- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Matt Dimon’s career was in its infant stages.
Yet his Oklahoma teammates already had a feeling the young defensive lineman could help them during his first season in crimson and cream.
“In the summer you watch all the freshman, you always keep an eye on who is going to be able to help you, who is going to be able to make an impact,” defensive end Geneo Grissom said. “The whole D-line, we all had an idea Matt was going to be one of those guys that gets in early, get some snaps early.”
One person who wasn’t convinced? Dimon himself.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen in fall camp,” Dimon said. “But I knew if I played with great effort, good things would happen for me.”
Things didn’t change immediately once preseason camp began, and one play in particular left Dimon with the feeling he had a ways to go before he could be an contributor in OU's defense.
“The second day, Dionte Savage put me on my behind,” he said. "That was kind of an eye opener -- it’s not high school.”
But the Katy, Texas, native kept working to improve, and his teammates’ belief in him has helped push him to greater heights.
“I’ve had really good days where I felt like I belonged out there and I’ve had days I didn’t feel like I belonged out there,” Dimon said. “The main thing is I’ve had teammates that have said, ‘Hey, you belong out here,’ Honestly that’s been the biggest eye-opener that I can do this.”
Now, seven games into his true freshman season, not only is Dimon confident he can make an impact, the Sooners need him to make an impact with defensive tackle Jordan Phillips set to miss the remainder of the season. The freshman, who has the versatility and strength to play defensive tackle or defensive end in OU’s system, will provide quality depth down the home stretch of Big 12 play.
“I thought Matt Dimon really came on and gives us another guy that is reliable and can play physical for a true freshman,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “So he just adds depth to our interior defensive line.”
Dimon has emerged as a rotation player on the Sooners' defense and is coming off one of his best games to date with two tackles and a blocked punt in spot duty against Kansas. He's impressed teammates with his ability to impact games thus far.
“[He has the] ability to make plays as a freshman,” safety Quentin Hayes said. “Most freshmen they get in there and they don’t play like he’s been playing. [He has] strength and the ability to find the ball.”
He hasn't been a dominant force but he hasn't been overmatched either, as Dimon has recorded five tackles while seeing action in all seven games for the Sooners. His strength has been his No. 1 asset and is an uncommon asset for a freshman who was in high school just a few months earlier.
“He’s so stout, he just doesn’t move,” Grissom said. “Once he puts his hands on you, good luck, especially for a freshman.”
Dimon has improved during the first half of the season and his increased playing time is a sign he continues to improve, which has been his goal since preseason camp began.
“As a player you want to be better than that last game,” Dimon said. “I feel like I’ve done that every game so far. I’ve had great encouragement from the coaching staff and my teammates. Everybody has their bad days, and they’ve always been there to pick me up on those bad days.”
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