Coming out of Las Vegas, Neveda in 2000, Lynn McGruder was one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country. Oklahoma recruited him very had and came very close to getting him, before he took his final visit to Tennessee and eventually signed with the Volunteers.
At Tennessee, McGruder played as a reserve his freshman season and his future looked bright. However, McGruder ran into legal trouble off the field and was suspended from the Tennessee football team. At that point, McGruder remembered his great relationship with Sooner defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp during the recruiting interest and called the former Sooner linebacker to see if OU might still have an interest.
After McGruder was cleared of all his legal problems and passed an extensive evaluation period Oklahoma decided to give McGruder a second chance. This spring McGruder returned to the playing field and demonstrated that he has tremendous ability and will play a key role for the Sooners this season. I had a chance recently to sit down with McGruder and talk about his new life at OU.
JH: Are you glad to be back on the football field, knocking heads and getting dirty again?
LM: ItÌs good to be back out here. ItÌs great to be back in the mix and fun to get back in the groove. What I really missed was mixing it up with the fellows and that is some of the biggest fun I have to get back in the trenches and get after it again. To just be back on the field and compete is a great feeling. ItÌs a good group to play with too and a good group of guys.
JH: Is it different when a big guy has to get back into the groove compared to a skill position player?
LM: No, not necessarily. There's more to playing defensive tackle than just being strong and being aggressive. Sure, I have to play with a mean streak or with some aggression, but itÌs more important that I have my technique down. I need to use my hands correctly, get my steps down and learn how to get leverage again. I also had to get into the mindset of playing football again and realizing that everyday I have to be aggressive and play with a certain attitude and poise. ItÌs more than just being physical, but lets face it, being physical is a big part of the game for a guy like me who plays in the trenches.
JH: How do you like working with Coach Shipp?
LM: Coach Shipp is great, because he explains everything to a ÎTÌ. ItÌs like learning defensive tackle like hooked-on-phonics. He breaks it down to the point that even an elementary kid could understand it. Coach Shipp has made playing defensive tackle very easy for me, and teaches the proper fundamentals where I can go out and play with good techniques so that all I worry about is butting heads with the guys across from me and getting after it. He allows me to be aggressive and yet play fundamentally sound.
JH: You are joining one of the best defensive tackle groups in college football, what do you think of the unit as a whole?
LM: I donÌt know what the rankings are or anything, but I know that we have one of the best defensive tackle groups in the country and our entire defensive line is probably the best in the country. I am just very happy to be a part of this group.
JH: Oklahoma is glad to have you and I am sure you are glad that OU gave you a second chance after what happened at Tennessee?
LM: I screwed up at Tennessee and that is all I want to say about it. Believe me I will never be in any kind of trouble again and I am thankful that OU has given me a second chance with my football career. This is a great program, with great coaches and they all have only one goal on their mind and that is to win the National Championship. The goal at OU is to not just be good, but to be the best. OU and Tennessee are comparable I guess, but this is a more aggressive program. We are taught here to work hard beyond what you think you can do. The coaches want us to find the toughness that can really make us a man and take us to the next level.
JH: When you first arrived at OU you said you had to get back in shape, are you now where you want to be?
LM: I donÌt know, you will have to ask Coach Schmitty about that. I really like my weight now. I have dropped 20 pounds since the winter workouts and I played at 280 pounds during the spring. Now, I am at 283 and putting weight back on the right way. I think they want to put a few more pounds on me, but they want me to put on solid weight.
One-one-One with Lynn McGruder
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