OUInsider Weekend Wrapup (7/8)

See inside for the most in-depth weekly report on Oklahoma Football, inlcuding a position-by-position breakdown of who the Sooners are recruiting. Also, former Sooner Jimbo Elrod talks about the potential of sophomore quarterback Rhett Bomar (pictured). (AP Photo)

Weekend Wrap Up Vol 3 #6 07-08-06 Copyright by James Hale, Alan Hitchcock, Tony Sellars, and the OU Insider Reporting staff NOTE: There was a five day break for players to return home, or relax, and celebrate the Fourth of July. Therefore, player and recruit updates are not as extensive this week. We expect a return to a full-scale mega Weekend Wrap Up next week. But there was still action around the program this week.

Defense Key to 2006 Title Hunt?

It's may be crazy to have a both a returning quarterback and the Heisman frontrunner at tailback and for the defense to be thought of as the strong point of this year's Sooner squad.

However, during the late spring and into the summer, Bob Stoops and his staff have continued to raise the expectation level of this year's defense, which had the upper hand all spring, and Stoops has said that it has a chance to be much better than last years' edition:

"The biggest difference is in the secondary and the linebackers. It's been obvious to me from Day One [in the secondary] that there is nothing to compare to a year ago. We have a chance to be really good there."

Naturally, a lot of the difference is the maturation of the secondary that seemed to be in constant turmoil last year due to several newcomers.

"Our structure and discipline is really good, and they understand what they need to do," Stoops said.

One expected defensive star is senor linebacker Rufus Alexander, an early entrant into this year's race for the Butkus Award, who agreed that maturity will help as he gave a quick summation of why he thought this year's edition would play better than last year:

"We had growing pains as a team. We were playing a whole lot of snaps and we had new guys out there. Reggie's (Smith), out there for the first time and we rotated so many people at corner.D.J. (Wolfe) just turned into a cornerback and he had to get comfortable with that position in terms of game speed.

"We had a lot of things that was going the opposite way for us in the beginning. Yet C.J. and 'Thibs' (Calvin Thibodeaux), they didn't have much of a rotation at defensive end. We had Dusty (Dvoracek) back there and we had a good interior, but the whole overall defense wasn't flowing good."

"But now, we have Larry Birdine, C.J. Ah You, and John Williams coming back. I mean, they're great, great players who are going to make a whole lot of noise this year. And with guys like that, it only makes my job easier. With Reggie Smith and D.J. Wolfe having their second year back there, guys like that will make the defense a whole lot better. We can be as good as we want to be. As long as we just go in and focus on one play at a time and just execute what we practiced, everything we'll be fine and we'll be a dominating defense."

"You've got to credit Coach Stoops and Coach V, (Brent Venables). They know who to go get, what moves to make and when to make the moves. And they made a great move by moving Reggie Smith to corner. (But) I don't see that as a surprise. I just say that's great coaching and those guys are great coaches."

While Reggie Smith, a starter as a freshman at safety, has made the biggest splash in a move to cornerback, it's probably the surprise development and play of sophomore Lendy Holmes that has enabled the staff to breathe easier and feel more confident about experimentation. Coaches are now talking about all kinds of formations designed to get several combinations of the best talent on the field in different situations.

For example, one 'nickel' look that is being strongly considered has Lewis Baker coming on to support weakside linebacker Rufus Alexander, with Holmes coming in as corner and Reggie moving up into a hybrid 'Roy' position. That kind of defensive rotation and flexibility was just not possible a year ago. Perhaps it was this experimentation that brought about the 'Reggie Smith back to safety rumor,' which will certainly not happen as long as Bobby Jack Wright is around. Wright expects Smith to star at corner, (and at times at a modified 'Roy'), for the next three years.

Cornerbacks Brian Jackson and newcomer Jonathon Nelson continue to impress and also are expected to play at CB as well.

A 'Look Back' . . .

This could be the best OU defense in some time, and as a witness to that, former Sooner star Jimbo Elrod checks in with some pretty emphathic opinions. Elrod is no stranger to great defenses, as he played (1973-1975), and starred on one of the best defensive editions of all time, (1975), when he along with the Selmon brothers were named as All Americans.

Elrod's 44 tackles for loss leads the career list at OU. His fast, reckless style was unequaled and brought on forced fumbles, blocked punts and quarterback sacks. Elrod made one of his biggest plays against Texas in 1974. He blindsided halfback Earl Campbell and forced a fumble. OU kicked a 37-yard field goal with 5:25 left in a 16-13 win.

"I'm not sure that a defense has ever had what we played with. We had the Selmon brothers at tackle and nose; I was at defensive end; Rod Shoate and an underrated David Smith at linebacker; and our defensive backfield of Randy Hughes, Durwood Keeton and Tony and Terry Peters."

(Note: The '75 offense wasn't exactly void of talent, as it included All Americans Terry Webb (G); Mike Vaughn (T); Billy Brooks and Tinker Owens (WR); and Joe Washington).

The '75 Sooners capped off a terrific season with a decisive win over Michigan in the 1976 Orange Bowl to win the national championship. The defense held Michigan to a mere 202 offensive yards throughout the game, led by Dewey Selmon's unbelievable stat of 13 tackles.

"This year's defense has a chance to play like we did back in 73, 74 and 75," he said.

"I see some fantastic talent in our defensive ends with Birdine, Ah You, Thibodeaux and John Williams; at linebacker, Rufus is phenomenal and Zach Latimer can be very good if he's 100% healthy. Our tackles are young, but have a chance to be really dominant. I believe that D.J. Wolf will come on strong this year and that Reggie Smith should be a two or three time all American," Elrod said.

But before Jimbo leaves, he'd like to put in a few words about one offensive player:

"Rhett Bomar," Elrod said.

"I wish people and the media would get off his case. Here he was last year, as a freshman playing the hardest position on the field. His offensive line struggled early on, and he lost his biggest threat when AD went down. He literally became a 'sitting duck' back there - but he stuck in there and showed that he can get better, and with hard work he did. "

"I honestly think he has all the tools to be a great one. His running ability is what sets him apart, I expect him to leave here as one of OU's all time great quarterbacks."



Flashback . . .

Ironically, the 2006 schedule includes at least six teams that the Sooners played in the 1975 run to the National Championship: Oregon (62-7); Colorado (21-20); Texas (24-17); Iowa State (39-7); OSU (27-7); and Missouri (28-27). The Big 12 title game could produce Nebraska (35-10), or Kansas (3-23); and it's quite possible that the Sooners could also play 1975 opponents Miami (20-17), or Michigan (14-6), in a bowl game.

Offensive Question Marks. . .



Obviously, quarterback Rhett Bomar and tailback Adrian Peterson return lead the offense, along with a number of young, and improving receivers who began to make an impact last October. But the Sooner offense will likely only be as good as their offensive line enables them to be.

However offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has felt good about the OL since the end of spring ball thinks that new OL coach James Patton and a few players who sat out the spring will make a huge difference.

"I think our line is going to be significantly better than most people expect it to be," Wilson said. "And I think it's got a chance to be pretty good."

Wilson, who worked Patton at Northwestern before coaching OU's offensive line in '02, says that the players have adapted to the new OL coach in a great way:

"He was the guy I wanted to hire, and even though I knew him, he's exceeded my expectations. I think we're going to be pretty good there."

And now that Jimbo has cleared the air, (and with his 'twenty first' now safely celebrated and in the rear view mirror), Quarterback Rhett Bomar gives us his impression of how the offense fared in the first month of summer drills, a few newcomers, and his take on the current state of the Sooner squad.

"We're definitely having better workouts this year compared to last summer," Bomar said.

"I can't say for sure, but I think that everyone is trying their best to have a good summer. It's not just one group, or some, but everyone seems to be together this year."

Perhaps the words of Bob Stoops, made last year in a closed door meeting after the TCU opener, still resonated. Stoops told the team that some members simply did not work hard last summer, and that contributed to the loss. Hopefully, the Sooners can have a great July as they prepare for fall drills and much higher expectations.

As for his receiving corps, Bomar expects Paul Thompson, Malcolm Kelly, Manual Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias to all have solid seasons, but can't help but notice a couple of freshmen:

"Andron Tennell and Brandon Caleb have both looked very good. I think both will have a chance to really help us this year. And Jermaine Gresham is really going to be good."

Bomar added that: "Fred Strong has been a little banged up, but he'll be fine, and Eric Huggins and Quentin Chaney are doing well."

Rhett then turned his attention to the M&M backfield tandem of Mossis Madu and DeMarco Murray.

"They both look pretty good. I see a lot of potential with those guys," Bomar said. "It'd be fun to line both of them up in a 'dual backfield' and check off where one goes to the slot. I can also see some potential for all kinds of reverses."

Rhett did not mention it, but it's quite possible that he savors a more mobile pocket under OC Kevin Wilson this year.

Wilson Stays Put . . .

Last week we tried to quickly pour cold water on the 'Wilson to Wildcats' rumor that was thoughtfully put forth a few hours after the death of Northwestern coach Randy Walker by a few local media folks, who apparently were again speculating from a vast wasteland of knowledge.

We said then that NW'ern would likely pick from three current staff members: Assistant Head Coach Jerry Anderson, a NW alum and 14 year veteran of the staff; offensive coordinator and former Sooner QB Garrick McGee; and recruiting coordinator Pat Fitzgerald, who is also a former Northwestern star.

Yesterday afternoon, Northwestern AD Mark Murphy indeed announced that Pat Fitzgerald, the defensive star of its 1995 Rose Bowl team, was the new head coach.

It wasn't a lucky guess, it was based on those who know the character and makeup of Kevin Wilson. No way would Wilson have walked out and left Bob Stoops in a bind a few weeks before fall drills.

This is not to downgrade the Northwestern job. Certainly, if the timing were different, Wilson would have listened - and probably taken the head job at the Big Ten school that he is intimately familiar with, and considering that it is a program that he had helped build. But under the circumstances, there was 'zero chance' of him leaving, and little chance that Murphy and Northwestern were even looking outside of their own staff.

Recruiting . . .

We still expect around 15 scholarships to be available by next February, although the number is 12 - 13 at the present time. The OU staff feels like they have recruited exceptional talent over the past few years. Therefore, the mission this year is to only go after 'can't miss' players who they project will contribute in a year or two in the program.

Of the available slots, five have already been spoken for:

Jontae Bumpus - DE - Muskogee, OK
Desmond Jackson - DB - Seguin, TX
Jamell Fleming - DB - Arlington, TX
Austin Box - LB - Enid, OK
Mike Reed - LB - Yuba JC, CA

Here are the candidates for the ten (approximate) slots, listed by position and in the order that we believe that OU has the best chance at signing. However there will be additions, surprises and shakeups almost weekly from now until January. From today until signing day, we will list prospects by these criteria; (Position and Best Bets to sign).

ATHLETES: Projected: 1 - 4 / Current Commitments: 0

We continually say that versatility and the ability to play more than one position is crucial this year, and has elevated these prospects above others that may be as talented, but not as versatile:

At present, here is OU's offer list of Athlete Prospects - with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:

Travis Lewis (RB ***) S - Ath (6'2, 220, 4.3), San Antonio, TX (Lee)
Chad Jones (11 S) Ath (6-3 / 220 / 4.5) Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Ben Bass (25 DE) DE/OL (6-4 / 260 / 4.9), Plano, TX (West)
Sam Proctor (RB ***) Ath (6-1 / 205 / 4.4), Pearland, TX
Jermaine Love (UR) Ath (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4), Garland, TX (North)
Kamar Aiken, (****) FS/WR, (6'2 / 205 / 4.4), Hollywood, (Chaminade Madonna Prep) FL
Gerald Jones (19 RB) (6-1 / 190 / 4.49) OKC (Millwood)
G.J. Kinne (UR ***) QB (6-1 / 215 / 4.6) Gilmer, Texas
Doug Wiggins, (10 CB) Ath, (5-10½ / 185 / 4.5), North Miami Beach, FL
Billy Chavis, (5 TE) Ath - TE, (6'5 / 227 /4.7), Beaumont, (Westbrook), TX (future offer pending)
Cameron Jordan (UR ***) DE (6-4 / 240), Chandler, Arizona (future offer pending)

Moving the furthest UP the 'Best Bet to Sign' charts at 'Athlete' is Pearland, Texas running back Sam Proctor.

"Right now my top four schools would be LSU, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas A&M," Proctor said. "LSU might be a little bit ahead of the others, mainly because they were the first school to offer me a scholarship. (But) I'm definitely planning to take my time," Proctor said. "I want to take my visits and see some schools and decide after the football season sometime."

Meanwhile OU coaches may be tiring of trying to show Gerald Jones, of OKC Millwood, that OU has as good of an offense, and better statistically year-in-and-year-out, than his current co-favorite Texas Tech. The Sooners also want Jones to look past the hype, and note how many offensive players TT actually sends to the NFL.

If that doesn't work, the staff may concentrate harder on others, but they would like for Jones to show more interest, and believe that he is worth the effort. However, if Jones somewhat lackadaisical attitude does not increase by September, they may begin to return the favor and place more frequent phone calls and greater effort, in other directions.

RUNNING BACK - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0

Running Back Prospects:

Lennon Creer (8) (6-1 / 195 / 4.45), Tatum, TX
Joseph Reese RB (6-2 / 190 / 4.4), Pflugerville, TX ('Soft' A&M Commitment)
Caleb King (3) (5-11 / 197 / 4.4), Lilburn, (Parkview), GA

Georgia's Caleb King (#3 RB) (5-11 / 197 / 4.4), made some surprising noises this week when he mentioned that three Big 12 schools were on his early radar screen: OU, OSU and Nebraska. You can bet that the statement was a surprise to OU coaches, who would take King in two tenths of a heartbeat.

King is ranked as the nation's 10th best prospect overall and #3 at running back. Georgia, USC and Notre Dame are thought to be leading, but any future statements from King regarding the Sooners will be taken very seriously.

King, who has close to 70 offers, said he plans on narrowing his list to 10 to 12 schools before the season starts, then will decide where to officially visit.

The Sooners apparently have time to wait, as neither Creer, or Reese seem to be in any particular hurry. If OU gets none of the above trio, Travis Lewis, or Sam Proctor, would likely come off of the 'Athlete' list and fill the top two slots under 'Running Back' prospects.

RECIEVERS - Projected: 2 / Current Commitments: 0

At present, here is OU's offer list of Receiver prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:

Corey Wilson, (UR) (6-0 / 185 / 4.4), Carrollton (Creekview HS), TX.
Ron Brooks (6) SR (6-0 / 170 / 4.5) Irving, TX (MacArthur)
Terrance Toliver (3) WR (6-5 / 188 / 4.4), Hempstead, TX
Dez Bryant (UR ****) WR (6-1 / 203 / 4.6) Lufkin, TX
James Kirkendoll (UR ****) SR (5-11 / 178 / 4.4), of Round Rock, TX
Greg Little (8 LB) WR (6-3 / 205 / 4.5) Durham, NC (Hillside)
Arrelious Benn (1) WR (6'2 / 205 / 4.4), Washington D.C. (Dunbar)

OU loves Irving, Texas slot receiver Ron Brooks, and he along with Carrollton Creekview's Corey Wilson, top the 'Most Probable' list at receiver.

"Right now I'm the most interested in Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, LSU, and Oklahoma," Brooks said from Irving, Texas. "All of them are recruiting me very hard."

"Really I want to see just how many people each school has at my position already," Brooks said. "That and how many they have coming in."

OU is still hoping that Hempstead, Texas wide out Terrance Tolliver will decide to take one of two available scholarships here, but repeat that 118 times for every D1 school out there, and you get an idea of the chances.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 3 / Current Commitments: 0

At present, here is OU's offer list of Offensive Line prospects- with their current Super Prep/Scout national ranking ('X'), and listed in order of signing possibility - as of this date:

Matt Romine ( UR ****) OL (6-6 / 275 / 5.2) Tulsa, OK (Union)
Po'u Palelei (25) OL (6-3 / 314 / 5.8) Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman)
Lee Ziemba (6) OL (6-7 / 295 / 5.2) Rogers, AR
Javario Burkes (22) OL (6-6½ / 300 / 5.2), Phoenix, AZ (Moon Valley)
Tray Allen (2) OL (6-4½ / 290 / 5.3), Grand Prairie, TX (committed to UT, but still talking to OU).
Ryan Miller (4) OL (6-8 / 280 / 5.1), of Littleton, CO

Tulsa Union's Matt Romine was not quoted this week as mentioning the Sooners as a possibility and that sent some fans straight to the cliffs of despair. However, OU is still in the picture and fans should not panic when a prospect fails to mention their school, or a reporter inadvertently drops a name.

For now, we'll keep Romine at the top of the most likely OL list.

OU will likely bring in three prospects that they believe CAN play offensive line. That is not s the same as saying that they will bring in three prospects that WILL play on the offensive line.

The semantic puzzle is solved when you consider that oftentimes, the best linemen are shifted to defense in high school, so the #45 rated DT may be better than the #10 rated OL. However, OL stud extraordinaire Lee Ziemba reports that is not the case at Rogers, Arkansas, and we'll give Lee the benefit of the doubt there - (you'd look good in Crimson, Lee).

Most staffs evaluate linemen that can play both sides - so it's possible that OU doesn't sign more than one or two 'true' (i.e current) O-linemen, but could sign one or two that currently play DT. As we go through fall that picture should clear some, but right now OU would like to concentrate on the above six prospects.

The orbit of Littleton, Colorado OLRyan Miller (6-8 / 280 / 5.1), still appears to be headed somewhere other than around Norman, but the OU coaches do not want to close the door just yet.

DEFENSIVE ENDS - Projected: 2

Jontae Bumpus
- (6-4 / 220 / 4.6) Muskogee, OK. (Committed to Oklahoma)
Richetti Jones (4) DE (6'3½ / 235 / 4.6), Dallas, TX (Lincoln)
Frank Alexander DE (6'4 ½ / 229 / 4.7), Baton Rouge, LA (Southern Lab)
Everson Griffen (1) DE (6-4 / 265 / 4.55), Avondale, AZ

If you've been an OU Insider member for a while, you probably know that we do not allow Scout reporters to post on our boards, or run stories on our site. Yet from time to time, one comes in from Network 'News' or is posted on our front page before we can eradicate it.

All this to say that this week, another Scout site jumped in with the big news that the Sooners had offered Hawaii DE Sam-Earl Fehoko.

But in the words of Lee Corso; 'Not so fast my friend.'

It is true that Fehoko, (6-1 / 215 / 4.5), won the MVP Defensive End Award at the 'Just Win' camp held on the island of Maui. And it's also true that OU DE coach Chris Wilson asked Fehoko to visit Norman when he trips to the mainland later this year.

As we've said close to 100 times here, although it's a huge step in the right direction, an offer to visit is not the same as a scholarship offer. Last year there is no question an offer would have been extended, but this year OU wants to see what Richetti Jones, Frank Alexander and Everson Griffen do first.

We first talked to Fehoko in San Antonio last January at the Army All America game, when we were told that OU had offered his brother, (Whitley), a month before signing day. Again, it was true that OU talked to Whitley, and in fact were very interested, but they had no scholarships at the moment to give.

Had the Sooners not signed anyone after January 1st, who's to say what would have happened? But the Sooners did get DeMarco Murray, Gresham and McCoy that last month - and finished the year on a huge high note. Meanwhile, Whitley signed with Chuck Long at SDSU, and will be a huge part of that program.

This is not to say that Fehoko will not end up with an offer, he may, he's a very good play with amazing quickness, but a clarification of a story that was written this week and posted on our site without permission.

The always objective Robert Allen of GoPokes made a big issue of the fact that Richetti Jones (6'3½ / 235), one of OU's top 2 DE prospects, had visited Stillwater for the fifth time. It was true, but it's also true that Cowboy basketball PG Byron Eaton and Jones are good friends, and explains some of the frequent visits.

OSU certainly is in the mix, along with Texas and Oklahoma, but unless Gundy and the 'Pokes somehow escape the Big 12 cellar this season, they don't stand much of a chance. It's also likely that Mr. Jones is aware of the relative differences in the two schools and the tradition of their football programs.

It one thing to be playing Missouri State, Arkansas Sate, Montana Tech and every directional school that the state of Louisiana can regurgitate, but it's not the same as playing on national television every week against the likes of Miami, Oregon, Florida State, LSU and Alabama.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN - Projected: 1 / Current Commitments: 0

Defensive Line Prospects:

Joseph Barksdale (19 OL) (6-5½ / 315 / 4.9), Detroit, MI (Cass Technical HS)
Rolando Barragan DT/DE (6-3 / 262 / 4.8) El Camino JC (CA)

We won't mention the possibilities, but we will say that Davin Joseph played DT in high school and is now a NFL 'millionaire' after four years of playing on the OL at Oklahoma. Meanwhile, many highly rated DT's in the same class are now working on their résumé's, and considering that they are now competing with serious students job openings.

DEFENSIVE BACKS - Projected: 3

The Prospects:

Desmond Jackson, (18) - CB (6'1 / 190 /4.5), Seguin, TX. (Committed to Oklahoma)
Jamell Fleming - (UR ***) CB (5-11 / 197 / 4.5) Arlington (Sequin) TX (Committed to Oklahoma)
Christian Scott (9) (6'0½, 189, 4.4), Dallas, TX (Skyline)
Jermaine Love (UR) (5-11½ / 206 / 4.4) Garland, TX (North)
Jeremy Kerley (UR) (5-10 / 175 / 4.5) Hutto, TX

It's rumored that Bob Stoops has waded into the recruitment photograph for Dallas Skyline's Christian Scott , who we can safely proclaim as OU's #1 prospect for one remaining DB slot. Naturally, the Sooners would like to get it over with, but Scott is worth their wait.

LINEBACKER - Projected: 2

Oklahoma is very happy with their two LB commitments and will close the door unless there are career ending injuries or other unforeseen events.

LB Austin Box (1 - S)- (6-3 / 217 / 4.6), Enid, OK. (Committed to Oklahoma)
LB Mike Reed - (UR - JC) (6-3 / 250 / 4.6), Yuba JC, Marysville, CA.
(Committed to Oklahoma)

PK / PUNTER: Projected: 0 - 1 / Current P/PK Commitments:

The Kicker / Punter Prospects:

Wesley Bryan (6-0 / 180) Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) (offer pending)
Stephen Hoge, (6-2 / 200), OKC PC North (offer pending)
Jimmy Stevens, (5-6 / 150), OKC Heritage Hall (offer pending)
Matt Szymanski, (6-2 / 190), A&M Consolidated, Texas ('Soft' commitment to A&M)

OU would like to wait until October to offer one of the above, and if Szymanski goes ahead with his stated plans to enroll at A&M early this fall, that would naturally eliminate him.

QUARTERBACK - Projected: 0 - 1 / Current QB Commitments: 0

G.J. Kinne (UR ***) QB (6-1 / 215 / 4.6) Gilmer, Texas

The possibility of Gilmer, Texas QB G.J. Kinne committing to Oklahoma is fading, but he remains the only viable candidate at the moment, and can commit to the Sooners now, or wait until they officially tell him he can play QB.

While either is certainly a possibility, neither is probable; and it reminds us of what Stoops told once of his first HS coaches clinic.

Stoops opened the floor to Q&A, and here came one from a Texas HS coach, who was obviously referring to the Chris Simms / Mack Brown mess in Austin.

"Coach, do you promise a kid he can start when you recruit him?" was the question.

Stoops quickly shot back:

"Heck no. First of all - we don't recruit anyone that we don't think can start. But as for promising, that's really something the player needs to promise me isn't it? I'd like to see every one of 'em look me in the eye and say, "Coach, I promise you, I'm coming to Oklahoma and I'm going to start."

Kinne is a bright young man. He should not hold it against the OU staff because some are unsure whether he can start at QB in the Big 12. They know he can start somewhere, and contribute a great deal - but like recruiting promises, if he really wants to start at QB, isn't that something G.J. needs to promise the Sooners?

Reportedly, that promise is unlikely, as Kinne said this week that he has narrowed his list to 2 schools; Baylor, where his dad coaches, and Florida. Kinne is expected to commit before classes start in August.


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