Oklahoma Sooners: Tom Wort

In January, linebacker Tom Wort stunned everyone from the fans to the Oklahoma coaches when he revealed he was skipping his senior year of college to enter the NFL draft. Wort struggled to adjust to a new scheme and new position coach, as the Sooners de-emphasiszed the linebacker position the second half of the season to try and combat the spread offenses of the Big 12. After OU's pro day Wednesday, Wort spoke with SoonerNation in his first interview since deciding to declare for the draft:

SoonerNation: What went into the decision to leave, how did you make it?

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireLinebacker Tom Wort admitted that the 2012 season was tough, but he said it has always been his dream to play in the NFL.
Tom Wort: The fact I graduated was a huge part of it. I came to OU to get a degree and play football. I just thought it was my time to take my shot at the next level.

SN: I don’t think there’s any question last season was an adjustment for you with the new scheme, the new coaching staff defensively. Did that play into the decision at all?

Wort: Somewhat, but for the most part, I just wanted to get to that next level. It’s been my dream. I had the opportunity, I got my degree, so I decided to take it.

SN: When did you make your decision to come out?

Wort: Right after the Cotton Bowl. I took about a week, and then came and talked to coach [Tim] Kish and told him, and then got ready for training.

SN: How did he and coach [Bob] Stoops react?

Wort: I talked to coach Bob Stoops, Coach Kish first. He said he understood and wished me the best.

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Position breakdown: Linebacker 

February, 27, 2013
NORMAN, Okla. -- Today, SoonerNation examines the linebacker position.

Wait, Oklahoma uses linebackers?

That would be the sentiment of anyone who watched the Sooners after October last season. OU went largely with six- and even seven-defensive back sets, which did little to combat the spread offenses the Sooners saw late last season.

Oklahoma Sooners Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
Oklahoma’s 2009 recruiting class had some hidden gems, including cornerback Demontre Hurst and center Gabe Ikard, but it had some disappointments as well, such as safety Kevin Brent and linebacker Gus Jones.

Ultimately the class should be considered sub-par. About half of the 24 signees became contributors, with Hurst, Ikard, defensive end Ronnell Lewis and tackle Lane Johnson highlighting the list as the only all-conference performers. OU’s class featured six ESPN 150 members but only Lewis learned All-Big 12 honors.

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Roundtable: No. 1 defensive concern 

January, 17, 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.

Today's question: What is OU's biggest offensive concern going into the offseason?

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Decisions that defined OU in 2012: No. 4 

January, 15, 2013
From QB Landry Jones staying to defensive coordinator Mike Stoops arriving, the storylines were many for the 2012 Sooners. But sometimes, the small decisions turned out to be big ones that defined the season, too. With that in mind, here are the five decisions that probably made the biggest impact on Oklahoma's 2012 season.

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Tom Wort’s decision to leave Oklahoma for the NFL draft impacts the Sooners in 2013 but will allow a young playmaker to make a bigger contribution.

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NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort intends to enter the 2013 NFL draft, coach Bob Stoops announced in a statement on Wednesday night.

"We wish Tom the very best as he concludes his time at the University of Oklahoma," Stoops said. "Tom has earned his degree and has informed me that he plans to declare for the NFL Draft."

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireJunior linebacker Tom Wort will not return to Oklahoma next year.
Wort, who has been a starter at middle linebacker for the Sooners the last three seasons, becomes the third OU underclassmen to enter the draft this week, joining receiver Kenny Stills and safety Tony Jefferson.

But unlike Stills and Jefferson, it’s unclear if Wort will be drafted. After an injury-plagued sophomore season, Wort lost playing time in 2012 to freshman Frank Shannon as the Sooners transitioned schemes under first-year coordinator Mike Stoops.

Wort struggled to adjust to Stoops’ gap-oriented scheme, which funneled tackles to the safeties instead of the linebackers. A year after compiling 71 tackles, Wort finished with just 52 this season.

Wort also considered transferring and playing his final year of college elsewhere.

Since he was not expected to declare, ESPN Scouts Inc. does not have a draft profile or grade for Wort.

It's been a tough week for the linebacker position in Norman. Earlier this week, ESPN 300 linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni, who had been committed to OU since June 14, flipped his commitment to Texas A&M.

With Wort gone, the Sooners likely will start Shannon in the middle. Shannon made two starts ahead of Wort this season.

All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin is the other OU underclassman who is considering a jump to the NFL.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Tuesday, Jan. 15.
IRVING, Texas -- Predictions aside, one thing tonight is guaranteed.

Both teams will be showered in a deafening chant as the final seconds tick off the clock. What's not guaranteed? Which chant it will be.

The original "S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!" that would accompany the far-from-original member of the SEC, Texas A&M fans?

Or the "Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" chant that was born after another Texas A&M loss, at home against Oklahoma State in 2011?

[+] EnlargeAaron Colvin
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAaron Colvin said that Big 12 Conference pride will be fueling Oklahoma against SEC foe Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Deny the conference significance if you want, but this is one of just two matchups between the Big 12 and SEC all season, and the Sooners have certainly taken notice of how the league has done in the bowl season thus far.

"Especially since it’s the SEC, everybody says we’re two of the top conferences, and we want to be considered the top, so that's definitely going to add meaning to this game," Sooners cornerback Aaron Colvin said.

Safety Tony Jefferson, a San Diego native, attended last week's Holiday Bowl, where Baylor routed No. 17 UCLA as an underdog.

He's not the only one rooting on his conference mates.

"There’s so much talk about how the SEC is the best conference and nobody else can play with them, so I feel like if other teams represent the conference well and we can go out and represent, maybe we can change a few minds," receiver Kenny Stills said.

It's a small sample size, sure. Texas beat Ole Miss in Oxford in the only other matchup of the two leagues this season, but Oklahoma doesn't seem to mind that this SEC opponent bears the same name of the squad it beat easily in Norman a season ago, even if the coaching staff and win-loss record is a whole lot different.

"We’ve played essentially everyone on their defense personnel-wise," offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. "They play a new scheme, but we’ve played all those guys, so I don’t think we’re using that as motivation, but trying to represent the Big 12 well."

The bowl season has already exposed a few cracks in the SEC's foundation. None of the SEC's bottom eight teams managed a win against one in the top six of the standings, but Clemson already knocked off LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and Louisville dominated Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Can Oklahoma issue another blow to the SEC's spot atop the conference rankings with a win over Texas A&M, days before Alabama plays Notre Dame and tries to win the league's seventh national title?

It'll be the Big 12's final game of the season, and beating one of the nation's hottest teams, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, could leave a lasting imprint for the offseason and leave more than a few wondering just how secure the SEC's spot is as the top conference entering 2013.

"It’s a big statement game, especially for our defense," Jefferson said. "The No. 1 offense in the SEC, it’s just a huge opportunity for us to showcase our ability."

Texas A&M turned heads in its old conference for walking into the SEC, known for stingy defenses that would obviously dominate any spread offense, and shaking it up with offensive playmakers and creative play calling, buoyed by a player who only gets better as the play becomes more broken.

"I’ve always been an advocate for the Big 12. I love the way we play football here, and there’s conference pride here with the SEC and Big 12 going against each other," Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort said. "I was just proud of the way Texas A&M went into the SEC and did well. It shows that it doesn’t matter what conference you’re in -- you can still play good football. I’m proud of the way Texas A&M played."

He's not alone, though conference pride takes a backseat in game preparation, even if some players don't buy the idea that league pride is even on the line.

"People are trying to convince us that it’s an SEC versus Big 12 matchup, but when it comes down to it, it’s Oklahoma versus Texas A&M," Ikard said.

It may look that way on the scoreboard, but the postgame chants that will reign down on Cowboys Stadium will absolutely tell a different story.

Will the Big 12 like that story? Well, that's up to the Sooners.

State of the program: Linebacker 

December, 27, 2012
After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s linebackers in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the linebackers 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.

Frank Shannon
Denny Medley/US PresswireExpect redshirt freshman linebacker Frank Shannon to make a big impact for the Sooners in 2013.
Next in line: Frank Shannon. Shortly after Tim Kish arrived at Oklahoma last spring, the Sooners linebacker coach began heaping praise upon the redshirt freshman linebacker. Kish spoke highly of Shannon’s natural instincts and playmaking ability. This fall, Shannon has lived up to the hype after a breakout game against Texas Tech on Oct. 6. His versatility and instincts should make him a cornerstone of OU’s defenses over the next few seasons.

Keep an eye on: Eric Striker. Although the Sooners will return Shannon, Tom Wort, Corey Nelson and Aaron Franklin, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Striker earn a role in the Sooners defense as a sophomore. He has pass rushing skills and versatility, which could make him a key contributor in 2013.

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OU position grades: Linebackers 

December, 26, 2012
In the weeks leading up to the Cotton Bowl, SoonerNation will take a look back at how the Sooners performed position-by-position and give each group a grade based on that performance. Today, we examine the linebacker position.

GradeHighlights: Frank Shannon was one of the stories in the 41-20 win at Texas Tech. Replacing veteran Tom Wort at middle linebacker in the first half, Shannon was a menace on the Red Raider offense, both against the run and covering crossing routes across the middle. With OU leading 24-13, Tech elected to go for it on fourth down with the ball in Sooner territory. But Shannon exploded between blockers on a blitz to sack Seth Doege, giving the Sooners back the ball, and the momentum for good.

Lowlights: This unit had a few. In the beginning of the season, they were exposed covering the pass. Kansas State sealed its win with a completion across Wort for a fourth-quarter first down. Later in the season, Mike Stoops simply abandoned using linebackers altogether, for fear the better pass offenses of the Big 12 would abuse them. All four of OU’s starting defensive backs finished with more tackles than any of the linebackers.

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Freshman update: LB Eric Striker 

December, 13, 2012
The road to playing time appears full of roadblocks for Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker. Redshirt freshman Frank Shannon has emerged as a playmaker, sophomore Aaron Franklin has been solid during his time on the field, and Tom Wort and Corey Nelson remain atop the depth chart.

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Sooner snapshot: Jordan Mastrogiovanni 

December, 11, 2012
Each week SoonerNation will take a closer look at the Class of 2013 prospects currently committed to Oklahoma. The in-depth analysis pieces will take a look at the ranking, estimated year of impact and potential role of each future Sooner.

Jordan Mastrogiovanni
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comDon't be suprised if ESPN 300 linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni forces himself onto the field at some point next season.
Vitals: Linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni | 6-foot-2, 225 pounds

Committed: June 14, 2012

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SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. give their thoughts on the AT&T Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).

1. What's your initial reaction to the matchup?
OU-Florida in the Sugar would have been one of the best matchups of any bowl outside the title game. But this one is about as good. The Sooners get a chance to face off against the Heisman favorite in Johnny "Football" Manziel, which probably means OU will have seen the top three Heisman contenders (Manziel, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein). The Sooners will have to play well, because A&M is one of the hottest teams in college football, coming off that win at Alabama.

2. Which team in the Big 12 does Texas A&M most resemble?
Can I say A&M? I mean, they were in the Big 12 just last year. If I had to compare them to someone currently in the Big 12, I'd probably say Oklahoma State. A&M's offensive line is tremendous, and Manziel has several playmakers to work with. Manziel is obviously more mobile than anyone OSU has, but the Cowboys present the dual-threat attack with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. That's where the comparisons end. Because the Aggies are much more formidable defensively than the Pokes with Damontre Moore, who is tied for third nationally with 12 1/2 sacks.

3. What's the most intriguing individual matchup?
Mike Stoops vs. Manziel. Stoops has struggled game-planning against prolific, mobile quarterbacks this season, and Manziel figures to be his biggest challenge yet. Will Stoops go back to the dime package, or will he use linebackers Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson to spy Manziel? Either way, Manziel poses plenty of problems for a defense that's been gashed late in the season.

4. Who's the most important player no one's talking about?
How about Landry Jones? All the focus will be on Manziel, and for good reason. But I'm not so sure there's an advantage at QB. Jones has been on fire the last month of the season, throwing for 500 yards twice. Jones is susceptible to interceptions. But lately, he hasn't allowed those plays to phase him. Jones is capable of putting the Aggies defense on its heel, too.

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Oklahoma awards tracker: Week 8

October, 23, 2012
QB Landry Jones, Sr: Walter Camp, Manning, Maxwell
For the third straight game, Jones played like an elite quarterback going 19-of-28 for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has 1 interception in the past three games.
Season stats: 133-of-212 for 1,644 yards, 12 TD, 3 INT

RB Dominique Whaley, Sr: Maxwell
The Sooners ran the ball 18 times against Kansas but Whaley didn’t touch the football.
Season stats: 38 carries for 241 yards, TD

WR Kenny Stills, Jr: Walter Camp, Maxwell
Stills set the tone with a 44-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter against Kansas. With the addition of Jalen Saunders, he has moved outside at times to provide an explosive option for Jones.
Season stats: 38 receptions for 471 yards, 4 TDs

LB Tom Wort, Jr: Butkus, Nagurski
For the second straight week, Wort forced a fumble. He finished second on the team with 7 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack against the Jayhawks.
Season stats: 26 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed

LB Corey Nelson, Jr: Lombardi
Nelson had 4 tackles against the Jayhawks.
Season stats: 23 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass breakup, 2 quarterback hurries

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Film review: Oklahoma 52, Kansas 7 

October, 21, 2012
It would have been easy for Oklahoma to suffer a letdown against Kansas. Instead, Jayhawks fans wish the Sooners would would have let up in OU’s 52-7 win at Owen Field on Saturday. Quarterback Landry Jones was superb, the OU defense was dominant and the special teams did something that had never been done in program history.

Receiver Kenny Stills' 44-yard touchdown catch

The Sooners' first touchdown pretty much sums up the game. After a play-action fake to running back Damien Williams, Jones threw a beautiful pass to Stills right over the shoulder of KU cornerback JaCorey Shepherd. Three of Stills' six catches came on that scoring drive.

A closer look at the play shows why this game turned into a blowout:
[+] EnlargeCasey Walker
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesDefensive tackle Casey Walker scooped up a fumble and ran it 45 yards.

  • Shepherd gave Stills a 10-yard cushion and still got beaten deep.
  • Jones made an terrific throw right onto the hands of Stills with Shepherd in position to make a play if the throw had been underthrown.

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Stoops, Players Want To Effect Change
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.