again commented on the current situation at DT with Pendleton trying to get well for next week: "Dampeer is getting a lot more reps at practice and Lynn McGruder is getting plenty of reps. Remi Ayodele will probably play some nose guard this week. Steven Coleman is practicing (turf toe) and I think he will get some plays in this game. We will have a good opportunity to have at least four still. Hopefully, we can get everybody back healthy for Oklahoma State and Texas A&M."
Defensive injuries and players stepping up
Bob Stoops commented on the play of several of his younger defenders after last weeks 31 - 21 win at Manhattan. "Rufus was lighting it up before he got hurt," said Stoops. "He was having an incredible game. The guy was everywhere. He had third down stops, forced two fumbles and recovered one himself after forcing a fumble and having another pressure. They called it a roughing the passer, which turned out to be a good call because at the time I didn't realize where he had hit him. Still, he had a great game. However, Gayron had a good game and he always has a good game. It doesn't matter what position we play him in. Whether it is at WILL, MIKE or wherever we play him, he always plays well. He started a number of games for us last year and always played well for us. He is an excellent player and did very well for us. Moe Dampeer and Remi Ayodele did a nice job and made some plays and they contributed."
Bad timing . . .
So why was Coach Stoops so agitated about Dampeer after last week's game? Seems that Stoops was in the middle of his 'good game - ball presentation' speech when the locker room door creaked open. Dampeer walked in, making an ill-timed, not-so-grand entry. Stoops was still steamed ten minutes later when reporters asked about Dampeer and Stoops made some 'not so fast' remarks.
After the question, is Dampeer out of your doghouse? Stoops replied; "I don't have any doghouses. Moe Dampeer only played because of injuries to Steven Coleman and he wasn't able to do much by the end of the week last week," said Coach Stoops after the game. "I didn't feel it was fair to Cory Bennett, a guy who is in a position to redshirt — to have to ruin his year to play before he's ready, for a guy who hasn't done what he is supposed to do for the team. I am smart enough to not cut my nose off to spite my face. We were short with tackles with Steve Coleman's injury and Carl went down, so if that is what we have to do we will do it. But he still has a long way to go before he is on the field any time soon or any time regularly."
And now, the rest of the story . . .
But by Sunday, Stoops didn't seem as agitated towards Moe. OK, why the 'flip-flop' from Stoops? Well it seems that Moe was not out on the field celebrating as was first thought. Several sources told Bob that Moe was detained by a circle of media, reporters and camera crews, (you know they same guys laughing saying that Moe was 'not a factor' or not even on the team,a week or two before). When the reason for his tardiness was explained by neutral parties, Stoops eased up. And for his part, Dampeer summed it up for us in his statements following KSU: "I'm just happy that I am playing for a great coach in Coach Stoops. "He's a great guy and is giving me a second or maybe a third chance. Not every coach would do that. I have screwed up in some areas and I have to accept my punishment. I am going to get everything together and prove to this football team that I still want to be a part of it and help this team win games."
For a second straight year, Oklahoma quarterback Jason White is among the candidates for the Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to the nation's top senior collegiate quarterback. White, who was thought to be in his final season of college football last year, was among the three finalists in 2003. After being awarded another season of eligibility, he is again a candidate for the honor.
Eleventh nationally in passing efficiency, White has thrown for 1,228 yards and 13 touchdowns for second-ranked Oklahoma. Other finalists for the award include Jason Campbell (Auburn), Timmy Chang (Hawaii), Charlie Frye (Akron), David Greene (Georgia), Stefan LeFors (Louisville), Dan Orlovsky (Connecticut), Kyle Orton (Purdue) and Andrew Walter (Arizona State).
Along the front line . . .
Although Vince Carter and Jammal Brown have received the lion's share of the publicity, Davin Joseph has emerged as OU's top offensive lineman so far. Not to say that Carter and Brown are undeserving, but Davin's play has elevated the run game and allowed the entire unit to work better as a team. Next year, look for Joseph to move to tackle where he should team with Akim Millington or Brandon Keith (below) as the OT starters.
Recruiting . . .
As James reported Thursday evening, the Sooners have invited just over twenty prospects in this week, (including two juniors). But the stadium lights will be burning the brightest all night this evening for five all stars:
OT Paul Duncan, (6'6, 288, 5.38 ) of Dallas, Ga. Considered one of the top offensive tackles in the country. OU will be his first official visit to be followed by UCLA (11-6), LSU (11-13), Duke (11-20) and Notre Dame (12-4). Right now Duncan is wide open, so it will be interesting to see where the Sooners stand after his visit. Academics are just as important as football to Duncan, and the Sooners now hold up well in both areas.
The Sooner got a commitment from Colorado's top prospect, (Jesse White), two weeks ago, and now go after another on the top ten list in Jon Cooper, (6'3, 273, 4.95) of Ft. Collins. Cooper, who is one of the Sooner's top guard/center prospects in the country, has a strong interest in OU and the Sooners have a great chance to sign him.
The biggest name visiting today is, by 'Farr' - Houston TE DajLeon Farr (6'6, 240, 4.7) of Galena Park (North Shore). Farr will be taking his first official visit to OU this weekend, and as James reported - it may be Farr's only official during the season. The Sooners hope to put their best foot forward as they want to sign a great TE in this class, and Farr is certainly one of the very best. Farr has yet to set any other visits, but he has gone to games at Houston, LSU and Texas.
It's ironic that the nation's two best TE's are both from Houston this year. Several weeks ago, the Sooner's hosted Martellus Bennett, (6-6, 240,4.75) of Houston Taylor. Bennett favors Oklahoma, Texas and Miami over LSU, Florida, Wisconsin and Missouri. Between the two, coaches can argue over who's the best, and it may be a 'dead even' heat as both young men are 'the real deal.' Regardless, the Sooners would love to get one of these two, and a verbal commitment from either would close the books on TE recruiting.
Athlete Syd'Quan Thompson (5'10, 180, 4.45) of Sacramento (Grand Union HS), California. will visit the Sooners this weekend and, like Farr, OU will probably get his only visit during the season. Thompson says he likes the Sooners a great deal, and they have told him they like him at both CB and WR and that he can work at both before they decide where to play him. Thompson says he is also considering UCLA, California, USC and Kansas State.
Rounding out this outstanding group of five is DE Kyle Moore (6'6, 250, 4.7) of Houston County, Ga. one of the best DEs in the country. Moore had a great visit to USC last weekend, pushing the Trojans slightly ahead of Georgia, but will come into Oklahoma with a lot of interest and an open mind: "I want to see the school and how it would feel to go to school at OU. I want to see how it would feel to be on the team at OU. I want to get a feeling of what it is like to be a student/athlete at OU." Moore, originally from El Paso, has family in Oklahoma and that may be a factor. Moore also says that he is considering Georgia, Purdue, Florida and Tennessee.
The fact that these five are so highly regarded makes it doubtful that the Sooners will earn any commitments immediately after these visits. However if there would be an early commitment out of the 'quintuplets' - Cooper is the best bet, as the Sooners should be his big leader after this weekend.
Other top prospects . . .
The Sooners were dealt a huge blow this week when a spokesman for Memphis' Michael Oher un-expectantly announced that Oher had 'eliminated everyone but Tennessee and Mississippi.' Oher is one of the top tackles in the country and the Sooners were in solid position until this week. The Sooners are also slipping away on Florida OL Matt Hardrick (6-5, 342, 5.7), who now says Miami and Florida State lead solidly over LSU and Oklahoma.
As we have stated many times, you can beat one Florida school on a prospect, but it's difficult to beat two or three as the prospect will generally find one that he likes as well and geography - (i.e. Momma), wins all 'ties'.
Another top OL prospect is Dan Doering, (Barrington, IL) who denies a leader but favors Miami, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio St and Notre Dame. Coaches suspect that Doering will opt to stay in the Big Ten, but have not abandoned hope.
Texas DT Vince Oghobaase (6-6, 300, 5.2), denies a leader but favors five: Miami, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Arizona, LSU and Duke. All have offered and he has unofficially visited each program, with one official to OSU back on September 17. The Sooners do lead on one Texas DT, Cedar Mills Terrel Nemons (6-2, 330, 5.35) who says Oklahoma leads 'slightly' over Texas, Kansas, Colorado and LSU. Of course, the top DT in Texas, (and the nation's #2 ranked DT prospect), DeMarcus Granger, (6-3, 325, 5.2), is still thought to have the Sooners near the top of his list.
The nation's top rated DE is from Rancho Cucamonga, California. Averell Spicer (6-2, 265, 4.65) once again favors USC over Florida State. Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oregon State. The Sooners are hoping that a visit will make the difference here.
The nation's top overall prospect continues to put Oklahoma in his top three. Several months ago we predicted a Florida - Oklahoma dog fight for Greenbelt, Maryland WR Derrick Williams (6-1, 193, 4.4). Both schools are still in the finals, with Virginia and Maryland strong possibilities and Texas, Tennessee and Penn State hanging by a thread. And a top LB on OU's board, Columbus Ohio's Alex Daniels (6-3, 225, 4.5), still denies a leader but favors Oklahoma, LSU, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State (visited). It's still expected that Daniels will choose between the Sooners and Buckeyes.
Finally, Georgia RB Richie Rich (5-9, 181, 4.45), says there's a 70% chance he'll pick Miami over North Carolina St, Oklahoma, Florida St, Florida and Auburn. Adrian Peterson has probably closed the books on getting another to ranked RB this year. Also call off the dogs at QB as California's Josh Portis, the only QB the Sooners were honestly after, has committed to Utah. Nexy year OU will go stron after a top RB and QB.
While the Sooners are technically still in on OL's: Dace Richardson (#3 OL), Dan Doering (#5 O), Chris Scott (#9 OL) and Marques Slocum (#11), with the surprise announcement of Michael Oher, the Sooner's OL recruiting focuses on two top tackle prospects: Reginald Youngblood, Houston, Texas - (6-5, 285, 5.30), rated as the #2 OL in the country, and Cory Zirbel. (6-7, 292, 5.3) of Murray, Kentucky. It will likely come down to OU, Texas and LSU for Youngblood, and OU and Michigan are in a dead heat for Zirbel.
Oklahoma is very happy with OL commits Jesse White, Ben Barresi, and some other possibilities along the OL do exist. Curtis Crouch, (6-6, 316, 5.2) Fayetteville, N. C. and Oklahoma prospects Joe Barresi and Dain Wise are all still on OU's 'potential recruits board,' and the next month will tell us much more about how offensive line recruiting is going.
The Sooners are confidant that they will sign several great offensive linemen. But until that happens, now that academic issues are almost satisfied, former signee and current NEO standout Brandon Kieth (6'6, 307, 4.9), will become a key element in the short term OL future at Oklahoma. He admitted this week that he's already looking forward to his arrival next summer. "It is going to be in late May. I'll be graduating from NEO in May and then I will be heading down there." Brandon also knows a little about blocking for great running backs. "I'm blocking for the No. 1 running back in junior college in Charles Elix (780 yards). Then when I get to OU I get to still block for the No. 1 running back in the country, that's pretty special to me."
Keith says he's not certain if hell play right tackle at OU, but is ready regardless; "I'll play anywhere, but I would rather play on the right side. If I have to play left guard or tackle I will do that, but I would prefer to play on the right side." Keith, who can bench 440 and squat 675, runs a 4.9 forty and will give the Sooners a big, strong offensive tackle for a couple of years until the new guys can start.
That eases a lot of worry.
OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (10/23)
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