OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (11/19)

A wrapup of the week's events in Oklahoma Football and Recruiting.

Callahan endears himself to the Sooner Nation . . .

Bill Callahan, the former coach of the prim and proper Oakland Raiders, was shaken and appalled at the intimidating atmosphere in Norman. Two dozen college kids with pop guns and a hundred students armed and dangerous packing oranges provided a fair excuse for Big Bill to unravel and call some OU Fans '&*%$@#* hillbillies' upon his exit from Owen Field. At least that's what he said forced him to utter the most infamous parting words since Greg Robinson's Cotton Bowl meltdown.

Forget that 84,000 and millions on television had just witnessed the most cowardly performance in NU football history. That didn't bother Bill, just the roughnecks and a few oranges that found their way to the field after Sooner TD's. Perhaps Bill should reapply at Oakland, where fans are much more sedated and well behaved, because it may not get better for the Huskers until he leaves town. Callahan's Husker team left many OU fans having a Howard Schnellenbeger flash back. It would take the Sooner program years to recover from the damage done by Howard, and Callahan seems to be caught in the same death spiral ten years later.

Many Sooner fans have mixed emotions here. It hurts to see a great program and former rival dying in the middle of 'Big Twelve Boulevard' like some Bowry drunk after being hit by the Sooner 18 wheeler. But the facts are that this is almost identical to Howard's record of 5-5-1. Of course the OU higher ups recognized the carnage in Norman nine years ago and promptly sent Howard packing. However, it's a safe bet to say that Nebraska has a few more years left before they wake up and smell the Java.

Pimping for Auburn ? . . .

The BCS rankings debate rages on and took center stage this week. At his Tuesday news conference Bob Stoops was asked about ESPN's shameless Pimping of Auburn last Saturday after the Tigers had a very impressive showing beating Georgia at home, and whether it impacted the AP & Coach's Polls.

Stoops answered: "I don't know. It probably impacts some people. Surely, AP or all these coaches are aware that everybody has agendas. Anybody that's on TV has one. The closer it becomes the better for them. I think it's fair to say too they have a contract with the SEC. I'm fully aware of that. I can't be the only one that recognizes that. It's impossible to remove agendas. They have producers and ratings. I don't know what impact they have, but I'm sure they have some."

In a follow-up question, Stoops was asked that even if the media was indeed biased, isn't it true that a somewhat 'silent majority' of fans and coach's just ignore their opinions. Stoops replied: "I recognize there's a great deal of those. I'm not making an issue of this at all. I was asked a question and I'm just saying it's worth a thought. That's it. And I'm not saying it's my thought. I'm just saying it's worth discussion, and it's legitimate discussion. That's it.

I see that there are people out there that are voting for us and that have seen us play and recognize our strength of schedule and our road wins. All of that matters.

Put the bottom five teams in our league against the bottom five teams in the SEC, and they've got more losses than we do. Take the top four teams in our league against the SEC's and we've got more wins than they do. Who's to say who's the best conference? All you've got to do is put them out on paper in front of you, put them out there on the TV on the screen and analyze it.

All of our ranked opponents, we've beat them on the road, including No. 5 Texas. I think that is being recognized and more so than maybe people think."

Stand up for your school . . .

These charges hit Bristol, Connecticut like a ten pound stick of dynamite. Immediately ESPN talking heads denied the charges and shot back accusing Stoops of whining. Then, inexplicably Thursday evening, two of the ESPN malcontents suddenly reversed direction and voted OU #2. This action alone did not prove Stoops right - but it did expose the hijacking attempt by ESPN and force more objective reporting in the issue. Exactly what Stoops was asking for Tuesday when he challenged the boys from Bristol.

Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if you'd rather not say anything. Bob Stoops would have preferred top sit tight and say nothing. But he continually heard Corso, et all say that Auburn has played the toughest schedule, (not true), that Auburn plays in the toughest conference, (not true), and that Auburn has more 'big wins,' (not true).

Unless the Sooners play like total dog heads against Baylor and / or the Big 12 north representative, they will advance to Miami on the strength of the computer rankings, regardless of what Auburn does. This is because the computers do not reflect the bias of humans. They are programmed to crunch numbers, by a pre approved program verified and endorsed by the BCS before the season started.

Computers consider and evaluate the entire season, not one week. Computers do not watch TV, they crunch data. Is it any shock that five of six BCS computers have Oklahoma ranked number one when all data is fed into them?

Stoops concurs here as well: "A large part of it is because of the schedule we've played, the fact that we're in the South division and it has played awfully well this year, as well as the non-conference schedule is stronger than what everyone else has played. All of that still matters, so I feel good about the position we're in. What matters is how we play out and we finish. We're playing in the South and we've played a majority of them away from home. Again, all you've got to do is compare the entire conference against anybody else's schedule as well as look at the records. Ours will stack up with anybody. In fact, it's better than about all and it's every bit as good or better than the SEC."

Bobby Jack Wright echoed what many frustrated Sooner fans feel as they see detractors harp on the Sooners : "Why keep changing the BCS, why change from last year? The media pressured them into changing it and now they're still complaining when the system doesn't reflect there sentiments."

The problem now is one of accuracy and bias in the human polls. One source with inside knowledge of the coaches poll said that there are several coaches still ranking Oklahoma as low as #5 and 6. As Bob Stoops suggested, make the coaches votes public, make coaches accountable for their opinions. However Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, verified this week that the majority of coaches voted to keep their final ballot secret.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree . . .

And speaking of commentators, now we know from whom 'Soldier Boy' learned his 'home school' lessons. Obviously missing in the Winslow gene pool were intelligence, charm and grace, as dad and FOX analyst Kellen Winslow proved again that you do not need any of the above to be on TV. After Jason White's stunning performance Saturday, (when he threw for a record 18 straight completions and almost 400 yards), a bitter Winslow said that White's play against Nebraska didn't help him in the Heisman race. When told of the remark, Bob Stoops replied tactfully: "I don't know how that can be. I don't know how you defend that statement. The guys' 29 of 35 for almost 400 yards, three TD's, no interceptions. What else does a guy have to do? And 18 (completions) in a row at one point."

Disagreeing with Winslow were most of the voters in the Heisman straw polls, where White is generally thought to be the leader over USC's Matt Leinart, and Utah's Alex Smith. Adrian Peterson remains number four just ahead of Cedric Benson, Reggie Bush and Aaron Rodgers.

Even ESPN admitted: "Jason White is looking like he might be able to win a second consecutive Heisman Trophy. For the fifth straight week, White threw at least 3 TDs and has once again become the main focus of the Sooners' explosive offense." Gee, where do we send the check?

Waiting in the Wings . . .

OU graduates twenty two seniors, including 11 - 13 starters, depending on the formation. Not counting incoming recruits who will their most likely replacements be next season? Today we'll take a look at probable replacements for this outstanding group of seniors, (and not consider incoming recruits or potential prospects).

1) WR Mark Bradley: How can Oklahoma replace Bradley's athleticism at this wide out spot? Lendy Holmes (6-2, 180, 4.42), is probably the most likely starter here, but Quentin Chaney, (6-6.5, 203, 4.5), has to be considered a strong challenger and will play somewhere.

2) OT Jammal Brown: The right tackle is OU's top pro prospect, but not necessarily the Sooner's best offensive lineman. That designation will go to next year's starter - Davin Joseph, (6-4, 312, 5.0), who will anchor the right side in 2005. OU coaches wanted to move Joseph to tackle this season, putting Wes Sims at left guard, but neither player was totally comfortable one week into the season. The coaches will not hesitate to make the move this spring. Chris Messner (6-7, 285, 4.9), will be a capable backup, and should continue to gain weight and strength, and look for surprising freshman J.D. Quinn will be a factor somewhere.

3) C Vince Carter: Carter was a finalist for the Rimington Award last season, and a four year starter. Seniors Chris Bush (6-4, 285, 5.0) and Chris Chester should make this one of springs most interesting battles.

4) WR Mark Clayton: The Sooners will need an explosive slot to come close to Clayton's 14.4 yards per reception stat. On the current roster, only Jejuan Rankins, (5-11, 180, 4.5) looks capable. 5) DE Dan Cody was one of six finalists for last season's Hendricks Award and may be the Sooner senior hardest to replace next year. Obviously, Larry Birdine, (6-5, 258, 4.7) should be a dominating DE next year, and nice guy John Williams, (6-5, 248, 4.7), could provide capable backup - but needs to get meaner.

6) DE Jonathan Jackson has been a terror rushing opposing quarterbacks since his Rose Bowl break out game. Calvin Thibodaux, (6-1, 249, 4.8), may be the starter here, but could be pushed by Alonzo Dotson, (6-4, 241, 4.6).

7) DT Lynn McGruder has been steady at DT and sometimes spectacular. Moe Dampeer, (6-3, 333, 5.2), will be a star when he gets back down to Schmitty's recommended weight of 300. Cory Bennett, (6-3, 270, 4.9), could be a huge factor if he can gain some of Moe's cast off pounds. Remi Ayodole, (6-3, 300, 5.2), is a more than capable backup and could be much better after a spring session.

8) MLB Lance Mitchell: The Sooner's top tackler in 2002 with 124 will be very hard to replace. RS Junior Wayne Chambers has had an exceptional year and now Chambers, who had a dim future at OU just six months ago, looks like he could be the player that coaches hoped for when he signed. Demario Pleasant, (6-3, 235, 4.8) may not play here, but should start at one LB spot. Finally, Zach Latimer, (6-3, 233, 4.7), could easily work his way in here or somewhere along the LB - DE corp.

9) SS Donte Nicholson will be replaced by Tony Cade, (6-2, 210, 4.5), and should live up to his HS hype. Think of Cade as a big strong Brandon Everage type of safety.

10) CB: Antonio Perkins is not only a great DB but has tied the NCAA record for punt returns for TD with eight currently on the books. Senior Chijioke Onyenegecha, (6-2, 205, 4.4), will start, and fellow senior Eric Bassey, (6-1, 200, 4.4), should play better when the pressure of starting is lifted.

11) DB Brandon Shelby has never been a true starter but he has enormous contributions in almost every big game. Jason Carter, (6-0, 195, 4.5), is perhaps the most capable of duplicating Shelby's intelligence and athletic ability.

12) OT Wes Sims has been a four year starter and will be replaced by Akim Millington, (6-6, 300, 5.2), or JC transfer Brandon Keith, (6-6, 320, 5.3), who could dominate if he stays on schedule to graduate.

13) QB Jason Whitemay go down as the best QB in OU history. Obviously Jason has a good chance to become the second two time Heisman winner in college football history. Quite a legacy for Rhett Bomar, 6-4, 210, 4.5), Paul Thompson, (6-4, 210, 4.4), and Tommy Grady, (6-6, 220, 4.7), to inherit. Pick your horse and ride it all the way to August 15th, when the starter for 2005 will be named. Most fans say Thompson, but Bomar will be impossible to keep out and Grady is capable of staying in it to the end. Tennessee, Alabama and LSU have shown that three QB's are sometimes not a luxury - but a necessity in college football.

Also hard to replace will be senior receivers Brandon Jones; Will Peoples and linebacker Gayron Allen. Punt & KO Returns could go to Rankins, Lendy Holmes, DJ Wolfe, and Travis Wilson.

Recruiting . . .

Last year the Sooners got the nation's top recruit in Adrian Peterson. This year Top Dog Honors go to Derrick Williams, a 6-foot-1 receiver from Greenbelt, Maryland. This week Derrick's father confirmed what OU Insider has been saying for three months: The Sooners are the team to beat with Williams, and no, he is not committed to Penn State as some are reporting.

"What I want you to tell all the folks in Oklahoma is that Oklahoma is in a very strong position right now and because of a number of reasons. Oklahoma is number one with Derrick," said Dwight Williams. "There are a lot of reasons why Oklahoma is number one with Derrick. First we have family in Oklahoma. That is a major factor in Oklahoma's behalf. We are still members of the Tabitha Baptist Church there."

"Another reason why OU is number one with us is because of Bob Stoops," Mr. Williams continued. "Coach Stoops is an outstanding coach and a great guy. Another great reason why we like Oklahoma is because of Darrell Wyatt. Coach Wyatt is a good person and he has shown a great interest in Derrick. I think he has been up here at least three times to watch Derrick play, and that means a lot to Derrick. He is one of the best wide receiver coaches in the country and OU is turning wide receivers out to the pros. Derrick is no different than a lot of other young football players, he wants a chance to play pro football someday and Coach Wyatt can help him get to that level. There is one more reason as well. I am good friends with Dr. Gerald Gurney, the Associate Athletics Director for Academic Affairs. We worked at Maryland together and had lunch together almost every day."

"Another factor in Oklahoma's favor is that they graduate so many key receivers," Mr. Williams continued. "Derrick wants an opportunity to play early, and with so many wide receivers graduating Derrick would have that chance. He is going to enroll for the second semester, so no matter where he goes he will go through spring football. OU will be working in a new quarterback and that would give Derrick and that quarterback a chance to get to know one another. Oklahoma is going to be good every year and Derrick would have a chance to be a major factor for them next year."

"Derrick still has to take all of his visits. We are going to visit Oklahoma on December 10.," Mr. Williams continued. "After that we will sit down as a family and start talking over this decision. However, this ultimately is going to come down to what Derrick wants to do. He has to feel comfortable with his decision, so that visit to Oklahoma needs to be one that he feels comfortable about. He has felt good about everything Oklahoma has done thus far, but the visit is going to be important."

OK, Bomar, Peterson, Williams? Wow.

Don't book TE DajLeon Farr as a solid LSU commit just yet. Farr has let it be known that his commitment was somewhat conditional but does not say what it may hinge on. Some close to Farr say that if Nick Saben leaves LSU all bets are off. Others say Saben's tenure in Baton Rouge is not the issue. So Oklahoma will continue to recruit Farr until he says it's over. If it is over for OU with Farr, Martellus Bennett, (6-6, 240, 4.75), remains a possibility for the Sooners, perhaps a stronger one than others may think.

We've been saying that A&M commit Jodie Richardson, (6-2, 215, 4.45), Duncanville, Texas is still considering Oklahoma and others as well: "I am going to take all my visits after football season. I am going to visit Oklahoma and Texas A&M, and I am still verbally committed to them. I am also going to visit Arizona and Oklahoma State." The Baylor - A&M game did not impress Richardson, and if UT smokes A&M next week, it could open the door another four feet.

ESPN should pay attention as James had Steve Spurrier to South Carolina a week ago. (James we won't ask who your sources are!) Gamecock coaches are already recruiting for Spurrier, and yes, they have contacted the top recruit in the Palmetto state, Eric Huggins out of Conway, South Carolina.. But USC fans have denigrated Huggins to a point that it's too late. Huggins was even relegated to second team all state status in SC by some, as a payback for shunning in state Clemson and SC.

Last weekend was huge for Oklahoma recruiting as a dozen top prospects visited Norman for the 2004 season home finale. Perhaps at the top of the list was Dan Doering, OL, (6'6, 280, 5.1), who is one of the top five OL in the country. Doering has been rumored to be favoring Iowa, but denied having the Hawkeyes as his leader this week. Regardless, the fact is that Oklahoma now has a chance where almost nothing existed a month ago. Credit OL coach Kevin Wilson for staying on top of the situation and keeping the doors open. Doering has already been to Tennessee, and will also visit Notre Dame (12-03), Iowa (12-10) and Nebraska (12-17). Doering says that Ohio State and Miami are no longer in the picture with him.

That's good news as the Sooners still fell that Cory Zirbel (6-7, 292, 5.3), of Murray, KY will likely choose Michigan in a close race over Oklahoma. Zirbel would do very well here, and OU coaches still want him very badly and are at a loss of how to let him know that. But either Cory is very cautious in his praise for the OU program, or just flat out prefers Michigan.

"I want to take this official to Michigan and see how it compares to Oklahoma. I want to see if I like it as much and see if I get the same feeling about the players and coaches. I am looking to see if they just bug me to commit or if they just show me how they are personally. I don't think they will bug me to commit, because most of the high-class programs don't do that." (Here's hoping they pressure him to commit).

Duke Robinson, OL, (6'5, 325, 5.7), Atlanta, Georgia also visited last week and reports that things went well: "I had a great time and I liked it a lot. I thought it was going to be country-time or something, but I found out it was a great college campus and community and Oklahoma City was just 20 minutes away. It is really just like living in Decatur, Ga., which is right next to Atlanta.

"OU has a great football program and they just outwork every body. They play hard the whole game and they never get tired. OU has a great strength and conditioning program and it shows in every game. They play with a lot of poise and they play like a team and that shows up in every game. They are well-coached and a great football team."

Look for this one to go down between Georgia and Oklahoma. Robinson says he is not locked in on staying close to home, but the decision may come down to whether Robinson really wants to get away from home. Georgia is tough to beat in their home state on local talent they really want. However, Robinson has always liked OU and the Sooners have a good chance.

Obviously the Sooners salivate when they talk about Reginald Youngblood, (6-5, 285, 5.3), of Houston, who is rated as the nation's top OL. Youngblood now indicates he'll visit Oklahoma on December 17, as well as LSU and Miami, and says: "My favorite schools right now are Oklahoma and Miami. They both have winning traditions and they play in big games and win big games." Youngblood also knows the Sooners are paper thin at OT: "The depth chart is real appealing to me. They graduate both of their starting offensive tackles and I could come in a get some early playing time. I would also love to block for Adrian Peterson."

OU coaches also think Matt Hardrick, (6-5, 300), will choose Miami or FSU, although he continues to talk about Oklahoma. The talented lineman mentioned three other programs who are still in the running and calling each week. "Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Georgia are also in there," he said. "I'll do my visits after the season." In Florida, there is a rumor that Miami may be cooling off on Hardrick.

Curtis Crouch, OL, (6'6, 325, 5.2), Fayetteville Smith, North Carolina also visited last week and OU would like an answer sooner rather than later. Crouch says: "I was impressed with how OU went about getting ready for the game. The fans were great and the was that OU prepares for a game was so impressive. The coaches were great and the players were very nice. I went to OU expecting to see the best and they certainly didn't disappoint me. The town and the campus were great. The people were very friendly. Even though OU was very impressive and I liked them a great deal, I need to also check out some other colleges.: I am still looking at Tennessee, Virginia Tech and NC State."

OU commit Roy Miller, DT, 6'2, 295, 4.95, Killeen Shoemaker, Texas visited and reaffirmed his choice: "I never got to see the academic side before this visit. Academics are very important and what OU has set up is very impressive. Getting a chance to hang out with the players is something that I enjoyed. OU has a great bunch of guys that I am going to look forward to playing with."

Brian Simmons, DT, 6'5, 305, 5.0, Hargrave Military Academy, Virginia is simply a great athlete - big, strong, fast. Simmons is a bonus prospect as he is equally adept on either side of the ball. "I really had a good time. The visit was everything that I thought it was going to be. I really enjoyed the game time experience, and I really enjoyed riding on the team bus to the game. I didn't commit to them, but I was very close to committing. I really like Oklahoma and they are still my No. 1 school, but I want to take a couple more visits so that I will have some other school to compare it go."

Jerrell Powe, (6'3, 349, 4.9), Waynesboro, Mississippi: is one of the top five DT's in the country. OU is completely mystified here - as they have been trying to recruit Powe for months without any success. However there was never any interest until a week ago. Do the Sooners even have a chance here? "I've just started talking to Oklahoma, so I don't know much about them," said Powe. "I am not sure if I will visit them or not. I may just visit these three schools and that is it." (Powe has not visited any schools officially, but he has set visits with Texas A&M (12-11), Auburn (12-17) and Ole Miss (1-21). Other possibilities are Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

Put a big question mark here, as it's still a complete mystery.

The nation's top DE, Averell Spicer, (6'2, 296, 4.65), Rancho Cucamonga, California also visited Norman last week and apparently had a decent trip. Spicer says he has no leader at this time and he set two other visits to Florida State (11-19) and USC (1-10). Oregon State figures to get his final visit towards the end of January. Do the Sooners even have a chance here? "Yes, definitely. Oklahoma has a better chance now to sign than before I went."

Almost as intriguing as Spicer is Travis Bechum, DE/LB, 6'5, 218, 4.5, Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He also visited and shot up on OU's wish list. But did the Sooner stock rise with Bechum? "It was nice, I liked how down to earth the players were and how polite everybody was. I expected to have fun at Oklahoma, but I didn't expect the people to be so polite." Who's leading with Travis? "I am still looking at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Miami, Tennessee (11-26) and Oklahoma. I don't really have a leader at this point."

Defensive specialist Nic Harris, (6-3, 210 4.7) denies that he's picked LSU. "Pretty much everybody thinks I'm going to go to LSU. But I have to take all my official visits and then sit down and make the best choice for me." I still like Michigan, Oklahoma, LSU, Texas A&M, and Nebraska. Distance is not a factor here.

Another OU commit visiting for the Nebraska game was Brody Eldridge, DE, 6'5, 230, 4.7, La Cygne, Kansas "It was great. The game day atmosphere was awesome. The fans are great and you can tell they really love the team. They love everything about it. It was fun to hang out with the players and coaches. I hung out with Joe Jon Finley last night and that was a lot of fun. It was pretty neat to go through all the pre-game meetings and meals."

Reggie Smith, ( 6-0/192/4.5), continues to get the most attention of any DB in the country from OU. But the coaches would also like an indication of his intent before that invest more effort on others. The Sooner coaches do have others on hold, and may have to pull the trigger if Smith remains undecided. That's not to say that a scholarship will not be held for Smith, it will be there - even if he decides to come on signing day. But the delay may cause them to recruit others harder.

At corner the Sooners like four: Alton Dixon, Brian Jackson, Michael Ray Garvin, and Corderra Hunter. Alton Dixon, (6-0/190/4.48), says it's still A&M and Oklahoma. Jackson is a big db, (6-1/210/4.5), that has the unique ability top play anywhere in the backfield. Garvin is a recruit the Sooners have been courting for a couple of years, and Hunter is one of the top db's in Texas who says he's narrowed it down to OU and Texas Tech.

OU coaches have to be very happy with the news they received this week in recruting. Remember that their top choices may not be the players ranked at the top by others. OU Insider knows enough now that we are predicting a top Sooner class that will keep OU in the BCS race for years to come.

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