Friday, March 15, 2013
Q&A: 2014 OT Denzel Ward talks Sooners
By Brandon Chatmon
New Oklahoma defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery’s ability to recruit already is paying off. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy offensive tackle Denzel Ward has set an official visit to OU on Oct. 4. T
he one-time Michigan commit pointed to his relationship with Montgomery as a driving force behind his decision to give the Sooners one of his five official visits. Ward, who recently moved to Florida from Illinois, spoke with SoonerNation about his interest in OU.
SoonerNation: What made the OU one of the schools you wanted to visit?
Ward: I had a previous relationship with Coach Montgomery when I was committed to Michigan. We’ve built a good relationship, and now that he’s at OU, a very storied program, I see the chance in the next few years to showcase my talents on the field there. They connect with what I like to do on the field, and their type of game translates to the NFL. I know if I can make it there, I can make it at a higher level. They're one of the dream schools that everybody looks at.
SN: What did you know about the Sooners before Montgomery got to OU?
Ward: I knew a little bit; one of my mentors in Chicago was [former Sooner defensive tackle] Tommie Harris. He played for Oklahoma, and he told me he loved it there. He was always telling me stuff about recruiting and to make the best decision for myself. He let me know the tradition of the school and the program.
SN: You talked about OU’s ability to produce NFL linemen, how important is that to you?
Ward: To an extent, very important. To another extent, not that important. Everybody’s dream is to make it to the NFL. If you want to do that you have to do it with people where the proof is in the pudding, that if you go through this program, you’re going to make it to the next level. But injuries can happen, so I never rely on the NFL. My main focus is going somewhere I can get my education. That’s why Oklahoma is a great school, football tradition-wise, so that’s why I’d love to see the stadium and fans and see what they bring academically.
SN: What do you feel like separates you as a football player?
Ward: A lot of people say my height and size, but I want to say my athleticism. I just stopped playing basketball last spring, so I’ve always had freakish athleticism, and I can move on the field very well. And this offseason I’ve gained 13 pounds from 295 to 308.
SN: What do you need to work on?
Ward: Learning a lot more. My head coach (Chris Weinke) won the Heisman, so he knows a lot about football, so I sit down with my coaches every day, try to learn every day. If you know everything that is going on on the field, the game slows down and you can just move. I want to master the game of football and learn, because I think technique and experience will come with time.
SN: How are you approaching the recruiting process?
Ward: It’s weird for me. Last year was my first year of football, so I wasn’t one of those guys schools have been looking at for a long time or had a period of time to evaluate me and see progress. I think I’ve made huge strides and schools have noticed that and think I can impact their program. I just look at it like a normal kid, then I look at the football aspect, because at the end of the day most of the schools recruiting me you’ll have a chance to win a national championship. I don’t really look at deadlines [to decision]. If I want to announce a leader, I will. If I want to announce a top five, I will.
SN: You’re in no hurry to make a decision, huh? Just let it happen?
Ward: I have to make a decision earlier than other guys, because I plan on enrolling early in December, but I plan on taking all my officials at least up to Thanksgiving. I want to take all five visits and experience every place and give everybody an equal chance.
SN: Does it matter to you what kind of offensive system you play in? Have you thought about how you would fit?
Ward: There’s pros and cons to all offenses for me. I want to go to a school that has a pro style offense that runs the ball and throws the ball. That’s the good thing about OU, they’re in the Big 12, so they pass a lot in that conference, but OU is known for its running backs, so they run the ball as well. I think pro-style offense will fit me well, but a program with a spread offense I think I could fit in well with my athleticism.