Oklahoma Sooners: Bobby Jack Wright

NORMAN, Okla. -- With four practices in the books and spring break upon us, spring football is in its early stages at Oklahoma.

Already, however, there are murmurs of a spring star emerging in Norman for the Sooners.

[+] EnlargeCortez Johnson
Jesse Beals/ Icon SMICortez Johnson spent a year at Arizona and was recruited by Mike Stoops.
“Cortez Johnson has been a big surprise,” cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “I love the way he’s been working, his work ethic has been great. He’s a guy that wants to be good, he listens, he pays attention and tries to do everything we ask him to do.”

A transfer from Arizona, Johnson brings unique size to the cornerback position at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds. Johnson has been impressive early this spring, making it known that he plans to be a major contributor on OU’s defense.

With Demontre Hurst completing his eligibility after starting the last three seasons at cornerback, Johnson is staking claim to the starting spot opposite returning All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin. Redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez and walkon Brandon Young have been battling Johnson for the job but neither player has ignited the rave reviews from teammates and coaches like Johnson has.

“He’s made more plays and batted more balls down, just in four practices, than we’ve probably had around here the past two years,” Wright said.

Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, has a combination of ball skills, long arms and overall athleticism which could help him be up to the task if he wins the starting job and opponents decide to test him instead of challenging Colvin.

“Cortez is a big, physical guy,” Colvin said. “He’s really strong at the line of scrimmage.”

Sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard, who battles Johnson regularly in practices, has become a believer during his one-on-one matchups with the transfer.

“He’s a great corner,” Shepard said. “Cortez has long arms. He can break up some stuff you don’t even think he can break up but his arms are so long, he’ll end up getting it.”

With Wright transitioning from coaching defensive ends to coaching cornerbacks, he sees Johnson as a player with tremendous upside if his work ethic remains high. Otherwise, the Sooners have multiple newcomers, including February signee Stanvon Taylor (Tulsa, Okla/East Central), who could amp up the competition opposite Colvin and seize Johnson’s opportunity to start at that spot.

“He’s got the physical stature,” Wright said of Johnson. “What he has to do now is continue [improving] his technique.”

As teams will undoubtedly be hesitant to test his side, Colvin knows the Sooners defense is going to need a quality cornerback on the other side of the field. And what he’s seen from Johnson leads him to believe the lanky cover man can be the guy.

“He’s been really good,” Colvin said. “I’m probably the hardest on Cortez. And he probably doesn’t like that sometimes, but he’s going to be special.”

Coaches' corner: P Jed Barnett

March, 13, 2013
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.

OU will have to replace four-year starter Tress Way at punter this fall. And it won't be easy. Way was one of the nation's top punters and brought peace of mind to the Sooners coaching staff.

Coach Bob Stoops hopes Jed Barnett (Camas, Wash./Laney College) can step right in to fill the void.

"Jed Barnett is a guy we really needed," Stoops said. "He’s one of the best junior college punters in the country. His hang time is around four seconds or better. He averaged over 40 yards per punt. No one gets really excited about Jed until next year when you’re punting the ball. I was focused on it and really excited about Jed. He’s got a big leg, and I really believe he’s going to be a key ingredient for us when we’re on the field next fall."

Stoops said the Sooners went out of their way to land a punter who was ready to make a immediate impact because he felt the punters already on the roster (Dylan Seibert and Jack Steed) weren't quite ready yet. Now, OU is counting on Barnett to win the job and solidify the position for the next two seasons.

"Really excited about getting Jed," said Bobby Jack Wright, who was OU's special teams coordinator in 2012. "He had a heck of a season, I’m anxious to get him out this spring and see how he can do with live bullets coming at him. He’s got a big strong leg, can really boom it."
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
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."

WR talks about picking up offer from OU 

February, 26, 2013
If you’re a quality player from the San Antonio area and hearing from Oklahoma, there’s a good chance assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright is your first contact.

Wright coaches defensive ends for OU, but he has been the man in charge of the San Antonio area at OU for years. And if the Sooners get really serious, that’s when the position coach starts to make his name.

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."

Roundtable: OU's best recruiter in 2013 

January, 31, 2013
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.

[+] EnlargeCale Gundy
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCale Gundy's work of adding one of the top tailbacks in Texas earns high praise.
Today's question: Which Oklahoma coach has recruited best for the Sooners in 2013?

• In two years, Bobby Jack Wright has loaded up the defensive end spot for bear in Norman. Last year, he signed promising athletes Charles Tapper and Mike Onouha. This year, he augmented the position further, garnering commitments from two of the Top 25 DEs in the country in D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon. That foursome, along with upside prospect Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, whom the Sooners swiped from Oklahoma State, should ensure that defensive end is a position of strength for years to come.

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ESPN 300 DE Dimon '100 percent with OU' 

December, 28, 2012
Four-star defensive end Matt Dimon (Katy, Texas/Katy) has been a firm Oklahoma commit since he pledged to the Sooners in mid-March.

He has never given an indication about things between him and the Sooners going south. For that reason, the last week has been perplexing to Dimon, who is ranked No. 284 in the ESPN 300.

Dimon helped Katy win the state championship last weekend, being named the Defensive MVP of the championship in the process. He thought he would be bombarded with people asking him about the championship. Instead, most of the attention was on Texas and the surprising rumors that he was thinking about looking at the Longhorns.

“I really don’t know how it all started,” Dimon said on Thursday night. “I had a couple of reporters texting me about Texas being interested.

“I never said I was interested in Texas. What I said was how can I not be interested if they did want to look at me? Out of respect, I would have to listen. I don’t want to burn any bridges.”

Dimon has thought about answering some of the questions on Twitter, letting people know he is still solid with the Sooners. But he’s opting to just ignore it and to start getting ready for heading to Norman in the summer.

Make no mistake about it, though, he is all about the Sooners.

“My family has read a lot of the things that have been said in the last week, but I don’t want to get into that stuff,” Dimon said. “I’m 100 percent with OU. I would feel wrong switching this close to signing day.

“I have spent like $800 worth or something like that on OU clothes. I’m so happy to be able to get a chance to play at OU.”

And OU is happy to get Dimon on campus. Dimon was among the first defensive end offers by the Sooners, and OU was clearly in the lead after his visit for junior day before nabbing his commitment 10 days later.

OU defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright was impressed with Dimon then and nothing has changed nearly 10 months later.

Dimon, who is 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, was a force for Katy, accumulating 15 sacks and 33 tackles for loss.

His most memorable play, however, wasn’t a sack or tackle. It was an interception returned for a touchdown against Cibolo (Texas) Steele in the semifinals.

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After Monday’s practice, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he was mostly pleased with how the defense performed in the loss to Kansas State.

“For three quarters we did exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “If you can hold them to three points through three quarters, that’s very difficult to do. I don’t know if anybody’s ever done that.

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Under Stoops, OU impressive after byes

September, 12, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- The last time an opponent as highly ranked as Kansas State came to Norman after a Sooners off week was Texas Tech in 2008.

Oklahoma played perhaps its most complete game under Bob Stoops, annihilating the second-ranked Red Raiders 65-21 in a rout that ultimately propelled the Sooners to the national championship game.

Next weekend, OU will play in biggest home game maybe since. The Wildcats are coming off a 52-13 drubbing of Miami and are ranked as high as 14th in the polls.

The Sooners, however, have an extra week to get ready for Bill Snyder’s 'Cats. And OU has been lethal when it has had an additional week to prepare. Especially at home against ranked opponents.

All told, coming off a bye OU is 6-0 against ranked opponents in Norman under Stoops, winning by an average margin of 25 points. Among those wins was OU’s program-changing, 31-14 victory over top-ranked Nebraska in 2000.

“I would say we’ve played well with Coach Stoops period, non-bye week or bye week,” said running backs coach Cale Gundy. “You go into every game preparing the same way. We don’t talk about it anymore, we don’t focus on it anymore”

But like Nebraska in 2000 and Texas Tech in 2008, the Wildcats definitely have OU’s focus. The Sooners blasted K-State in Manhattan 58-17 last season.

But the Wildcats went on to finish the regular season 10-2, then started off this season with one of the most impressive nonconference victories so far in 2012. Only once since 1970 had the Hurricanes allowed 50 points in a game.

Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright, who has been with the Sooners since Stoops arrived before the 1999 season, said K-State’s performance against Miami should eliminate the chance OU comes out flat, which can sometimes plague teams coming out of an off week.

“Sometimes with an off week, there’s a little staleness in there, when you haven’t played for two weeks,” he said. “But all you got to do is put that tape on of that Miami game. It definitely got our guys’ attention.

“We already had tremendous respect for them. I think our guys are going to be focused and they know from years past, they know how well coached they are, they know how physical they are, how precise they are in how they run their offense. Our guys will be ready to play.”

The Sooners usually are ready to play coming out of off weeks. Especially at home when the stage is big.

Mixon appreciates OU's honest approach 

September, 9, 2012
Recruits sometimes recognize when a school is telling them what they want to hear. In his experience, defensive end Dimarya Mixon (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) has been able to notice the difference.

When it comes to Oklahoma, Mixon knows he is getting an honest assessment. He has known it from his talks with the coaches.

And it was confirmed again after spending a weekend with the players, including his host Chuka Ndule, a sophomore defensive end.

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It’s been a surprise to see Oklahoma freshman defensive ends Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha play themselves out of redshirt seasons.

That doesn’t mean they’re become difference-makers quite yet.

“The more they play, the better they’re going to get,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said following Monday’s practice in preparation for OU’s opener against UTEP on Saturday. “They’re like newborn colts, running around out there, legs going everywhere, they look like they just hit ground. The more they get to play, the more they get to see it, they’re going to be good players.”

Michael Onuoha
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.com Freshman Mike Onuoha is listed as a backup defensive end on the depth chart.
Tapper and Onuoha are likely to see their first collegiate action this week, particularly if the Sooners get a big lead against UTEP.

• Wright updated the status of P.L. Lindley (high ankle sprain) and Chaz Nelson (MCL injury) on Monday.

“Those guys won’t be ready this week,” Wright said. “Hopefully we’ll get PL Lindley back next week. And Chaz, I’m going to guess, would be after the open date, Kansas State maybe. That’s just a guess. If he’s back before that, that would be great from a depth standpoint.”

With those two players out, Tapper, Onuoha and Rashod Favors will backup Chuka Ndulue and R.J. Washington at defensive end.

• Even though defensive tackle Stacy McGee’s suspension changed things on OU’s defensive line, particularly with the move of David King to defensive tackle, it didn’t change things for everyone.

“Even before then Coach Stoops told me, I need to be ready to play this year,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said.

There are high hopes for Phillips, who could be the most athletic defensive lineman on the squad. The redshirt freshman said he is nervous for his first game in crimson and cream but teammates have told him just to study film and be prepared because knowing what he’s doing will lessen the nerves come Saturday night.

• Early in preseason camp, cornerback Aaron Colvin wasn’t happy with his play. Coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had lauded his efforts but the junior said he needed to “step it up” at the time.

On Monday, Colvin said he’s ready.

“I feel like I’m doing the things I want to do,” he said. “I want to over-exaggerate everything I’m doing this year and I feel like I wasn’t doing that at first, maybe because I wasn’t as comfortable. I’m comfortable now in the defense and in the schemes.

“I’ve been doing the things I need to do to be that great corner I need to be.”

During Bob Stoops weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, the OU coach said he’d put Colvin up against Jamell Fleming, who was a third-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, noting he didn’t feel like the Sooners lost much with Colvin stepping into Fleming’s starting cornerback spot.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It’s clear Mike Stoops wants to get more speed on the field during his first season back in Norman as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.

Cornerbacks have become safeties, safeties have become linebackers and linebackers have become defensive ends. Two of the latter are P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, two former linebackers who are battling to earn playing time at defensive end.

“P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors are really starting to come on. They’re strong guys who can run pretty good,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “They’re giving us some pretty good depth at that position. Size-wise they aren’t your prototypical defensive ends. You wouldn’t recruit those guys as defensive ends but they’re athletic enough they are going to be able to help us.”

Lindley (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) is a redshirt freshman and Favors (6-1, 250) is a redshirt sophomore.

“They're average as linebackers but you move them to defensive end and they’re pretty fast for defensive ends,” Wright said. “And they’re big enough they can hold their own in there. They’re big enough and strong enough. Rashod is one of the strongest guys on the football team. He’s like second in the bench press, so he’s strong guy who can run.”

With David King, R.J. Washington, Chaz Nelson and freshmen Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, the Sooners have six defensive ends battling to earn playing time this fall. For Lindley and Favors, getting familiar with the demands of a new position could be the difference between playing or learning from the sidelines.

“The problem you face is taking two guys who played a different position,” Wright said. “There’s a learning curve. They’re working hard and they’re going to give us some quality depth.”

With the duo contributing to additional depth at defensive end, OU could have the option to bring back their four-defensive end package, a staple of the Sooners' defense on passing downs in 2011.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright feels good about his starting duo of David King and R.J. Washington.

“David and RJ are having a heckuva camp,” Wright said. “I said in the summer I thought they’d both have a heckuva year and up to this point they are trying to prove me right. I like the way they are working and I think they are going to be two of the better ends in the league.”

Sophomore Chuka Ndulue is giving him confidence that the Sooners will have a quality three-man rotation at the position, at the very least.

“Chuka has probably separated himself from the rest of the pack,” Wright said. “Chuka is a solid third guy.”

The injury to Ronnell Lewis last season could have been a blessing in disguise. Ndulue was forced to progress quicker and earned some playing time in the Insight Bowl which sparked a solid offseason. He has taken that confidence and become a player Wright can count on in 2012.
Oklahoma defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright’s message to his defensive ends is pretty simple: Force me to play you.

It doesn’t matter how talented the player is or how much potential impact the player brings to the table. He has to earn Wright’s trust and meet his expectations. It sometimes takes a while to get used to Wright’s coaching style. Senior R.J. Washington is the perfect example.

“The first year we had Coach Wright, Jeremy (Beal) said Coach Wright will yell at you, then slide a joke in and calm the mood of the room down,” Washington said. “So people think “Ah, he’s just joking.” Jeremy was like, he’s joking but it’s like 'For real though, if you don’t make that play, you won’t play.'”

That realization didn’t click with Washington until last season when he began to realize his potential after arriving in Norman as the No. 11 player in the ESPN 150 in the class of 2008. Washington began to meet Wright’s expectations and earned playing time, finishing with 16 tackles and five sacks as a junior.

“Coach Wright is not playing about that,” Washington said of meeting Wright’s expectations. “He’s like, ‘I’ll take two people and they’ll play the whole game.'

"If you don’t want to do what you are supposed to do, you aren’t getting on the field.”


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