Oklahoma Sooners: coaches' corner

After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff finally was able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Lancaster, Texas, cornerback Dakota Austin caught the eye of the Sooners last spring during OU's football camp. His size, or lack thereof, was a concern, but his coverage ability and competitiveness were obvious strengths. The Sooners waited until late in recruiting process before extending an offer but eventually decided Austin's coverage ability was just too good to ignore, even if it came in a 5-foot-10, 149-pound package.

"We had him in camp, he wasn’t as big but I loved him in camp," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "His footwork, ability to change direction. The more I got around this kid the more I started to like him."

Stoops paid close attention to Austin during the camp and got an excellent feel for the player's coach-ability and knack for overcoming his size disadvantage against several bigger receivers during one-on-one drills. Nonetheless, Austin was lightly recruited leading into signing day, until the Sooners swooped in with an offer. And OU hopes the lack of interest from others will spur Austin to bigger heights during his time in crimson and cream.

"I think he’s got something to prove," Stoops said of Austin's limited number of offers including Nevada, New Mexico and UTEP. "Because I think he was slighted throughout the recruiting process. I think he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder and I think he can be an impact player."
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff finally was able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

[+] EnlargeStanvon Taylor
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comStanvon Taylor could play well at many positions, but Oklahoma sees him strictly as a corner.
Tulsa (Okla.) East Central cornerback Stanvon Taylor drew unparalleled praise from the Oklahoma coaching staff on signing day, as they raved about the versatility and upside of the No. 199-ranked recruit in the ESPN300.

"People were talking about how Stanvon could be a receiver, but you love it when a corner has receiver-type ball skills to go after the ball," head coach Bob Stoops said. "He reminds us very much of Aaron Colvin, just the athlete that he is. We believe he is special. We are excited about Stanvon at corner. He is a great athlete and will play for us early.”

The Sooners would be giddy if Taylor matches Colvin's career path. Colvin starred at Owasso (Okla.) High School before playing cornerback early in his true freshman year in 2010 and leading the Sooners in tackles as a sophomore safety in 2011. Colvin returned to cornerback and earned All-Big 12 honors as a junior and decided to return for his senior season earlier this year.

Taylor has the versatility and ball skills to remind people of Colvin, and his talents could be needed immediately as the Sooners look to replace three starters in their secondary.

"We’re projecting him to come in and solidify our depth at the position," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "I can’t say enough about this guy. He’s going to play corner for us and I think he has a chance to be a special player, an Aaron Colvin-type player, they’re very similar in their styles and versatility as players. He has all the qualities you want to be a superstar, [he's] your prototypical cover corner."

There were questions about what position Taylor would play at OU but both Bob and Mike Stoops made it very clear they expect Taylor to line up on the defensive side of the ball. Yet that didn't keep OU's offensive coaches from noticing the talent he brings to the program.

“A lot of people in our profession say he might be the best in our class when it’s all said and done,” running backs coach Cale Gundy said.
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

[+] EnlargeJordan Evans
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comIn-state linebacker Jordan Evans was a late addition for the Sooners.
Norman (Okla.) North linebacker Jordan Evans made play after play as a high school senior. The Sooners weren't sure what position he might end up playing, but he was just too good to ignore and OU eventually offered and signed the local prospect.

"He’s just a great athlete," head coach Bob Stoops said. "He’s got a lot of range in size to him, and we’re like, 'Hey, we’ll find the right spot for him once we get him here.' "

Evans projects perfectly to be a hybrid defensive end/linebacker or he could end up playing either position for the Sooners. Regardless, he brings unique ability to the table as a 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker who returned multiple kicks for touchdowns during his senior year.

"He’s gifted athletically," linebackers coach Tim Kish said. "Anytime you have a linebacker that returns punts and kickoffs, it speaks volumes. He’s an excellent defender, so versatile. He has the speed, size and athleticism we are looking for at that position now."

Stoops likened him to former Sooner Dan Cody, who earned all-american honors at defensive end before being selected in the second round of the NFL draft.

"Dan Cody was absolutely the same way," Stoops said. "We kept watching Dan, and what’s he going to play? Once you work with guys daily you find what’s best for them and where they’re going to have the most success."

As the Sooners' defense strives to become more versatile, prospects like Evans become important pieces to the puzzle.

"He’s got the speed, the quickness, the agility to play outside linebacker," Stoops said. "He’s got the size where you’re unsure where he will end up growing to, but that’s good. The bottom line ... when we all looked at him and were watching him over and over is everybody likes him, so wherever he ends up kind of growing to, good."
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comIn-state linebacker Dominique Alexander could play early for the Sooners.
Linebacker Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) brings versatility to Oklahoma's defense. The Sooners had to hold off a late pursuit by Kansas State to secure his signature on signing day.

"Originally we looked at him as a safety," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "He gives us a lot of versatility. In this league we see so many spread teams that you have to have athletic linebackers. He’s a linebacker that can really cover a lot of ground. He understands playing well in space.”

With the Sooners searching for ways to be more versatile with their defense, Alexander could be a key addition and even help OU this fall.

"Another exceptionally talented linebacker with great feet and speed at the linebacker position," head coach Bob Stoops said. "We expect him to get ready to play.”

The Sooners have recognized that they will need more linebackers who can excel in space if they hope to slow the explosive offenses in the Big 12 and they're hoping Alexander is that type of player.

"He makes plays all over the field," linebackers' coach Tim Kish said. "While Jordan [Evans] may be more of an inside guy in our system, Dominique may be more of an outside linebacker type. Tremendous quickness, tremendous burst and great instincts for the football."
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Defensive tackle Charles Walker (Garland, Texas/South Garland) fits the definition of an under-the-radar recruit. The Sooners signed Walker because they saw something unique in him as he spurned offers from New Mexico, Houston, North Texas, Texas State and New Mexico State.

"We couldn't figure out what was going on with his recruitment," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of Walker's limited number of offers. "Charles is a very undervalued player in a national scope of recruiting, we really like what he can do."

Walker's athleticism is readily apparent in his highlight film which shows the 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive tackle signee block a punt, outrun the punter to the ball then return the blocked punt for a touchdown. That type of playmaking ability is one of the reasons the Sooners didn't care who else wanted Walker and didn't hesistate to add him to the program.

"All the stars and all the ratings go out of the window when you come through the doors here, it's about developing players," Stoops said. "He’ll have a chance to be a playmaker for us."
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

The Sooners hope they made a quality evaluation with their signing of defensive tackle Matthew Romar (Port Arthur, Texas/Memorial). The 6-foot-3, 265-pound future Sooner played various positions in high school, including running back. OU hopes the athleticism that allowed him to play running back will help him become a playmaker in the middle of the Sooners' defense.

"This guy played running back at times," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "He can do a lot of things, we love the way he plays. He's a very athletic guy. We're really happy to get him."

With every program in the country searching for quality defensive tackles, the ability to project players to the defensive tackle position is becoming more and more important. That's what the Sooners have done with Romar and OU is banking on his athleticism to take over once he gets familiar with playing defensive tackle on a full-time basis.

"He's a really good get," defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. "A big strong guy. He’s a pretty good running back so you know he has to have a little bit of explosiveness to him."

Coaches' corner: DT Quincy Russell

February, 28, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Oklahoma is hoping for immediate help at defensive tackle from junior college signee Quincy Russell (San Antonio/Trinity Valley).

"Being that he’s a junior college guy with the size and strength and quickness he has, well really all of these guys anymore we expect to make an immediate impact, but we expect Quincy [to make an impact] being that he’s older," OU coach Bob Stoops said of Russell's potential impact.

At 6-foot-3, 308 pounds, Russell brings needed bulk to the Sooners interior, joining Jordan Phillips as the lone 300-plus pounders at defensive tackle.

"A bigger bodied guy, we’re getting size to plug up those run lanes," defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said.

After the Sooners allowed 5.16 yards per carry in 2012, including 6.7 yards per carry in their three losses, OU was looking to make certain the 2013 version of the Sooners can stop the run. And that will require much better play from its defensive tackles.

"Solidifying our inside is a big priority," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "We need more plays from our guys up front. Quincy is a big physical guy who can hold down the middle of the field."

Coaches' corner: DT Kerrick Huggins

February, 27, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Kerrick Huggins
Damon Sayles/ESPNDefensive tackle Kerrick Huggins has the talent to play right away for the Sooners.
The Sooners looked to beef up along their defensive interior with four signees at defensive tackle. Dallas Skyline defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins is one of the prep interior players the Sooners hope emerge as difference-makers during their college careers. OU coach Bob Stoops is high on Huggins' combination of size, strength and quickness.

“[He's a] really a big, strong player, with excellent feet and quickness," Stoops said. "He's 6-3 to 6-4, 285 to 290 [pounds]. Excellent quickness, though. That’s the biggest thing as you watch him, the ability to change direction and move his feet. Really a strong player.”

Huggins' quickness could help him become a terror inside, but don't expect him to make a permanent move to the outside, where his size and quickness combination could be wasted with him lining up further from the ball.

“He’s a tackle if he is already 290 pounds and he is not even out of high school," Stoops said. "He’s going to be 300 to 310. He’s the guy that has the kind of quickness to be out there, but that’s the kind of quickness you want inside from a big guy.”

Editor's note: Huggins was one of the last Sooners to sign and the majority of the defensive staff couldn't comment on him until he officially faxed his letter of intent. Coach Bob Stoops, who talked about him during his afternoon press conference, was the lone coach who talked about Huggins on signing day.
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comThe Sooners like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo's pass rush abilities.
Defensive end signee Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Houston/Alief Taylor) is one of the most intriguing signees in the class. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Okoronkwo doesn't really fit the prototypical description of a Sooners defensive end. But he's a perfect fit for a hybrid defensive end/linebacker/pass rush specialist, a spot that could be useful against the various offenses in the Big 12.

"He’s a a smaller guy," defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. "[An] edge rusher, drop linebacker type of guy. He has get off, very physical, very talented, fast and explosive."

Okoronkwo displays terrific pass rushing ability, making it quite possible that he finds his way onto the field this fall if he shows a consistent ability to get to the quarterback during preseason camp in August.

"[He has] great acceleration," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "This is what we need on our defensive front. Guys that can make plays, get off blocks and rush the quarterback. He’s a tremendous rusher that gives us a speed guy off the edge.”

Which the Sooners were sorely lacking in 2012 as OU finished with 24 sacks in 13 games and no Sooner had more than 4.5 sacks. Okoronkwo will be overmatched by most offensive lineman but the Sooners are confident his quickness and relentlessness will overcome any physical disadvantage he faces in pass rush situations.

"Obo is a high motor guy, his motor never stops," linebackers coach Tim Kish said. "He’s going to give us that outside, off the edge pressure that we’re looking for."

Coaches' corner: DE Matt Dimon

February, 25, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

One of the most intriguing signees for the Sooners is defensive end Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy). A high-motor defender who matches his energy with production, Dimon could force his way into the lineup as a true freshman. Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright is hopeful Dimon steps right in alongside sophomores Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha to provide OU quality, yet youthful depth at defensive end.

"[He's] a quick-twitch guy off the edge, good run stopper, good pass rusher," Wright said. "Hopefully he’s a guy who can come in and give us immediate help at defensive end. And we’ll give him the opportunity to do that."

At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Dimon brings excellent size to the defensive end spot and could, in the long term, bring some swing versatility similar to David King, who played defensive end and defensive tackle as a senior.

"He’s kind of an old school-type guy," linebackers coach Tim Kish said. "He’ll bring great energy to the program."

Coaches' corner: DE D.J. Ward

February, 22, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Defensive end D.J. Ward (Moore, Okla/Southmoore) could be the most overlooked signee for Oklahoma. He didn't play during his senior year of high school after he was ineligible to play due to transfer rules. Therefore all the buzz and hype he had garnered during his sophomore and junior seasons disappeared.

D.J. Ward
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comWatch List defensive end D.J. Ward is already on campus at Oklahoma.
Yet, it didn't impact the Sooners coaches' excitement about landing Ward.

"D.J. is a guy that has been dying to play again," coach Bob Stoops said. "He has had a great attitude through it all and has continued to lift and run. You can tell that he looks like he is in excellent shape."

Ward is already on campus as an early enrollee which should help him shake off the rust after missing an entire season. Stoops is confident he can overcome it.

"I believe he will," he said. "He has continued to work out hard and looks great but I guess you do, you miss those snaps on the field.”

Once he does get back in the flow of playing football, Ward could make a difference during his career. He has good size, strength and quickness which gives him the ability to be a every down defensive end who can hold up against the run while developing into a solid pass-rusher.

"DJ is your prototypical defensive end," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.

And it could be sooner than expected with OU searching for pass-rushers this fall. The Sooners really struggled to rush the passer in 2012, opening the opportunity to make an immediate impact for newcomers like Ward.

"[He's] another guy who can factor in right away," linebacker coach Tim Kish said. "He’s got tremendous athletic ability, great size, great strength."

Coaches' corner: OL Dionte Savage

February, 21, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Oklahoma is looking to get tougher, more physical along its offensive front. Guard Dionte Savage (Flint, Mich./Arizona Western) should help the Sooners reach that goal. At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, Savage brings unique size to OU's interior line.

"This guy has size on top of size," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "What a physical presence he brings. When you say full-grown man when he walks in a room, this kid is a full-grown man. We had a lot of injuries last year and it was tough at the end getting healthy bodies out there. This guy is a big strong guy who can help us with our running game and depth."

After ending the 2012 season with very limited bodies at guard, Savage joins returning starters Adam Shead and Bronson Irwin along with Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati, who are returning from injuries. Savage brings a better body than any of the Sooners returnees.

"He is a specimen," running backs coach Cale Gundy said. "He’s someone we expect can come in and give us some help, possibly be one of our starting guards.”

The Sooners were impressed by Savage's dedication, as the former 400-pounder lost more than 60 pounds to get into better shape for his second season at Arizona Western.

"Dionte Savage is a big, strong, physical guy," head coach Bob Stoops said. "A huge weightlifter and a powerful, strong guy. He’s got great ability to move and great strength, so I believe he is going to help us be more physical in there. Just really powerful, an excellent young man. Loved having him on campus, he loves to work. He’s going to help us be more physical."
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

Oklahoma hopes it landed an offensive tackle with terrific long-term upside in Christian Daimler (Houston/Stratford). A 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Diamler is a lanky tackle with room to grow physically and mentally. The Sooners coaching staff repeatedly compared him to a departing starter on signing day.

"We [signed] an excellent athlete in Christian Daimler," head coach Bob Stoops said. "He’s a guy that reminds us a lot of Lane Johnson. Last check he’s taller than 6-6, almost 6-7, 285 or 90 pounds and is a good athlete."

The Sooners raved about Johnson's athleticism during his time in Norman, Okla. Now he's a potential first-round pick. OU hopes the same happens with Daimler, who is showing traits of unique athleticism at his size.

"He bends well, he uses his hands well and he stays on his feet," running backs coach Cale Gundy said.

One attribute that really stood out about Daimler is his ability to be athletic and keep his feet throughout a play, allowing him to make a bigger overall impact on plays. It wasn't unusual to see Johnson running down the field to get in position to make a downfield block. Diamler has shown similar traits.

"This is one of the guys we were able to spend time with at the satelitte camp in Houston," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "[He has] incredible length. When we watch offensive linemen it’s important to see guys with athletic ability who play hard, are hard-nosed but also can keep their feet. It’s difficult to find big people who can stay alive, keep their feet and stay on people and also play with the aggressiveness and toughness. You want to see a guy who dominates the line of scrimmage and pushes people around."

Coaches' corner: OT Josiah St. John

February, 19, 2013
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

With Lane Johnson moving on to the NFL, the Sooners needed to bring in some immediate competition at the tackle position. Junior college signee Josiah St. John (Athens, Texas/Trinity Valley Community College) fits the bill perfectly. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, St. John brings size and athleticism to the Sooners offensive line.

"We were looking for an older mature guy who can play tackle and help us at that position," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "That was an area of need with Lane Johnson leaving the program. He gives us maturity, gives us length and incredible depth at the position."

Tyrus Thompson, who saw extensive time at right tackle and spot duty at left tackle in 2012, could have stepped right in at left tackle with Daryl Williams at right tackle, but St. John will provide quality competition for both players, making nobody's starting spot secure under new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

"Josiah St. John is a big tackle, all of 6-foot-6, 305 or so pounds and is an excellent athlete at that position," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.

The Sooners fully expect St. John earn playing time this fall, with Stoops saying the Sooners don't bring in junior college players unless they anticipate immediate impact. Across the board, OU's offensive staff seems to believe St. John, the No. 6 player in the ESPNJC 100, could become a key contributor in 2013.

"Josiah St. John is somebody we expect can come in and help us immediately," running backs coach Cale Gundy said.

Coaches' corner: WR K.J. Young

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
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After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff was finally able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

The Sooners are confident they landed a diamond in the rough with K.J. Young (Perris, Calif./Citrus Hill). The receiver signee didn't see his recruiting pick up until the final weeks of the process but was a hot commodity in January.

[+] EnlargeK.J. Young
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comReceiver K.J. Young was pursued by Nebraska and Oregon in January.
“K.J. is a guy that everybody kept finding out about a little bit late," OU head coach Bob Stoops said while noting at Oregon and Nebraska were among the schools pursuing Young in January. "He has good size, and an amazing athlete. Everyone started to realize what a great athlete he is. He makes all kind of plays and is a strong kid. A good player who can do a lot of things.”

At 6-foot, 183 pounds, Young appears to have the skills and versatility to play the slot or outside receiver for the Sooners. He flew under the radar until linebackers coach Tim Kish unearthed him for the Sooners after his stellar senior season.

"He really blew up during the course of his senior year," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "He’s a great athlete, explosive and he uses his hands well.”

Once he got a glimpse at his game film, offering Young wasn't a hard decision for receivers coach Jay Norvell. It's easy to see with Young, he has terrific ball skills, open field ability and appears to have a innate ability to make plays.

"It doesn't really matter when you find a guy, when you see the film, the film doesn't lie," Norvell said. "He's a very versatile guy, he has great hands, great body control."

Norvell compared Young to former Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison as a 6-footer with long arms and big hands, allowing him to play bigger and longer than his height. He said it's a unique trait which always intrigues him when he sees it in a receiver.

"There's no doubt he'll fit in perfectly in our offense," Norvell said. "He does a lot of things very well and it's hard to deny a kid like that from coming to your program when he can help your team in so many ways."

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