Junior cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha learned the hard way about how tough it is to play in the talented Big 12 Conference. Against Oklahoma State, Chijioke was beaten deep on one pass and the Cowboys went at him for a couple of others. The Pokes also ran Chijioke's way, forcing the former junior college All-American to play physical or get beat.
Chijioke worked for an extra 30 minutes following practice on cornerback fundamentals Monday, and he is determined to not get beat again this season. Chijioke is always gracious to OUInsider.com and despite the extended workout, agreed to talk to us following practice.
JH: You got in some extra work after practice, what were you working on?
CO: "I am just working on my ball skills actually. I am working on going after the ball and going to get it at its highest point. I am also working on running with the hips open and working on breaking with my hips open. Then, finally, I am just working on my hands trying to get my hands better."
JH: "I know on the long catch caught against you in the OSU game you didn't find the ball in time. You were terribly disappointed in that weren't you?
CO: "Normally, I play that ball pretty well, but I was having problems getting my head around and getting my hips open. I was halfway beating myself by alignment. I was lining up inside too much on my alignment because I was trying to cheat for the post. I was leaving a huge gap right there and he (D'Juan Woods) was running solid routes. He is a great receiver and he was fading really deep and the ball was getting thrown right there on the sideline, and I was cheating myself in my alignment. Besides that, I just had to open up and run and make a play on it, and I didn't make a play on the ball the first time. I don't know if you know it, but he caught the ball with one hand. I had his other hand in my hand and he caught the ball against his hip. He didn't even show his hands, so he did a pretty good job and I give him a lot of credit. I felt bad about myself because normally I play great on the deep ball, but I guess I got a little lazy and wasn't tough enough on that play. He is a good receiver because most receivers can't make that catch."
JH: One thing that seems to have come back for you very quickly was the physical way you play corner?
CO: "That is what I was taught my whole life since I started playing back when I was eight years old. We had to be physical and that kind of stuck with me thought high school and college. You have to hit and you have to tackle, that is part of the game. On my Pop Warner team they always made us hit and tackle every day. I couldn't figure out why we were always doing hit drills all day? Our coaches were kind of crazy. They made us do hit drills in the beginning of the week on Monday and we were killing each other. I guess that made me tougher. I am used to tackling. I am not used to cutting a guy as I like to go up high, shoot the hips and bring him down. It is just a habit and I don't want to lose it."
JH: In the Big 12 you have to be physical at corner don't you?
CO: "There are some great running backs in the Big 12, so there are a lot of running teams that like to run it down your throat. Cornerback is a huge part of the run game defense, especially in our defense. In certain games, like Texas, we have to be right coming off the edge blitzing helping in that run game defense. In our game you have to be ready to tackle."
JH: "Is the wide receiver talent what you expected in the Big 12? Is it better, worse or about what you expected?
CO: "It is pretty good, but I am more worried about getting myself better. I am going to get my pop in my step back and working with more of a focus just trying to get back into the groove. It is not easy to sit on your tail for a whole year totally away from football and not even to catch a ball, and then come back out and just pick up where you left off. It is tough coming out of retirement as most people say. You see Deion (Sanders) slowly getting back into the groove, but it took him a while. Heck, some guys can't even come back, but I am just trying to get back into good shape and trying to get my hands going again. My hands expired on me or they went into retirement because they haven't been doing me any favors recently."
JH: It doesn't sound like you are ready to throw in the towel?
CO: "Most definitely not. I am working hard to get better, and I want to get better. I made some mistakes against Oklahoma State and I am not going to make the same mistake twice. I want to get better and better each game, and that is all I can do."
Onyenegecha: "I want to get better"
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