Oklahoma Sooners: Gary Simon

Position breakdown: Cornerback 

March, 1, 2013
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Oklahoma’s best recruiting job of the offseason was convincing Aaron Colvin to return for his senior year. Colvin gives the Sooners a premier lockdown coverman who will make opposing QBs think twice about throwing his way.

Good thing, too, because OU’s other cornerback spot is a major question mark on this defense going into the spring.

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

February, 22, 2013
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Every Friday, 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:

  • An OU commit is visiting another Big 12 school this weekend
  • A Watch List wide receiver has several ties to the Sooners
  • A San Antonio tailback knows about OU's tradition in the backfield
  • The Sooners have ground to make up with an in-state defender
  • LSU leads for a talented OU offer
  • One in-state athlete says he's a running back all the way
  • A 2015 tight end wants to hear more from the Sooners
  • An OU basketball commit talks about his move to a new school

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.


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Simon, Anderson no longer on OU team

February, 17, 2013
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UPDATE: An OU spokesperson confirms junior defensive tackle Damon Williams is no longer on the team, as well.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma will be transitioning to three new assistant coaches this spring. The Sooners will also have to make do with just four scholarship cornerbacks and possibly as few as three scholarship defensive tackles during the spring, as well.

An OU spokesperson confirmed Sunday night that cornerback Gary Simon and defensive tackle Marquis Anderson are no longer with the squad.

That leaves the Sooners with only returning starter Aaron Colvin, Cortez Johnson and Zack Sanchez and Kass Everett at cornerback; and just Jordan Phillips, Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson at defensive tackle.

OU was hoping to add junior-college tackle Quincy Russell in January. Russell, however, still has academic work to complete before he can enroll. Of OU’s three returning defensive tackles, only Phillips saw even spot duty last season.

The Sooners signed three high school defensive tackles earlier this month, as well. But one of those, Kerrick Huggins, has yet to qualify and doubled-signed with Trinity Valley Community College in case he doesn’t make it Norman.

Coach Bob Stoops showed he hasn’t been happy lately with OU’s production or recruiting at defensive tackle, and fired his longtime defensive tackles coach, Jackie Shipp, last week. Last season, the Sooners ranked 94th in run defense and 108th in tackles for loss.

OU also lost its top three defensive tackles -- Casey Walker, Jamarkus McFarland and Stacy McGee -- to graduation.

The Sooners face transition in the secondary, as well. Three of five starters are gone, and Simon was expected to challenge Johnson for the starting job at corner opposite Colvin.

State of the program: Cornerback 

January, 1, 2013
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After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s cornerbacks in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the cornerbacks on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future.

[+] EnlargeCortez Johnson
Jesse Beals/ Icon SMIFormer Arizona defensive back Cortez Johnson started two games as a freshman for the Wildcats.
Next in line: Gary Simon. The Sooners spoke highly of Simon before the season and he’s spent the season preparing to step in to make a major contribution as a sophomore. With his long arms, athleticism and ball skills, Simon could become a key component of OU’s secondary in 2013.

Keep an eye on: Cortez Johnson. The Arizona transfer could step in and start after sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules. At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, Johnson brings excellent size to the position and he has experience, having played in eight games, starting two, for the Wildcats as a freshman.

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Roundtable: Biggest hole on defense? 

December, 13, 2012
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Every Thursday, the SoonerNation staff will answer a roundtable question about OU football. Leave a comment or talk about it in our "There's Only One" forum.

Today's question: Which graduating Sooner leaves the biggest hole for Oklahoma to fill on defense in 2013?

[+] EnlargeSkye Dawson, Demontre Hurst
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSooners cornerback Demontre Hurst has been a three-year starter.
• One of the reasons that Oklahoma was so good against the pass this season was its cornerback tandem. Aaron Colvin was the star of this duo, earning All-Big 12 honors. But Demontre Hurst also provided standout coverage. In the last three years, the Sooners have never had to worry about the steady, durable Hurst or his position. That changes in the spring. Gary Simon has potential and Cortez Johnson has experience from Arizona. But neither is the player yet that Hurst has proved to be.

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Which Sooners might bolt early for NFL? 

December, 10, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. -- After the 2007 season, neither Malcolm Kelly, Curtis Lofton nor Reggie Smith were projected as first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

But all three were top-three round picks. And that was enough to convince them to leave Oklahoma a year early and enter the draft.

This year, the Sooners again don’t appear to have any underclassmen that project as first-round picks. But up to four different underclassmen Sooners could be taken in the first three rounds if they to decide to come out in January. SoonerNation breaks down the four players who might be mulling their futures over the next month:

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesJunior safety leads the Sooners in tackles this season with 113.
Free safety Tony Jefferson

The case for leaving: Jefferson has indicated before that he might jump to the NFL if he projected to be a relatively high pick. Mel Kiper Jr. wrote earlier this month that both Jefferson and Florida safety Matt Elam “have a shot” to go in the first round. “Both can contribute all over the field. Cover, tackle, get into the backfield -- you name it,” Kiper wrote. Given that Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro ranks as Kiper’s top senior safety on the board, it’s not unthinkable that Jefferson could be the top safety taken. At the least, Jefferson figures to be one of the top five safeties in the draft coming off an All-Big 12 junior season, which would make him no worse than a third-rounder.

The case for staying: As good as Jefferson was this season, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said two weeks ago that Jefferson still has much to work on before reaching his potential. “He does some things that really aggravate you, but he comes back and does so many good things,” Stoops said. “He has a chance to be special, and getting him to understand the little things — the finer things that make players great — has always been my struggle with Tony.” That doesn’t exactly sound like an endorsement that Jefferson is ready for the NFL. Scouts Inc. believes that Jefferson specifically needs to improve his instincts and recognition. With a strong senior season that improves on the little things like that, Jefferson could possibly lock up a place in the first round.

Who would replace him: If Jefferson left, the Sooners would be in a pickle at safety, considering senior Javon Harris is gone, too. Quentin Hayes was going to be OU’s third back safety this season, but that was before he was suspended indefinitely in the summer. Top backup Jesse Paulsen is gone after this season, too. The Sooners could bump Gabe Lynn to Jefferson’s spot, and move Julian Wilson to nickelback. Of course, they might need Wilson at safety, as well. With cornerback Demontre Hurst also graduating the secondary could face a major transition if Jefferson bolted, too.

Wide receiver Kenny Stills

The case for leaving: Like Jefferson, Stills has indicated that he might leave early if he projected relatively high pick. Stills doesn’t have a shot at the first round like Jefferson, but ESPN Insider currently projects Stills out to be a mid-to-late third-round pick. Stills has had a banner junior season, and has displayed tremendous hands around the end zone. Stills plays bigger than his 6-foot, 190-pound frame and would test well enough in the agility and speed drills at the combine. If he came back, he’s also have to deal with a QB transition that could affect his stats.

The case for staying: There’s no doubt that Stills could improve his stock with another year. Stills’ Scouts Inc. evaluation doesn’t give him an “exceptional” grade in any area, and gives him a “below average” intangibles grade. If Stills showed leadership next season with a new quarterback and improved his skills across the board, he could become one of the top receivers on the board.

Who would replace him: The Sooners have several young options at receiver. Trey Metoyer and Durron Neal could be ready to step into the starting lineup next season on the outside. OU also has Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard coming back in the slot next season.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin


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Freshman update: CB Gary Simon 

December, 6, 2012
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He’s raw, he’s young and inexperienced. Yet, he could have one of the highest long-term upsides of the freshmen on Oklahoma's roster.

Cornerback Gary Simon is just starting to tap into his potential. A high school standout on the basketball court, Simon has spent his first season on campus learning the cornerback position and preparing himself to become a bigger part of OU’s defense in 2013.


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Five Sooners to watch in bowl practices 

December, 5, 2012
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Bowl practices can be a critical time for any football program. It’s an opportunity for young players to show how they’ve improved during the season and set themselves up in integral roles on the offense or defense heading into the spring while the veterans recover from a physical schedule.

Here’s a look at five young players at Oklahoma who could use bowl practices as a springboard to a bigger role for the Sooners in 2013.

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Richard Rowe/US PresswireTrey Metoyer began the season as a starter for the Sooners and finished with 17 catches for 148 yards.
Receiver Trey Metoyer

It’s important Metoyer understands he is still a big part of OU’s offensive plans in the future and that starts with these bowl practices. With Justin Brown leaving and Kenny Stills potentially declaring for the NFL draft, the Sooners will need Metoyer to emerge as a quality target as a sophomore.

With the Sooners looking at playing without Jalen Saunders after his recent arrest, Metoyer could be asked to play a bigger role in the offense during the Cotton Bowl. Metoyer began the season as a starter but his youth and inexperience showed at times during his freshman season.

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips

Phillips’ development is one of the most critical concerns for the Sooners heading into 2013 with their top three defensive tackles -- seniors Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee and Casey Walker -- leaving the program after the Cotton Bowl.

The redshirt freshman has great size (6-foot-6, 316 pounds) and has seen more playing time as the season has progressed, recording 12 tackles. He’s had his moments when he’s played well but he’s far from a finished product. And the Sooners will desperately need him to play like one in 2013.

Cornerback Gary Simon

Senior Demontre Hurst has played as well as anyone on OU’s defense in 2012 and will be a big loss when he moves on after the Cotton Bowl. And junior Aaron Colvin could decide to test NFL waters. Therefore, Simon’s progress is important for OU’s defense.

The true freshman has seen limited playing time in blowout wins this season, so the bowl practices could be a opportunity for him to see some time with the No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense. Simon impressed in the preseason and has the physical traits to be an impact player, he just needs the experience.

Defensive end Geneo Grissom


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An eye on 2013: Defense 

November, 8, 2012
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As Oklahoma stares at the final four games of the regular season, the Sooners still have several goals, including a possible BCS berth, within reach.

Nonetheless, Oklahoma football is about championships. And a BCS title berth is out of the question and an outright Big 12 championship would require a Kansas State collapse down the stretch.

Therefore, now is a good time for the Sooners to starting thinking of 2013 as well as finishing off 2012 without another loss. Both goals can be accomplished if OU makes it a point to play some of the young players on its roster that it will be counting on in 2013. Here’s a look at five offensive players who should see more time in OU’s final four regular season and bowl game appearance:


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Each Week SoonerNation recruiting writers Bob Przybylo and Brandon Chatmon will faceoff on one issue regarding Oklahoma recruiting.

This week’s question: In which state should OU consider most important in its recruiting efforts: Florida or California?


Bob Przybylo: OU shouldn’t stray away from Florida, but it’s clear the money is in California right now for the Sooners. Or at least perception is, anyway.

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Roundtable: Can season be a success? 

November, 1, 2012
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Every Thursday during the season, the SoonerNation staff will answer a roundtable question about OU football. Leave a comment or talk about it in our "There's Only One" forum.

Today's question: With two losses already, how can the Sooners make this a successful season?

• Depends on your definition of a successful season. In August, I think most people would say, including the players, that a season that didn't include a Big 12 championship and run at the national championship would not be successful. But the Sooners can still have a good season. A 10-2 record and a BCS bowl trip to, say, the Rose Bowl, would be a nice, solid season.
-- Jake Trotter


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Oklahoma redshirt plan coming into focus 

September, 11, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Through two games, the Sooners have played nine true freshmen: wide receivers Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, tight end Taylor McNamara, center Ty Darlington, defensive ends Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Gary Simon. With the cupcake portion of the schedule over and one with, it appears the rest of the true freshmen will redshirt this season.

SoonerNation breaks down the rest of the freshman class, from those most likely to least likely to make an impact in 2013:

[+] EnlargeTrey Metoyer
Richard Rowe/US PresswireReceiver Trey Metoyer is one of nine true freshmen who have played this season for the Sooners.
1. Alex Ross, running back: The Sooners could have an opening in the backfield for Ross with Dominique Whaley due to graduate. Damien Williams figures to be projected starter, and then there’s Brennan Clay and Roy Finch. But Ross nearly avoided this redshirt this season with an even more crowded backfield. Ross’ future is bright.

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Five storylines: Oklahoma Sooners 

September, 6, 2012
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Storylines for the Sooners as they face Florida A&M on Saturday:

1. The Sooners struggled in their opener against UTEP. FCS opponent Florida A&M presents an opportunity for OU to get on track before Big 12 play begins on Sept. 22 against Kansas State.

2. Because of the closeness of the UTEP game, several of OU’s true freshmen did not get to play as expected. Should this game get out of hand as predicted, true freshmen cornerback Gary Simon, linebacker Eric Striker and defensive ends Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha should get ample playing time.

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Postgame wrap: Oklahoma 24, UTEP 7 

September, 2, 2012
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Analyzing the finer points of Oklahoma’s 24-7 win Saturday at UTEP:

• I had high hopes for OU’s special teams. But this was the most disastrous special teams performance in a long time. The Sooners had a punt blocked for a touchdown, a field goal blocked and repeatedly turned Michael Edwards loose trying to cover punts. Had UTEP’s field-goal kicking not been even worse, the Sooners might have lost. It’s too soon to write off OU’s special teams. Michael Hunnicutt did nail a 38-yarder, and Tress Way otherwise had a strong night punting, pinning UTEP inside the 20 three times. But let’s not act like OU’s special teams issues have been solved either. Special teams didn’t get OU beat Saturday. But they almost certainly will down the line if they don’t improve.

[+] EnlargeNathan Jeffery
Jim Cowsert/US PresswireUTEP running back Nathan Jeffery killed the Sooners on the ground, but was dinged up late in the game.
• Had OU’s offense been much crisper, we’d probably be harping more on how improved Landry Jones’ footwork is. Jones’ work with QB tutor George Whitfield this offseason has really paid off. Jones would not have been able to deliver the 68-yard bomb he threw across his body to Kenny Stills along the opposite sideline last season. “After that TD, I told Landry, ‘You look great,’” Stills said. “He worked really hard in the offseason, and he looks great and has a lot of confidence.” Jones got outside the pocket more times in one game than he did all of last season. On one play in the second quarter, Jones sidestepped the blitz, then delivered an off-balance strike to Dominique Whaley. Had Whaley not dropped the pass, he might have scored.

• Considering he’s been one of OU’s most consistent playmakers over the last two seasons, it’s crazy to think that Roy Finch didn’t get a single offensive snap Saturday. Not one. The Sooners had designed a package for Finch in the slot full of screens and reverses, but didn’t go to it once. They didn’t give him a look in the backfield, either. I asked co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell why Finch was relegated to the sidelines once again, especially on a night in which the offense struggled to make plays. “We have a lot of playmakers that can do a lot with the ball,” Norvell said. “Roy is going to have to work harder to where he gets himself in the mix.” Evidently, Finch is still not getting it done in practice. Until he does, the Sooners are not going to play him. No matter how many plays he’s made in the past.

• Whaley returned from last year’s broken ankle to mixed results. He ran for 54 yards on 11 carries, but didn’t display the same elusiveness and power that made him one of college football’s best stories in 2011. “I felt great ankle-wise, conditioning-wise,” he said. “But my performance could have been a lot better.” It might take a couple of games for Whaley to find his footing. He started to run harder as the game wore on. That was a positive sign.

• More positive was the play of Whaley’s backup, junior-college transfer Damien Williams, who was OU’s best back on this night. Williams ran for 104 yards on nine carries, including a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Williams broke tackles, and showed plenty of elusiveness in the open field. “We’re excited to complement Dom with Damien,” Bob Stoops said.

• The Sooners brought back the “Diamond” formation after a one-year hiatus. The formation, which was so effective late in 2010, was shelved last season. But offensive coordinator Josh Heupel reintroduced the package, this time using fullbacks Trey Millard and Jaydan Bird and either Whaley or Damien Williams. The Sooners caught UTEP off-guard on playaction off the package, as Jones hit Stills on a post pattern inside the Miners 5. Whaley, however, was flagged with a chopblock, wiping out the play. “I saw a defender who outweighed me,” Whaley said, “so I decided to go for the chop.” Guard Adam Shead was still engaged with the defender, though, resulted in the penalty. It will be interesting to see how much the Sooners use the Diamond going forward. But if it can augment what was an inconsistent running game Saturday, it should become a mainstay.

• Three times when the game was still in doubt, the Sooners turned to Belldozer on third-and-short. Three times, the Sooners got first downs. Bob Stoops said he would have liked to use the Belldozer more, but because of the inconsistency of the offense, OU rarely was in third-and-short. More times, the Sooners were in third-and-long. For the Belldozer to be utilized, OU has to do more on first and second down.

• OU was awful early on in its perimeter blocking on the bubble screens. For those plays to work, Justin Brown and Trey Metoyer can’t whiff on cornerbacks. A couple of times, that got Whaley clocked. Eventually, that will lead to turnovers and injuries.

• The Sooners added a new wrinkle to the offensive play-calling: placards. Unlike Oregon, which is quite creative in its placards to signal in plays, OU’s were quite ordinary, using only numbers and colors. I’m not sure if the placards slowed down OU’s offensive tempo. But if they did, they need to be revisited. When the Sooners were going fast, they moved the ball. When they weren’t, they didn’t.

• UTEP’s Nathan Jeffery nearly became the first back to rush for more than 200 yards against OU since Missouri’s Brad Smith in 2002. Jeffery, who also returned the blocked punt for a TD in the first quarter, was sensational, finishing with 177 yards on 21 carries. "I'm disappointed we didn't play the run game better," said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "We bent a little, but we didn't give up any points. It's good to be tested. We don't have to hear everybody telling us how good we are." Otherwise, though, the defense was pretty stout. The secondary, which was spectacular, didn’t give up any big pass plays, and outside Jeffery's 71-yard run, the defense made UTEP earn its way down the field. Welcome back, Mike Stoops.

• The unsung play of the game? Caleb Gastelum’s tackle on UTEP’s fake punt in the fourth quarter. That all but sealed OU’s win.

• Despite the hype of this freshmen class, very few made it onto the field. CB Gary Simon, LB Eric Striker and DE Michael Onuoha all watched this game from the sidelines. Defensive end Charles Tapper didn’t get in until late in the game. Running back Alex Ross made the trip, but didn’t play either. He’s a strong redshirt candidate. The three freshmen who did play – WRs Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard -- made little impact. Neither Neal nor Shepard recorded a catch in limited action. Despite his sterling spring, Metoyer struggled to assimilate into the offense. He finished with four catches for 21 yards. Metoyer did make a circus catch along the sideline that would have resulted in a TD, but he couldn’t get the first foot in bounce. “The timing was bad,” he said. “We just weren’t connecting.” Honestly, this should have been expected. Jones’ rapport with his freshmen and Penn State transfer Justin Brown will improve. Developing chemistry only comes through playing games together.

• Speaking of Brown, while he didn’t very involved in the offense (4 catches, 32 yards) he flashed off his potential as a punt returner. Breaking tackle after tackle, Brown weaved his way through the UTEP coverage for a 26-yard punt return. Brown has the potential to go the distance at any time. The Sooners have needed more breakaway threats on special teams. Brown appears to be just that.

• You have to admire how hard David King played in his first start at defensive tackle. With Casey Walker and Stacy McGee both in Norman, King carried the line by disrupting UTEP’s pass protection with his quickness. Play after play, Miners QB Nick Lamaison had to back peddle then throw the ball away because King and others were in his face. Despite never coming off the field, King played a spirited game all night, finishing with three tackles, including one for loss that forced UTEP to settle for a field goal attempt on its first drive. King also had a game-high two QB hurries. UTEP had success running Jeffrey up the middle, but a lot of that transpired because OU’s ends and linebackers didn’t close on the bend-back run quickly enough. OU’s d-line is hurting for depth. Think about where they’d be without King, and his ability to swing to tackle in a pinch.


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In 2009, Demontre Hurst emerged as Oklahoma’s third cornerback as a true freshman. Aaron Colvin did the same in 2010.

Now, true freshman Gary Simon is poised to become OU’s third corner this season.

“Gary’s played awfully well,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He’s very athletic, he’s very long and he’s very explosive.”

Simon missed OU’s summer program while finishing classwork in Florida. While he’s dazzled at times this preseason, Stoops admits Simon still has work to do before becoming a player the defense can trust.

“Understanding the urgency, for a young player, becomes a very important element that Gary needs to be able to process,” Stoops said. “This is not high school, and getting high school players out of that mode can be somewhat frustrating. High school kids can get away with a lot of stuff when you’re in high school and a tremendous athlete. When you come out here and compete against these guys, you’ve got to play with great technique, great speed and great urgency.

“We have got to get Gary to understand there is a speed this game has to be played at, and a sense of urgency. When he gets that, he can be a very effective player for us.”

Junior Tony Jefferson said Simon could become a key player for the Sooners this season if he commits to improving during his freshman campaign.

“Gary’s got the whole package,” Jefferson said. “He’s fast, long and can jump out of the roof. He’s the perfect fit for a cornerback, we just have to get him in the film room and get his technique down.”

Hurst has already been impressed by Simon’s ability to improve and adapt, considering the Florida native didn’t arrive on campus until right before preseason camp began.

“Gary came in at the start of fall camp and he’s matured a lot,” Hurst said. “For him just being here two weeks, he’s had a lot thrown at him. He has the athletic ability (to contribute).”

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