Johnson, Ndulue have to earn spots back

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
10:00
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Bob Stoops and the Sooners met with the media on Monday. Here are some Oklahoma news and notes.

Johnson, Ndulue will have to earn their starting spot back

Cornerback Cortez Johnson and defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue were listed as starters but missed the first game due to breaking team rules in the offseason. Now, they’ll have to earn their spot back.

Cornerback Zack Sanchez replaced Johnson and was superb in his first college game, holding up in coverage and finishing with three tackles and one pass breakup. Stoops had praised the redshirt freshman throughout preseason camp. Asked if Johnson will have to fight to get back on the field, Stoops didn’t hesitate.

“Right now he will,” Stoops said. “It’s been tight all along away, Zack’s played really well throughout the summer, it’s exciting to see him playing like that.”

Ndulue is in a similar situation after Jordan Phillips, Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom started in OU’s three-man front and played well, earning praise from Stoops for being disruptive. Ndulue can play defensive end or defensive tackle, which could make his road back onto the field a bit easier.

“He’ll have to earn his way on the field,” Stoops said of Ndulue. “He can play inside or outside, he can do both.”

It would make sense for Ndulue to be the fourth defensive linemen when the Sooners decide to employ a four-man front this season.

Stoops: Knight will be all right

It wasn’t a pretty night through the air for new Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight but Bob Stoops remains confident the redshirt freshman can run the offense to perfection in the near future.

“Throwing the ball early wasn’t very good,” Stoops said. “But I have great confidence in how he does throw the football. Once he settles down and I believe gets more comfortable with the situation I expect him to throw the ball in a better way.”

Knight was 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) for 86 yards and 3.1 yards per attempt. He did throw three touchdowns, including two scoring connections with Jalen Saunders.

“Later in the game he threw some really good balls,” Stoops said. “He threw a couple other deep balls that I feel we have to be able to come up with. So those throws were good, some of the screens and throws were not where they needed to be. He’ll improve on it, and I bet there was a bit of jitters going out there for the first time. I believe he’ll calm down and throw the ball like I know he is capable.”

Facing WVU

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen caught the Sooners off guard a year ago, putting future NFL first round pick Tavon Austin in the backfield at running back against OU. Austin responded with 572 total yards, including 344 rushing yards during one of the most embarrassing defensive performances of the Stoops era.

While the Mountaineers don’t appear to have a dynamic threat anywhere close to Austin this season, Stoops still expects a tough test in Holgorsen’s offense.

“Dana [Holgorsen] doesn’t change his system much,” he said. “At the end of the day, he shouldn’t. They do an excellent job. I’m familiar with the way they run their offense being that we have had it for a long time, too, way back to Mike Leach. We still have a lot of parts of our offense that are the same as what they are doing. No surprises, maybe a little more emphasis on running the football.”

The Mountaineers will enter the game with a strong running game shouldering the load. Houston transfer Charles Sims had 120 rushing yards and one touchdown in his first game at WVU.

“I know that Dana likes to run the football and he ran it on us a year ago,” Stoops said. “That will be a big factor in this game again.”

Calm down, says Colvin

Cornerback Aaron Colvin is happy about the Sooners’ shutout performance to start the season but he isn’t ready to get carried away patting himself or his teammates on the back.

“It’s a confidence booster,” Colvin said. “But at the same time, one win or one loss doesn’t define you as a team or a defense. I mean if you look at last year, we had a lot of great games but people tend to forget those for the bad games. We are encouraged by the win, but we have to continue moving forward.”

OU held ULM to 166 total yards and 2.72 yards per play in the 34-0 win. The Sooners rank among the top 10 nationally in total yards allowed, yards per play allowed, rushing yards (38), rushing yards per play (1.73) and yards per pass attempt (3.28).

Brandon Chatmon | email

Oklahoma/Big 12 reporter

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