Oklahoma Sooners: Courtney Gardner

NFL, LSU are options for Gardner 

December, 14, 2012
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All Sierra College wide receiver Courtney Gardner wants to do is play football.

After sitting out the 2012 season to deal with academic issues, he desperately wants to get back onto the field.

The question is where will he go? LSU? Test the waters of the NFL draft? Gardner doesn’t know, but he’s not going to stop working.

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

November, 8, 2012
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Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • New commit popular among OU coaches
  • Official visitor has formed a tight bond with his OU recruiter

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Courtney Gardner won't make it to OU 

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
2:19
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Throughout the year, it has been the dream for junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner to play at Oklahoma.

But now Gardner is going in another direction. Gardner confirmed Monday afternoon his plans are no longer to play for the Sooners but to enter the 2013 NFL draft.


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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
2:00
PM ET
Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • Are the Sooners close to landing a new commitment?
  • Top 2014 wideout is a fan of OU's pace

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Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
2:00
PM ET
Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • OU makes the final three for an elite defensive tackle who is visiting this weekend.
  • An in-depth look at some of this weekend's visitors.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The Sooners held their final two-a-day on Wednesday as preseason camp starts to wind down. OU has to feel pretty good about their 2012 recruiting class if they continue to perform like they have during preseason camp. At nearly every position the Sooners have a freshman who is pushing to play early. While OU had disappointments like receiver Courtney Gardner and offensive lineman John Michael McGee, there have been pleasant surprises like linebacker Eric Striker and defensive end Charles Tapper.

2. It’s good to see that the Sooners are exploring ways to get Roy Finch the football. OU doesn’t need the junior to play a defined position but they could be the beneficiaries if they use him in spot duty as a way to terrorize defenses that have already been put on their heels by Dominique Whaley's running or Kenny Stills' speed.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. This is why OU is recruiting Florida and California. From all reports here early in preseason camp, three freshman who are standing out are center Ty Darlington, cornerback Gary Simon and linebacker Eric Striker. Common thread? All three are from Florida with Darlington from Apopka, Simon from St. Petersburg Gibbs and Striker from Seffner Armwood. The quality of play in Florida from a high school standpoint does a tremendous job of preparing recruits for taking a step to that next level. It would almost be a bigger shock if any of the three redshirts this season.

2.The news on the progress of LaColtan Bester has to be promising. He seems to be a little forgotten at this point. Courtney Gardner was supposed to be the big-time junior college product and now Penn State transfer Justin Brown is getting a lot of attention. Bester is quietly going about his business. Remember Bester has only been a full-time receiver for one season. The more time he puts in with Jay Norvell, the more improvement will be seen and OU fans have a reason to be a little bit giddy about that.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Snagging Penn State wideout Justin Brown was a huge coup for the Sooners. Brown gives OU another big, fast wide receiver capable of stretching defenses. But don't automatically assume that Brown starts for the Sooners. Kenny Stills is a lock to start, and the way Trey Metoyer has performed so far in practice, it's going to be extremely difficult for Brown to beat him out either. Sterling Shepard is a better fit in the slot as a third receiver than Brown, who is an outside wideout. The Sooners could slide Stills to the slot on occasion, and swing Brown in on the outside. But at this point, it's very possible the Sooners start two freshmen -- Metoyer and Shepard -- in the opener against UTEP.

2. Even without Courtney Gardner or Kameel Jackson, the WR corps no longer looks like a thin group. And that's not even including Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders, who is hoping for an NCAA waiver to play right away. The Sooners have four options at the wideout spot in Stills, Metoyer, Brown and LaColtan Bester, whom the coaching staff seems to be rather high on. In the slot, the Sooners have Shepard and could use Stills and scatbacks Roy Finch and Brennan Clay there as well. When (if) they return to the field, Jaz Reynolds will only deepen the wideout spot, and Trey Franks could help solidify the slot. And if Saunders is somehow granted a waiver? Look out.

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As Oklahoma kicks off football practice this week, here are five storylines to watch this preseason:

1. How does Whaley look in pads?

The injury to Ryan Broyles overshadowed the impact of the loss of Dominique Whaley, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury midway through the 2012 season. Whaley has been cleared to practice, but even Bob Stoops admitted the Sooners won’t know how Whaley will handle cutting and contact until the team practices in pads. The Sooners have other options at running back, but Whaley is the most proven of any of them.

2. How will the offensive adjust to life without Habern?

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireFreshman receiver Trey Metoyer is already penciled in as an opening-day starter for the Sooners.
Stoops said this week that the offensive line will be ready to deal with the loss of center Ben Habern, who has given up football because of issues with his neck and back. The Sooners made a seamless transition for six games without Habern last season, sliding Gabe Ikard to center, and inserting Adam Shead in at guard. The Sooners shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Habern, but the line is a lot thinner than it was a week ago. Others like guard Bronson Irwin must step up.

3. Does Trey Metoyer build off his spring?

Other than Landry Jones, Metoyer was OU’s best offensive playmaker of the spring. Can the freshman phenom keep it going? By all accounts, Metoyer has busted it over the summer. So there’s little reason to doubt he won’t lock down a starting job before September.

4. Which other newcomer receivers will emerge?

With Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks expected to serve long suspensions, and Kameel Jackson still working on academics, OU will need wideouts other than Metoyer to emerge. Durron Neal has been slowed by a knee injury this summer, LaColtan Bester just got to campus and Courtney Gardner was unable to qualify. That leaves freshman slot receiver Sterling Shepard as the most likely to step into a prominent role. Shepard has wowed his teammates with his work ethic this summer.

5. Will the secondary regain some of its swagger?

The confidence of the defensive backfield was shaken the second half of the season following porous performances against Texas Tech and Baylor. The group even dropped its “Sharks” nickname. But the return of Mike Stoops has the secondary primed for a bounce-back season. A change of scenery could do wonders for Javon Harris and Gabe Lynn, who both figure to open the season in the starting lineup. If they hold up, the secondary could be awesome, with stars Tony Jefferson, Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst manning the rest of the unit.

Really sad, surprising news out of Oklahoma today. Here's our news story:
Oklahoma senior Ben Habern's career is over.

The Sooner center won't return to the team after offseason neck surgery that fused together two vertebrae, despite expectations that he would return at full strength this fall.

...

"Our coaching staff knows this was a difficult decision for Ben," [coach Bob] Stoops said in a statement. "Ben has been a consummate leader for our team, both on and off the field. We appreciate the toughness that Ben has displayed, and we wish him the very best as he completes his education at OU."

First things first: Absolutely hate to see this for Habern. I covered the Sooners for The Oklahoman during Habern's freshman year, and he's consistently been a great guy to cover from that point through just last week, when he was chosen as a representative for Oklahoma at Big 12 Media Days.

Here's the video he took time to shoot for us. (Stick around until the end).

It's truly shocking news. Habern must have been thinking about quitting, but didn't know until just recently. If Oklahoma knew Habern's status was in doubt, it's highly unlikely he would have represented the Sooners at media days.

Habern's dealt with neck and back issues throughout his career, which also featured a broken ankle in 2009 and a broken right arm last season that forced him out of five games.

His experience and leadership simply can't be replaced this season. Oklahoma's fantastic offensive line takes a huge hit with his loss.

As for his spot on the depth chart? Look for guard Gabe Ikard (one of the league's best overall linemen) to slide over to play center, and junior Adam Shead to move up and replace Ikard at guard. The Sooners can handle that. Don't be surprised if freshman Ty Darlington gets some time at center, too.

Still, Habern has been around for everything coming into this year, and been a stalwart at center for the past three seasons. He saw the 2009 collapse up close. He was integral in the rebound for a Big 12 title in 2010. He learned from the pressure of 2011.

He talked about his neck surgery at Big 12 media days last week, but gave zero indication he was even thinking about quitting.

Now, he has.

It's a sad story, no doubt, but Oklahoma has no choice but to move on.

As Habern moves on, here's hoping for the best for him. I'm confident he'll excel in his future endeavors.

Suspended players reinstated

In Wednesday's statement, Stoops also said that receiver Trey Franks, defensive back Quentin Hayes and receiver Jaz Reynolds were each reinstated from offseason suspensions, but only for preseason practice. Their availability for Oklahoma's season opener at UTEP on Sept. 1 was still undecided. Receiver Kameel Jackson was not reinstated, and his suspension will be re-evaluated "at the conclusion the current academic session."

Stoops also confirmed previous reports that wide receiver Courtney Gardner and offensive lineman Will Latu would not be available this season.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. ESPN 300 safety Hatari Byrd's (Fresno, Calif./Central East) commitment to OU on Tuesday was the good news Sooners fans needed after a disastrous Monday. But how will Byrd be utilized when he gets to Oklahoma next summer? ESPN.com scout Billy Tucker says Byrd's strength is his physical style around the line of scrimmage. Tucker thinks Byrd could be moved up to help run support or even play the nickelback in Mike Stoops' defense. Remind you of anyone, Sooners fans?

2. Assuming Courtney Gardner gets his grades in order this fall and enrolls at Oklahoma for the spring 2013 semester, Gardner could play a similar role to freshman receiver Trey Metoyer in that he'll have a chance to practice for the entire spring with the Sooners before the 2013 season. With Gardner in 2013, OU's receiving corps could be elite.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Monday night was a tough one for OU fans as Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage-Boca Delray running back Greg Bryant decommitted from the Sooners. It’s a major blow even though OU does have the commitment of the third-ranked RB in the nation in Cypress (Texas) Ranch back Keith Ford. Where might OU turn? Two names stick out in Adam Taylor (Katy, Texas/Katy) and Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage). And one incredibly dark horse name to keep tabs on is in-state back Diquon Woodhouse (Altus, Okla./Altus), who fared well at OU’s camp in June. With no favorites, the search is back on for Cale Gundy.

2. With USC taking the commitment of ESPN 300 defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor) on Sunday, the Trojans are officially out of scholarships. The Trojans have used up their 18 scholarships and 16 of their 18 commits have OU offers. The good news for OU is with USC out of the way, there are a lot of west coast products that have the Sooners on their short list. And OU can no longer be beaten in a head-to-head battle with USC.

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Oklahoma fans had to be disappointed to learn receiver Courtney Gardner will not wear a Sooners uniform this fall. The junior college signee would have brought a terrific combination size, speed and athleticism to Norman.

Yet, at the same time, it’s hard to miss something you never had.

While his teammates were handling their responsibilities within the program -- from spring football to summer workouts -- Gardner spent the spring and summer focused on academics. It was not a foregone conclusion that he would have made a major impact in this fall. He would have had to make a smooth transition into the program to become a playmaker in 2012. It’s not unheard of -- see Trey Metoyer, for example -- but it’s not easy either.

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Wide receiver Courtney Gardner confirmed to SoonerNation that he will not be at Oklahoma this fall, but still plans to enroll at OU in January.

Gardner said in a text message that he passed all the necessary classes, but didn’t complete his last English class on time. That would have forced him to come in late into this season, he said.

By staying at Sierra (Calif.) Community College and using up his redshirt this fall Gardner said he will still have two years of eligibility with the Sooners beginning in the 2013 season. Gardner said he plans to complete his necessary classwork at Sierra, then enroll at OU mid-semester, similar to fellow wideout Trey Metoyer this past winter.

Citing a source, the Tulsa World first reported Monday that Gardner would not be with the Sooners this fall. A source told SoonerNation, however, that Gardner would not in fact be “grayshirted,” which is usually reserved for high school players who are injured. The same source also confirmed that Gardner would not be with the Sooners this season.

Gardner said he remains firmly committed to the Sooners, and plans to take another visit to Norman during the OU-Notre Dame weekend of Oct. 27.

Gardner was one of the most prolific wideouts in junior college last season. He finished with 61 receptions for 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Landry Jones, Ben Habern and Bob Stoops all raved about one player who has flown under the radar the last year: offensive tackle Daryl Williams. When I asked Jones which younger player had impressed him most this summer, he singled out Williams. Remember, Williams all but solidified a starting job at right tackle with a very strong spring. Looks like he has carried that into the summer. If he does the same in the fall, the Sooners’ offensive line could be something special, given what they have returning in the interior up front.

2. Courtney Gardner is done with classes, meaning the watch is on as to whether he qualified at OU. Just a month ago, Gardner was optimistic he’d be fine and be in Norman before August. This week, we’ll find out. Gardner is a special physical talent and could really boost a wide receiving corps that was short on playmakers after Ryan Broyles went down last season. First, Gardner has to make it Norman.

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