One thing you could never question when it came to linebacker Clint Ingram, was his love for OU. When Ingram came out of Hallsville, Texas, he immediately became a player that Sooner defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Brent Venables fell in love with.
Ingram wasn't good enough to start early in his career, but he would play so hard on the scout team that he would give the offense a tremendous look. And Ingram would go so hard in the off-season, that at some point coach Venables knew that he was going to have to find a way to get him on the field.
Early in his career, Ingram became a great special teams player and that is where he got his playing time. But that talent never left him. He was still a great special teams player even when he became a starter at strongside linebacker his junior year. Going into his junior year, Venables moved him from middle linebacker to strongside and that seemed to lift a 1000 pounds off his shoulders.
No longer saddled with having to make the defensive calls, Ingram was able to concentrate on just the strongside position, which freed up his great talent. And once Ingram was able to turn it loose, he became one of the better linebackers in the Big 12 Conference.
Ingram's interception in the closing seconds against Oregon to save that game will go down as one of the best defensive plays in Sooner history. His athletic ability and improved pass drops played a big role in allowing Venables to leave three linebackers on the field last season, which helped the Sooners in run support and gave Venables the flexibility that he looked for in his multiple defensive schemes.
Ingram's great play from a year ago and enormous talent landed him in the third round of the NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ingram is already at rookie camp, but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: We haven't had a chance to talk to you since the draft, so how is everything going with you?
CI: "Everything is going pretty good. I am just finishing up mini-camp this weekend. It is giving me a chance to get around here and learn the defense, learn the city and to get around with my new coaches sitting down learning as much as I can. I am pretty much a sponge right now. I am just trying to soak it all up."
JH: What were your thoughts on the draft and how things worked out for you?
CI: "I went in and talked to coach Venables the day before the draft. He told me to go into the draft expecting the worst because it can't get no worse than the worst. I was kind of stressed out about it the whole week and I was getting a 1000 calls from people asking me where I thought I might go, and I really had no idea.
"I got tired of answering the same questions all the time, so I quit answering the phone. went into the draft with a mindset like coach Venables told me too, and I just kind of got around my family and had a little fish fry and sat around and talked. I went outside for a little bit and when I came back in two people from Jacksonville called me. Everything worked out for me pretty good."
JH: Did you have any idea you were going to go in the third round?
CI: "A lot of the teams that I had talked to before the draft told me that they thought I would go midway through the second round. That is just the grade they gave me and where a bunch of them had me on their draft board. But when Reggie Bush didn't go first in the draft, you could see that the draft wasn't going to go as expected or as I thought it was."
JH: What kind of situation are you going into in Jacksonville? What kind of depth chart do they have at linebacker? What kind of defense are they running?
CI: "We are running about the same defense that we ran when I was at Oklahoma. We are running some of the same coverages, but they basically just have different names. The defensive stunts, blitzes and coverages are the same that we run at Oklahoma, but it is just the terminology that I will have to translate over. I am in a good situation and all I have to do is go out there and give all that I have. I just have to lay it out on the line and learn the schemes as fast as I can. That is the main thing.
"As far as moving around and running around with those guys, I feel I am in just as high a level as they are. As far as starting and playing time goes, that is really out of my hands. I don't want to go running my mouth and blabbing that I am going to start or take this guys job or somebody's spot, but there is a free spot open. I am going to go out there and give everything that I have to get that spot."
JH: You played strongside linebacker at OU, but where will play at Jacksonville?
CI: "Coach told me to learn SAM and he told me to learn WILL, and he told me to learn the DIME. They DIME they have is like a weakside linebacker. He does get into some types of covers, but he acts more like a linebacker than a safety like it was at Oklahoma. I am still learning all three of them so if anybody goes down or anybody gets hurt and they need me to step in and play any one of them, I will be ready to do that."
JH: There doesn't seem to be any rest for the weary. You just got through with a football season and yet here you are in training camp getting ready for a bigger training camp. Are you going to get any kind of break at all?
CI: "As long as I am getting paid for it and it is something that I like to do, then I have no complaints."
JH: Have you signed a contract yet or even talked contract with Jacksonville yet?
CI: "My agent and the team are talking about that. I guess they are still getting things together. I won't know any numbers or anything until maybe next month. It will probably be the first of July. It is not going to be any big deal. I am not going to be holding out of camp waiting on some extra money. I am going to tell my agent to go ahead and knock it out of the way so that I can go to work."
JH: You were always good on special teams, so will that be an area at Jacksonville where you will be able to excel again?
CI: "Yeah, that is something that I take pride in and something that I lay it out there on the line in. As far as getting out on the field and getting started, that is where a lot of young guys get their foot in the door. I think I will be able to come in and bring that to the table instantly.
"They have been putting me on the special teams at the mini-camp and they have been teaching me the techniques and stuff and how they do it. It is basically the same stuff, but maybe a hair different here and there. I am ready to go."
JH: The last play you made at OU in your career, the interception to save the game against Oregon, will always be embedded in Sooner fans minds. Is that play a play that you will never forget?
CI: "That is a play that I am always going to remember. I hear people talk about it all the time. It was a blitz and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with my drop. For me to be in that spot at that time, and be able to go up and get the ball was a good call on coach's part. Everything played out well. For that to be my main play in college football, I couldn't think of a better way to go out."
JH: When you look back, what do you think about your college career at Oklahoma?
CI: "If I had to do it all over again I would do it the same way. I had injuries early on in my career and I could say I wish I had played earlier. Everything happens for a reason and I know that. You have to go through obstacles, it doesn't work out the same for everybody all the time. I struck it in there and gave it all that I had the whole time and that is the way it was supposed to be. I think everything turned out the way it was supposed to."
JH: You showed a lot of guts to stick with the program and you finished up being a two-year starter and playing a bunch during your career, didn't you?
CI: "Yeah, it kind of got to a point one time where I was going through a little ups and downs. I thought to myself, 'Man, can I not take football any more?' I was just sitting around playing special teams and getting mop -p duty, but I was always talking to Ccoach Venables and he always told me that I was going to get my chance. He always said that he was going to give me a shot, because of the way I play and because I went out there and played full speed.
"That is one thing that I always took into account, and that is one thing that I always did with every rep I got, every snap I got. I played at full speed whether I knew what I was doing or not. That is something that really paid off for me."
JH: You have mentioned coach Venables a couple of times, so what has he meant to you as a person and a coach?
CI: "A lot. When I get up here and start talking defenses with the coaches and I hear some of the other guys talking about defense, I know that I am very well off as far as knowing coverages, schemes, techniques and terminology. It is a lot of stuff that we have already went through while I was there with coach Venables. It is a lot of the same things.
"Sometimes I will say something in the meeting room, or answer a question, and the coach will say ‘that is the exact word that I wanted to hear' and ask me how I know that? That was just some of the stuff that coach Venables teaches. He got me in a great position to go out and compete for a job. He told me how to be a football player off the field as well as far as the classroom goes, and learning on the chalkboard and film room."
JH: It sounds like he means a lot to your personally as well?
CI: " I need to thank Coach Venables because he did a lot for me. He helped me mature as a person. I have talked to him about all kinds of things from family issues, personal issues. The list goes on. He wasn't just a coach, he was a mentor as well."
JH: You have been around a lot of those linebackers who will be trying to fill your shoes the last couple of years. You know that Ryan Reynolds has torn his ACL and that puts Demarrio Pleasant in your old spot at strongside linebacker. You have watched them play a bunch, so what do you think about the linebacker corp this year?
CI: "I know it will be a strong linebacker group. I know all about Rufus (Alexander) and Zach (Latimer), because I played with them all last year. I know what they are going to do. Whoever coach puts in the spot (SLB), I am sure is going to be the best fit. He might rotate players, but there is really no telling how he might do it. I know that Lewis (Baker) can run around and he is a good player. Demarrio and Curtis (Lofton) are good players and it is unfortunate that Ryan got hurt, because he is a very good player.
"I know my old position is a bit up in the air. I talked to coach Venables and he told me that Demarrio had been playing well. I remember when Demarrio stepped in and played in the UCLA game when I was hurt. I had pulled my hamstring and he came in and made 10 tackles and had a couple of sacks. And if it wasn't for a bad call he would have had an interception as well. He had a real good game for just coming in off the bench, so I know he can do it. Whoever they put in there will do just fine."
JH: As a defense as a whole, with all those defensive ends coming back, do you think that OU will have a good defense next year?
CI: "They could have a defense as good or better than the one we had last year. They have Bird (Larry Birdine), Thibodeaux (Calvin), John Williams, Alonzo Dotson and C.J. Ah You all coming back at end. I think they should play all defensive ends along the front. No, not really because they have big DeMarcus Granger and Cory Bennett. I think they are going to be real good. They have a bunch of young guys with a lot of energy.
"With Reggie (Smith) getting a year older, especially as well as he played last year, I imagine that the sky is the limit for him. The safeties like Darien Williams are getting older along with Keenan Clayton and Jason Carter back at safety. I think they are going to have a strong defense.
"Every time somebody asks me how the Sooners are going to do this year, I explain that I think they are going to make a run for it. With a healthy AD and an older Rhett Bomar, Malcolm Kelly, (Juaquin) Iglesias and Manuel (Johnson), I think we are going to make a big run at it next year."
JH: What is your schedule at this point for you?
CI: "We finish up our mini-camp this weekend. I actually got out here a day and a half late, which kind of threw me back in the mini-camp as far as learning our defense. I got down here Saturday in time for our evening practice. I got off the plane and came straight to practice.
"I went through graduation on Friday night. I called our coach (Jack Del Rio) and asked him if I could miss a day of mini-camp so that I could go through graduation and he said, 'Yeah manm that is a real big deal. You need to take care of that and be with your family. Then get on down here because you will have plenty of time to learn the defense when you get in with your coach.'
"I got in and did that and now every day we are out there working out. I am doing linebacker drills, doing some change of direction, lifting, running and watching film with coach."
JH: You have to feel great about graduating from the University of Oklahoma, don't you?
CI: "Yeah. It really didn't hit me until I turned my tassel to the other side. Then it hit me that I had just gone and graduated. It was a very good feeling."
Ingram adjusting to life in the NFL
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