Oklahoma Sooners: Cameron Clark

Immediate impact of Ryan Spangler's addition to Oklahoma’s mens basketball program is easy to see:

The Sooners have one more scholarship player on campus heading into 2013-14.

[+] EnlargeRyan Spangler
Robert Johnson/Icon SMIRyan Spangler will be able to contribute for the Sooners in the 2013-2014 season.
While that sounds like a simple analysis, one glance at OU’s roster shows the observation goes much deeper. The Sooners ended the season with six scholarship juniors including forward Romero Osby, guard Steven Pledger and guard Sam Grooms.

In other words, OU’s roster will be gutted after the 2012-13 season.

And Spangler, who chose to leave Gonzaga after one season and will be a sophomore, will be poised to step right in and become a core member of the 2013-14 squad. A former Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year from Bridge Creek, Okla., Spangler averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games for Gonzaga but wanted to play closer to home.

"It's always extra special to have in-state guys as part of the OU program," said Kruger, "Although Ryan enjoyed his time at Gonzaga we're especially pleased that he's returning home to be a Sooner. He's a very natural rebounder, a tough guy on the boards and has an ability to score inside and outside. Ryan's work ethic will allow him to make great strides during his redshirt season."

Spangler is likely to join Amath M'Baye, Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal as the foundation of the 2013-14 team after he sits out this season. Incoming freshman Buddy Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins will also be battling to contribute. Spangler joins fellow 2012 spring signee D.J. Bennett">D.J. Bennett as the lone post players amongst that group.

At 6-foot-8, 232 pounds, Spangler is a versatile big man who should earn significant playing time immediately and become a core member of OU’s post rotation. He’s an efficient scorer who can shoot and prefers to face up and use his athleticism against defenders.

Having Spangler spending a season learning Kruger’s expectations cannot be overlooked. And having another 6-foot-8 post player already in the fold will change Kruger’s recruiting approach. While OU will still need to recruit additional size, the need is lessened by Spangler’s (and Bennett’s) presence.

Overall, the addition of Spangler to the Sooners’ roster is a great development for OU. He’ll help immediately as a sophomore in 2013-14 and don’t be surprised if he develops into a double-double player (double figure points and rebounds) during his career in crimson and cream.

Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud on Wednesday night.

The Sooners suffered a 62-53 loss to Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo., after defeating the same Aggies squad just five days earlier. It is the third-straight losing season for OU, who finished 15-16 overall and 5-13 in Big 12 regular season play.

OU’s leading scorer Steven Pledger was held to six points, his lowest point total since Feb. 18 and just the third time he didn’t score in double figures since Jan. 9. He finished 2-of-8 from the field including 0-of-4 from the three point line but did have three assists.

Player of the Game: Romero Osby. The junior scored 17 points on just six shots. He was 9 of 12 from the free throw line, so he was involved in the offensive attack and he did a good job handling the Aggies increased defensive attention on him after his career-high 24-point outburst against A&M on March 3.

Unsung Hero: Sam Grooms. The junior point guard was the only other Sooner in double figures with 13 points. He was 5 of 12 from the field with four assists and four turnovers, an unusual 1:1 assist-turnover ratio for the junior. Grooms sensed his team needed additional scoring, with Cameron Clark and Steven Pledger shooting 4-of-15 combined, so he attacked the basket and managed to keep the Sooners in the game despite their offense sputtering.

Key Stat: 13. The Aggies had 13 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second-chance points. Their offensive rebounding and 88.2 percent shooting from the foul line helped offset their 38.2 percent shooting from the field.

Quotable: “We tied the game up, fought back. Missed two shots and had two turnovers and they converted on both of those possessions and they went back up four. When you miss easy ones around the rim and you turn the ball over, you give Big 12 teams the opportunity to go back the other way and to make plays, they're going to do it.” -- Grooms on the Sooners struggles down the stretch.

“When you don't win a lot of games, as many as you want to, consistency is probably going to be a problem. Whether it be maybe turnovers one night or offensive boards, generally it's a stretch in the ballgame we had difficulty in overcoming.” --Kruger on his team’s struggles to win.

“Generally I thought they played with a certain level of enthusiasm, consistently worked hard every day in practice to get better. I liked that about this group from the start.” -- Kruger on his first season in Norman.

Up Next: The Sooners are goin’ fishin’ ... OU is unlikely to receive an NIT bid and accepting a CBI invitation doesn’t make sense for the Sooners.
It will be a different feeling for Oklahoma. The Sooners enter Wednesday night’s game against Texas A&M knowing they defeated the Aggies in their last meeting. OU battles Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

The Sooners haven’t faced an opponent they had already beaten since Jan. 28 against Kansas State.

OU takes on the Aggies after a 65-62 win over Texas A&M on March 3, in a game which the Sooners finally made the plays at the end to secure a victory. The season series is tied 1-1 with A&M taking a 81-75 victory over the Sooners on Jan. 21.

Key to OU win: Continued strong play from Cameron Clark. The sophomore has played increasingly better in the Sooners last four games and his athleticism and aggression. When Clark plays well he’s a terrific complement to Steven Pledger and Romero Osby.

Key to A&M win: Quality play by point guard Dash Harris. In the Aggies win over OU, Harris had 14 points six assists. In their loss, he finished with five points, four assists and four turnovers.

Stat line that will tell the tale: OU assists. If the Sooners assist numbers are high, that means Sam Grooms probably won the point guard battle with Harris. If he does, OU’s chances of advancing increase.

Sooners X factor: Andrew Fitzgerald. Romero Osby was a terror against the Aggies on Saturday, scoring a career-high 24 points, so expect Texas A&M to have a plan to slow Osby. That’s where Fitzgerald could step in with his terrific mid-range shooting when Osby attacks the basket.

Aggies X factor: David Loubeau. He’s averaging 15.5 points per game in two meetings with the Sooners and shooting 61 percent from the field. If the Aggies feed him the ball and he continues to score efficiently, it will make Texas A&M much more explosive on offense.
Oklahoma has its eyes on playing in the postseason.

The Sooners could play their way into the NCAA tournament with an improbable undefeated run through the Big 12 tournament. Or OU could earn an NIT berth with a solid showing at the Big 12 tourney, most likely needing to win at least two games for a chance.

Regardless, the Sooners enter the tourney with some momentum, having split their last four games after losing six straight games to begin February. OU has beaten Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the past two weeks and will face the Aggies for the third time this season on Wednesday in Kansas City. If the Sooners win they would play top-seeded Kansas on Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.

Here are the keys to the Sooners winning at least one game during the Big 12 tournament, thus giving themselves hope of an NIT birth:

(Read full post)

Sam Grooms was beaming, Cameron Clark had a big smile as he headed up the tunnel and Romero Osby stood waiting for a post game interview with a satisfied look on his face.

It’s always good to get a win.

Oklahoma knocked off Texas A&M 65-62 on Saturday afternoon at the Lloyd Noble Center in a game that didn’t mean much in the overall scheme of things. But the Sooners (15-15 overall, 5-13 in Big 12), who were locked in to face the Aggies (13-17, 4-14) again on Wednesday -- win or loss -- earned eighth place in the Big 12 with Saturday’s win.

It was also the Sooners second straight home victory.

OU executed down the stretch, by far the most encouraging aspect of the game, to put away the Aggies after surrendering a 14-point lead in the second half.

Player of the Game: Osby. The junior has his best offensive game of the season with a career-high 24 points on 11 of 15 shooting. He was aggressive and unstoppable inside as the Sooners scored 28 points in the paint.

Unsung Hero: Grooms. The junior point guard has quietly become one of the conference’s most consistent players. He finished with seven points and seven assists with just two turnovers. More importantly, he scored or assisted on OU’s final 12 points.

“I was tired of games being close [then losing] and me not doing anything about it,” Grooms said. “And I was tired of hearing Coach (Lon Kruger) saying something to me about it.

“So, I made up my mind I’m going to try to do what ever I need to do to get a win.”

Key Stat: 81.3. The Sooners shot 13 of 16 from the free throw line (81.3%) while the Aggies were 6 of 9 (66.7%) from the foul line.

Quotable: “All those games come down to just a play or two that swing the game one direction or another. Those games that we lose, we miss an opportunity or two and the other team scores. The games we win like we did today, we scored and got a stop.” -- OU coach Lon Kruger on winning close games

“Coach is always calm, so when you look at him and he’s showing no emotion, you want to execute for him. It’s stuff we’ve been working on in practice every day and we’re finally starting to get it. It’s hard working in a system you’ve never playing in before and being expected to execute it under pressure, late in a game. And we’re starting to execute now.” --Grooms on OU’s late game execution

“It was a good win for our guys. Obviously the ball game could have gone either way. With A&M, games have always gone down to the wire.” -- Kruger

“The difference was we had a hard time guarding in the post. They got a little bit closer to the basket and were able to score on us.” -- A&M coach Billy Kennedy

Up next: vs. No. 9 seed Texas A&M on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City
Oklahoma just doesn’t know how to win close games.

There’s no other way to explain the Sooners 72-64 loss to Texas at the Ervin Center in Austin, Texas, on Saturday night. The Sooners led for most of the game, but crumbled down the stretch as UT outscored OU 10-2 in the final 3:42 of regulation.

The Longhorns didn’t even take the lead until 6:15 remained on the clock.

Player of the Game: Cameron Clark. The sophomore continues to improve his play with a double double. His 12 points and 11 rebounds helped the Sooners lead for the majority of the game.

Unsung Hero: C.J. Washington. Few will notice Washington’s five points and eight rebounds but his aggressiveness and active play in the paint helped the Sooners remain in the game until the end.

Key Stat: 16. The Sooners had more turnovers (16) than assists (10). OU jumped out to an early lead and had zero turnovers as they took a double digit lead, then as the turnovers piled up, the Longhorns erased the lead. Sam Grooms, normally terrific with the ball, had three assists and three turnovers, which was unusual for the junior.

Up Next: OU hosts Texas A&M at Lloyd Noble Center on March 3 at 3 p.m. CT.

Oklahoma’s second-half struggles continued on Saturday. The Sooners squandered a halftime lead, falling 70-60 to Baylor at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. The Bears outscored OU 39-26 in the second half as the Sooners never could connect from beyond the arc (0 of 12 from the three-point line).

Player of the Game: Steven Pledger. Even though he was 0 of 5 from the three point line, Pledger finished with 21 points on 8 of 17 shooting. When Pledger went cold early in the second half, the Bears began to pull away.

Unsung Hero: Cameron Clark. The sophomore continues to improve in the final games of the season. He scored 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting with five rebounds and two steals. It was Clark’s fourth straight game in double figures after scoring 14 combined points in his previous four games.

Key Stat: 66.7 percent. Baylor guard Pierre Jackson’s three-point percentage. He was 4 of 6 from the three-point line including 3 of 4 in the second half. He finished with a team-high 18 points including 11 in the final 20 minutes.

Up Next: at Texas on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT

Preview: Oklahoma at No. 14 Baylor

February, 25, 2012
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For the first time this month, Oklahoma enters a game with a happy vibe after winning its first contest since Jan. 28 with a 77-64 victory over Oklahoma State on Wednesday.

The Sooners hope to carry that winning momentum to Waco, Texas, as they take on No. 14 Baylor Saturday at 12:47 p.m. CT. The Bears have struggled in recent weeks, going 2-3 in their past five games with losses to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.

Key to OU win: Hitting perimeter shots. If Baylor plays zone like they did in the first meeting, the Sooners can count on Steven Pledger to shoot well (42.9 percent from three-point line) but OU will need Cameron Clark, Carl Blair, Tyler Neal and, most importantly, Sam Grooms to shoot the ball well from the perimeter.

Key to BU win: Limiting the Bears’ open looks from beyond the arc. Perry Jones, Pierre Jackson and Quincy Miller will probably draw most of the attention but Brady Heslip and Anthony Jones can make OU pay if the Sooners leave them open.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Baylor's field goal percentage. Allowing teams to shoot 50 percent or higher has become too commonplace for OU. If they can keep the Bears below 50 percent shooting their chances to win improve significantly because it means the Sooners forced Baylor to take difficult shots.

Sooners X factor: Sam Grooms. Baylor is going to force the OU point guard to make outside shots. If he can do it, it will take the Bears out of their defensive game plan.

Bears X factor: Quincy Miller. The freshman had a subpar game in the first meeting (five points) but he averages 12.0 points per game. He has the size and talent to make a huge impact on Saturday.

Preview: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

February, 22, 2012
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No matter what happens, Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger believes his team has something to play for in its final four regular season games.

We will learn tonight if his team agrees.

The Sooners will carry a six-game losing streak into Wednesday’s Bedlam game against Oklahoma State (7 p.m. tipoff) at the Lloyd Noble Center. OU is 13-13 overall, 3-11 in the Big 12, while the Cowboys enter the game with a 13-14 record, 6-8 in the Big 12. OSU is 3-3 in its last six games including wins over Iowa State and Texas.

A strong effort from the Sooners will show if OU still believes it can salvage the season while a poor effort could mean it's ready to end this season as soon as possible.

Key to OU win: Keeping the Cowboys off the free throw line, particularly Keiton Page. OSU shot an eye-popping 56 free throws in Saturday’s win over Texas and Page was 20 of 20 from the line. The Sooners will have to limit OSU’s penetration and play sound defense to force the Pokes to score from the field.

Key to OSU win: Forcing OU to beat them from the outside. If Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald provide inside scoring for the Sooners it will open up shots for Steven Pledger and give OU confidence to snap its losing streak.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Steals. The team that wins the steals battle could have an advantage in this game because they will likely be getting easier shots than the opponent. Points off turnovers could be the key to this game.

Sooners X factor: Cameron Clark. The sophomore is coming on in the final weeks of his second season in crimson and cream. He has scored 29 points on 14 of 23 shooting in OU’s last two games. He logged a team-high 74 combined minutes in the two games.

Cowboys X factor: Brian Williams. The redshirt freshman is a bit of a wildcard. Williams can put up 20-plus points or put up three points but he is a solid defender and tends to make an impact on the game even if he doesn’t score.

One percentage will explain the Sooners memories of playing Iowa State this season.

Fifty percent.

The Cyclones shot 50 percent from the three-point line to defeat Oklahoma, 80-69, at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. ISU was 11 of 22 from the three point line and shot 28 of 54 from the field overall (51.9%).

In two wins over the Sooners, ISU shot 26 of 52 from beyond the arc (50%).

Player of the Game: Cameron Clark. The sophomore played with confidence and aggression, finishing with 16 points on 8 of 14 shooting. He added four rebounds and three steals.

Unsung Hero: Tyler Neal. Saturday’s performance makes back-to-back solid production from Neal. The sophomore had 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting with three rebounds and two blocked shots.

Key Stat: 18.1 percent. It was a tough shooting day for OU’s leading scorer Steven Pledger, who was 2 of 11 from the field including 0 of 4 from the three-point line. He scored seven points, 10 points less than his season average.

Up Next: The Sooners will host Bedlam against Oklahoma State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT at the Lloyd Noble Center.

A strong second half from Texas sparked the Longhorns' 69-58 win over Oklahoma on Tuesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center. UT outscored the Sooners 41-25 in the final 20 minutes.

Early turnovers by the Sooners and back-to-back three-pointers from J’Covan Brown, followed by another trey from Myck Kabongo sparked a 15-6 run in the first seven minutes of the second half.

Texas improved to 17-9 overall and 7-6 in the Big 12 with the win, while OU dropped to 13-12 and 3-10 in conference play.

Texas Player of the Game: J’Covan Brown. After he didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, Brown was brutally efficient in the second half. He scoring 15 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the field and added two steals in the final 20 minutes.

OU Player of the Game: Cameron Clark. The sophomore quietly had one of his best games of the season. He had 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting and added seven rebounds.

Texas Unsung Hero: Myck Kabongo. Despite three turnovers, the freshman point guard was solid in the second half with 11 points on 3 of 4 shooting and three assists. He finished with 13 points, 7 assists and 5 turnovers.

OU Unsung Hero: Tyler Neal. The sophomore forward has been searching for confidence throughout Big 12 play so his effort against the Longhorns could spark a strong finish to the season. Neal had eight points on 2 of 4 shooting and added four rebounds.

Key Stat: 17. The Longhorns scored 17 of their 41 points in the second half from the free throw line. Brown and Kabongo combined to go 10 of 10 as UT shot 17 of 18 from the line.

Key Stat, Part II: 19. The Longhorns had 19 points off turnovers in the second half as they created eight steals to help take OU out of its rhythm. The Sooners had 3 turnovers at halftime then turned the ball over 10 times as they watched their five-point halftime lead slip disappear in the second half.

Quotable: “I just had to be more aggressive and take the shots that were there.” -- Texas guard J’Covan Brown on his second half scoring.

“If you look at the points off of turnovers, that was huge for us in the second half. Turning those deflections into points was really big.” -- Texas head coach Rick Barnes

“Early in the second half it seemed like there was a possession or two that kind of deflated us a little bit. We just couldn’t get back on top. As a result of that, we played with a little bit less energy the rest of the way. We need to figure out a way to work through that.” -- OU head coach Lon Kruger

“I don’t think it was them. I think it was us being careless with the basketball and not making strong plays, trying to do things we shouldn’t be doing.” -- guard Sam Grooms on OU’s 10 second-half turnovers.

Preview: Texas at Oklahoma

February, 14, 2012
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Oklahoma hosts Texas (16-9, 6-6) in the first Red River Rivalry matchup of the season at the Lloyd Noble Center at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. The Sooners (13-11, 3-9) will be looking to rebound after one of the most disappointing performances of the season in their 65-47 loss to Texas Tech on Feb 11.

Either the Sooners will prove their loss to the Red Raiders was a fluke or they will let the bad momentum carry over into Tuesday’s game. OU has won one game since Jan. 17, losing 6 of 7 contests. The players are looking to get the taste of losing out of their mouths.

Key to OU win: Playing like they were embarrassed with their performance against Texas Tech. Execution and game plans don’t matter if the effort and intensity is not there. The Sooners will also need to get Steven Pledger more involved against the Longhorns than he was against Texas Tech.

Key to UT win: Getting to the free throw line. The Longhorns average 25.3 free throw attempts per game and get 25 percent of their total points from the line. UT guards J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo consistently get into the lane and have attempted at least 125 free throws this year.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Steals. Both teams average over six steals per game so whoever wins the steals battle is likely winning the battle of the guards, giving them a better chance to win the game.

Sooners X factor: Cameron Clark. There has been plenty of talk about Clark on the offensive end but if the sophomore plays well on the defensive end against UT, it will help the Sooners contain the Longhorns guards.

Longhorns X factor: Julien Lewis. A solid rebounder and defender, Lewis could provide a spark for the Longhorns with his athleticism. And he will make UT extremely dangerous if he provides a scoring punch as well.

Analysis: Baylor 77, Oklahoma 65

January, 24, 2012
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There are no moral victories, but it is clear Lon Kruger’s team is getting better.

No. 7 Baylor pulled away in the final minutes of regulation to knock off Oklahoma, 77-65, at the Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday night. The Bears, known for their athleticism, stopped their two-game losing streak with sharp shooting, finishing 27 of 50 on field goal attempts (54 percent), including 9 of 18 (50 percent) from the three-point line.

OU kept battling back from deficits throughout the second half but could never get over the hump. After the Sooners cut Baylor’s lead to 62-60 with 4:42 remaining, Baylor outscored OU 15-5 in the final minutes. The Sooners dropped to 12-7 overall and 2-5 in Big 12 play.

Player of the Game: Romero Osby was in beast mode against the Bears. The junior finished with 16 points, on 5 of 11 shooting, and 11 rebounds. He had five offensive rebounds and added two blocks and one steal in 38 minutes of action.

Unsung Hero: Sam Grooms. The junior point guard did a terrific job running the team against Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone defense, helping OU finish 27 of 58 (46.6%) from the field. Grooms had seven points and seven assists with zero turnovers in 35 minutes.

(Read full post)

Preview: No. 7 Baylor at Oklahoma

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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Oklahoma’s chance for redemption arrives on Tuesday night.

Three days after the Sooners' disappointing loss to Texas A&M, OU will host No. 7 Baylor at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday at Lloyd Noble Center. It is arguably the toughest test of the year for the Sooners as the Bears bring one of the most athletic teams in the nation to Norman. And the Bears enter Tuesday’s game on a two-game losing streak (back to back losses to Kansas and Missouri) so it’s safe to say Baylor will bring its A game.

If the Sooners want to prove they are on the right track, their battle with the Bears is a prime opportunity.

Key to OU win: Keeping the Bears out of transition. Baylor uses steals (8.9 per game) and blocked shots (6.3 per game) to get out into transition and score easy baskets. The Sooners have to protect the ball and take quality shots.

Key to Baylor win: Forcing OU into bad offensive possessions. Whenever teams get the Sooners out of their rhythm, OU tends struggle to get good shots, turning instead to forced jumpers and turnovers when they try to do too much.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Baylor assists. If the Bears finish the game with a high number of assists that means Baylor got into transition to get easy buckets or guards Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton consistently broke OU’s defense down to set up their teammates.

Sooners X factor: Cameron Clark. In a game full of athletes, Clark is second to none. If the sophomore uses his athleticism to challenge Baylor’s defense, it could create better shots for himself and his teammates.

Bears X factor: Brady Heslip. A sophomore transfer from Boston College, Heslip keeps defenses honest with his deep perimeter shooting. He’s 53 of 113 three-point attempts (46.9%) this season.

Triple Option: QB recruiting in 2013 

January, 18, 2012
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Three thoughts this morning:

1. Oklahoma's quarterback recruiting under coach Josh Heupel has evolved and it will be interesting which way the Sooners go for the class of 2013. Since Heupel became the quarterbacks coach in 2005, here's the list of OU quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Joey Halzle, Keith Nichol, Landry Jones, Drew Allen, Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson. Every quarterback since 2008 (Jones) has been a dual-threat, and the trend continues with the 2012 QB Trevor Knight, who rushed for 943 yards and 15 touchdowns this season to go along with 2,092 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns. In 2013, the Sooners seem to have an early list of four quarterbacks that they're targeting: two pro-style and two NFL-style, drop back passers. Those are Tyrone Swoopes and J.T. Barrett for the former category, and Kelly Hilinski and Brayden Scott for the latter category. And though none have been offered yet, Heupel will surely have to make up his mind soon. If it were me, I'd go with Barrett who, right now, is more of a polished passer than Swoopes.

2. Looking ahead for Oklahoma basketball, virtually all of the Sooners' rotation will return next season. Their only seniors are C.J. Washington, Barry Honoré and T.J. Franklin. Can they compete for a Big 12 title next season with this roster? Not likely. But they have to get more production out of forward Cameron Clark, who has had a disappointing sophomore season. Most projected him to have a breakout campaign, but his stats are down across the board and he's playing just 24 minutes per game, down from 34 last season. Clark was No. 32 overall on the 2010 ESPNU 100 and his athleticism is off the charts. But he has yet to put it together on the court, and if the Sooners want to contend in 2012-2013, Clark must improve tremendously.

3. Which Sooner will get taken first in the 2012 NFL draft? Most people think defensive end/outside linebacker Ronnell Lewis will get taken in the first two rounds, but my vote is for cornerback Jamell Fleming, who was the only OU player selected to the Senior Bowl. I don't know how fast he'll run the 40-yard dash or if he'll impress much at the NFL combine in March, but he can play in the pros. And I think his game tape is much more impressive than the extremely raw Lewis. I'll predict both Fleming and Lewis get drafted late in the second round.

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