Honesty is key on recruiting trail for OU

By Michael Kinney

On the final day of summer workouts for Oklahoma, several of the coaches took time out of their day to attend the Annual OU Football Coaches Luncheon Thursday. They included head coach Lincoln Riley, co-offensive coordinator Cale Gundy and assistant defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks.

While the upcoming season was paramount on the minds of the coaches, they also took time to give an inside look at recruiting for the Sooners.

Gundy, who is also the recruiting coordinator, explained pretty simply where the Sooners stand right now in the world of college football recruiting.

“It’s exciting,” Gundy said. “It’s as good as we’ve had it in a really long time.”

Gundy can say that because the Sooners are ranked inside the top five of most national recruiting lists. Their 2019 class has 16 commits so far. They include a pair of five-stars and 10 four-star recruits.

Gundy gave much of the credit to Cooks, who has been a man on a mission this summer.

“I will give Kerry props. Everybody who has been watching Kerry getting all of these commitments, defensive back commitments all summer long,” Gundy said. “(Cooks) is the hottest recruiting in all of college football. He just keeps on getting them, one after another. I went down to him the other day and said you have to stop, we have to get some guys on our side of the ball.”

The defensive backs who have committed to Oklahoma for 2019 include Jaden Davis, Woodi Washington, and Jamal Morris. Each has a four-star ranking.

According to Cooks, one of his biggest weapons on the recruiting trail has been plain old honesty.

“I travel across the country and everybody knows OU. But to me the separator, one is our staff. This is a great staff. And recruiting is all about relationships,” Cooks said. “I think we have a staff that is honest. I think you go to some of these other conferences, we will not get into, but we are honest with the kids. We don’t lie to our kids. We tell them exactly where we see them at and our expectation for when they come to our program and that we’re going to take care of them. We take that seriously. We’re not just telling them that as a recruiting ploy.”

Gundy also credited Riley for setting the tone for the entire staff when it comes to the work needed on the recruiting trails.

“Our recruiting is as hot as it has ever been I believe. We have a fairly young staff. I happen to be the oldest guy on the offensive side now, which is hard to believe,” Gundy said. “Then you interject a guy like Lincoln Riley, who is as sharp as any coach out there in college football. As a recruiter, he does it every single day. He stays on us and we know as coaches that’s what we have to do.”

For Cooks, the Sooners new apparel and shoe deal with Jordan Brand has become a huge part of their recruiting pitch.
“The biggest separator right now, when I’m talking to kids, is the Jordan Brand,” Cooks said. “There are only four college football teams in the country that are able to wear that logo. That’s a big deal for every kid.”

However, in the world of recruiting today, social media has changed everything. It is an element the Sooners have seemed to master. From their signing videos to Riley’s eyeball emojis, Oklahoma makes good use of the medium.

However, as Gundy explained, it can have its challenges.

“In recruiting, it’s so much different than it has ever been. It’s more challenging than it has ever been, mainly because of social media,” Gundy said. “It’s really changed recruiting with players. There are some pluses and some minuses about social media. The pluses for us as coaches is you can learn anything about anyone from what they put on twitter. Everything that they tweet or, everything they say publicly is basically the type of person they are. So that helps us tremendously in recruiting. Because if we follow a young man, and we can basically tell what kind of person he is, and if it doesn’t fit the type of players we want in our program, we will just go on down the road and find another player. Because there are plenty of them out there.”

But at the end of the day, both Cooks and Gundy say that the Oklahoma brand pretty much does most of the work with recruits.

“The more better players that we bring into this program, the more depth that we have that are elite talent players, the better opportunities we will have to win 11, 12, 13, 14 games,” Gundy said. “And that’s what we want to do. We want the players that can help us win the 12th, 13th, 14th game and not guys that only help us win 7, 8 or 9 games a year. So that’s why we really have to search all over the country and when you’re Oklahoma most of the time you have that opportunity. When you knock on that door, people are going to answer.”
3rd annual ChampU BBQ

The single biggest highlight of the summer recruiting during the past few years has been the Sooners ChampU BBQ. All of the Sooners commits and their families are invited to the weekend get-away in Norman.

This year’s festivities are set for July 28, and the OU coaches are pretty geeked about it.

“We are probably expecting two/thirds of those commits to be here,” Gundy said. “Typically, when you get to the back end of the summer like we are, they are about to start their high school camps as well. So, a lot of times some of these young men like to take trips with their families for the last week or so. That would be the only reason any of our commits will probably not be here. We will have most of them here. The Sooner bar Be Que we’ve been having the last few years has been phenomenal. Our recruiting people do a tremendous job with Drew Hill and Annie Hanson and our staff. It’s really a fun event. It is absolutely a blast that we have. It shows the families and the players that yeah, we’re football coaches, but we like to have fun. And at the end of the day, if you’re going to bring your child and let him come to our school for four or five years, we’ve got to be able to take care of him 24 hours a day, regardless of what goes on.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

Sooners meet media before camp starts

By Michael Kinney

Both Austin Kendall and Kyler Murray and were among the 15 players on hand for media day. Having both quarterbacks take part in the event helps reinforce coach  Lincoln Riley’s assertion that neither has one the starting quarterback spot yet.

Their teammates also added credence to that theory Sunday during the Sooners Media Day at Memorial Stadium.

“For people to just cancel Austin out, it’s pretty crazy because they don’t know what’s happening, what we’ve doing or how the battle is going,” sophomore receiver CeeDee Lamb said. “From the outside looking in, it’s easy to tell, but you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.

“The battle is going good.”

Junior linebacker Caleb Kelly has had to go against both quarterback in practice. He says their surprising skillsets have made this a hard race to see who will be named starter.

“It’s a really good competition,” Caleb Kelly said. “Everyone wants to just name it right now, just name who the starter is, but it really is a competition. We aren’t just saying that for the media. Both of those guys can start at the Division I level.”

No matter who wins the job, Murray insists the quarterback room will be drama free.

“There is no beef in the quarterback room,” Murray said. “It’s all competition. Everyone comes in ready to work, not being mad at one another when he gets more reps. This game is not friendly to everyone. At the end of the day somebody is going to win the job, somebody is going to be the starter. You are a competitor, you play football, obviously, you want to be the guy. There’s going to be a little feelings at the end of the deal. But we’re friends at the end of the day.”

Oklahoma receivers playing the respect card

During Big 12 Media Days last week, Riley said the receivers needed to step up this season as a group. That seems to be the sentiment going around the entire group.

“I feel like we have a lot to prove this year,” Lamb said. “A lot of people are doubting us right now. We don’t need all the praises right now. We just need to come out and show everybody what we can do as a group.”

For junior Marquise Brown, he already knew that a lot was riding on the shoulders of the receivers before Riley told the media.

“I expect a lot out of me and all the receivers also,” Brown said. “I tell them everyday that I want us to be that group. No doubt about, when something needs to be done, I want us to make it happen.”

Defensive expectations

Mike Stoops said to combat the spread offenses in the Big 12 the Sooners will play much more nickel coverage this season compared to last year. He said that the biggest change the team will mot likely make when it comes to schemes.

Yet, it’s the increased talent that is now showing up on the defensive unit that has the Oklahoma coaches believe they can play at an elite level.

“It’s possible to have a defense as good as anywhere,” Riley said. “There is no magic league for defenses. Like I’ve said many times, I think it is more challenging numbers wise to have one of the best defenses in our league when you compare to the others because of the offenses. But absolutely, you can have a defense that you know is a top five defense and plays the way we did in Columbus last year. That’s kind of what we envision, a top offense that can go in there and have the capability to shut somebody down. We have to do it more consistently.”

Stoops agrees with Riley but has a different outlook on just how highly ranked any defense I the Big 12 can rise to.

“I think there are a lot of variables that go into playing good defense,” Stoops said. “I would think more of a top 20, top 15 is more realistic in our league just because of the efficiency that these guys work at. Obviously, the last few years have been off the charts with the type of personnel that we’ve had to deal with. Certainly, you have to balance the caliber of defense you have going against it. Those are the areas I think we need to make up the most ground. The personnel you need across the board to match up in this league and we’ve made some adjustments in that area.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with EyeAmTruth

Thunder ship Melo off to Atlanta after just one season

By Michael Kinney

The options for Sam Presti were limited. In trying to unload the contract that came with Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder general manager didn’t have many cards to lay down.

Most people thought Presti would have to waive Anthony and still pay him the almost $28 million owed him on the final year of his contract. But, once again, Presti did what seemed to be the impossible.

The Thunder traded away Anthony, which keeps them from having to pay any of the money owed him and it drops the team’s luxury tax dramatically.

In a reported three-team deal, the Thunder send Anthony and a lottery protected (1-14) 2022 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks. In return, Oklahoma City received point guard Dennis Schroder from Atlanta and former first-rounder Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philadelphia.

According to reports, the Hawks will buy Anthony out, which will clear him up to play for any team that wants him. More than likely that will be the Houston Rockets.

The trade drops Oklahoma City’s projected luxury tax bill down from $150 million to $88.8 million. Their payroll falls slightly to $148.7 million. The Thunder also created a $10.8 million trade exception with the move.

What makes the deal so good for Oklahoma City is that it just wasn’t a money move. They actually got real talent back in return.

In Schroder, the Thunder gets a point guard who has started 161 games over his five-year career with the Hawks. He averaged 19 points a game last season to go along with 6.2 assists. But with Atlanta drafting former Oklahoma Sooner Trae Young, it left the 24-year old Schroder as the odd man out.

Schroder has 3 years left on his current contract. He is making $15.5 million a year.

Luwawu-Cabarrot was a first-round draft pick in the 2016 class. The 6-6, 205- pound swingman out of France is athletic and can run the floor.

The addition of Luwawu-Cabarrot and Schroder give the Thunder two things they didn’t have last season:  depth and playmakers off the bench.

Once again, it has been a busy offseason for Oklahoma City. Besides resigning Paul George, Jerami Grant and Ray Felton, they drafted Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey. They also signed free agents Deinte Burton, Nerlens Noel and traded for Hamidou Diallo.

That is seven new faces on the roster heading into training camp as of now. The Thunder still have room to make a few more moves. That includes trading or waving the little-used Kyle Singler.

The Thunder won’t announce the trade until all deals are finalized by the league.

The narrative surrounding Anthony’s one season in Oklahoma City has taken a negative slant with the 34-year old getting the bulk of the blame. Many fans, and some analysts, have chosen to blame him for the problems the team had last year, despite posting 16 points and six rebounds a night.

But in reality, when Presti traded for Anthony last year from New York, it was a bad fit from day one. Oklahoma City tried to turn a 15-year veteran into a catch and release 3-point shooter. That had never been his game and to think it was going to work flawlessly made no sense.

That gamble costs Oklahoma City the services of center Enes Kanter, who has become a fan favorite for the Knicks while posting 14 points and 11 boards.

Despite all of that, Presti and his front office found a way to get themselves out of the jam they created once again.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

New red-shirt rule has college coaches excited

By Michael Kinney

FRISCO, Texas – Lincoln Riley is entering his second season as the head coach at Oklahoma. With a Big 12 title and a trip to the College Football playoffs under his belt, there wouldn’t seem to be much need of a learning curve.

However, one of the aspects of the game Riley is going to have to master this season is the new NCAA rule when it comes to redshirting players. It now states that any player can play up to four games in a season and still be able to retain his redshirt season.

For Riley, this prospect brought an almost diabolical smile to his face when he talked about it.

“It completely changes it. I don’t know if people on the outside or even maybe us on the inside understand how different that rule is,” Riley said. “How much the game is going to be different, the strategy behind it. I think it’s going to be fun. I think it’s a good rule.”

The NCAA used to define academic redshirts as “student-athletes that may practice in the initial term and receive athletics aid during the initial year of full-time collegiate enrollment but may not compete in their first year of full-time collegiate enrollment.” So, a student-athlete was given five years to complete four years of eligibility.

In the past, if a player entered one game that, their red-shirt season was in danger of being taken away. This was a danger zone for coaches when injuries to key players arose.

“We got into some dicey situations last year in the playoff where an injury here or there we would have had to pull a redshirt on a guy,” Riley said. “So, it takes that out of the equation, which is good. That’s the right thing for the players and it does give you a chance to use those games in the way you best see fit. I think each group will have their own strategy for it and I think it will be interesting to see and I think it will be something we learn from year-to-year and I think it was a good, positive step for college football.”

An incoming freshman can play four games and still have four more years of eligibility.

It’s not just Riley trying to come up with ways to best use the new rule. It’s coaches all around the country.

“I think everybody is trying to figure out when the best time is to use it, it’s probably going to be a case-by-case basis,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “You want to try to get ’em in the game at some point during the year, whether this be the beginning or the end or the bowl game. I think it’s a great rule. I think it will allow young players to build confidence, get in and figure out the game and not lose that year which is good and it’s beneficial to them.”

The rule is also great for programs like Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida State and Georgia, that normally have deep recruiting classes. This allows teams to let players see action periodically during the season, keep the player involved in the team and still know they will have them for four more seasons.

Riley, who is starting to earn a reputation as an offensive wizard, the different options this gives him makes him giddy.

“You got a large chunk of players that are now available for close to a third of your season. And don’t have to burn a year to do it,” Riley said. “Whether you use it to try guys out, whether you use it in big games where you want to get your depth better, whether you use it at the end of the season if a guy gets hurt so you don’t have to burn a redshirt on guys. There’s going be so much strategy behind it. And I think it’s really just going change the overall impact or maybe mindset of, “Do we redshirt this guy or not?” Where maybe in the past, yeah, let’s just go ahead and play him and maybe play him on a couple special teams, this or that. Well, if you can get four full games out of a guy and still save the year, I don’t know. It’s interesting. It’s a huge change. It’s going really have a huge impact.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Longhorns could turn to freshman QBs

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

FRISCO, Texas — When coach Tom Herman took over the Texas football program last year he knew he had to rebuild from the ground up. While there was talent on the roster, it was not at the level he needed it to be to compete in the Big 12.

That is why so much emphasis has been put on the 2018 incoming freshman class. While Herman won’t discount the upperclassmen at UT, it’s the new breed that will be tasked with turning the program around.

That, ofcourse, means getting his quarterback position in order. While the Longhorns have a pair of veterans in junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one or both of the freshman signal callers will get their chance at some point this season to lead the offense.

“I feel good about the two guys that are veterans,” Herman said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days. “I feel great about the two young guys in Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising. They showed up. I will tell you this, they showed up and exceeded all expectations in terms of two guys that did not look like they didn’t belong. They looked like they were, obviously, they made some youthful mistakes from time to time, but from a talent standpoint, they certainly held their own.”

Thompson is the 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback out of Oklahoma. The son of former OU star Charles Thompson, Casey Thompson is considered a dual threat under center.

Rising, a native of California, has a bigger frame at 6-2, 230 is believed the be the better prototypical quarterback.

However, Herman said both Rising and Thompson are far from being one-dimensional.

“Those two young quarterbacks, those two freshmen are going to give those guys a run for their money as well,” Herman said. “They came in, they should have been seniors in high school and they came in, they did not look out of place. I think when you sign two quarterbacks and one is deemed a “pro-style” guy and the other one is deemed a “dual threat” guy you think one can’t run and the other can’t throw and that’s far from the truth. Cameron Rising can throw a lot better and move around better than people think and to be honest with you, Casey Thompson can throw the ball quite a bit better than people think.”

When the Longhorns enter camp, they will have four quarterbacks essentially competing for the starting spot. Considering the issues Texas had last season with the position, it’s a problem Herman gladly welcomes.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard of what we went through last year at any other program to have only two scholarship quarterbacks, and then to have both of them be hurt for extended periods of time throughout the course of the season, that’s crazy,” Herman said. “You cannot prepare for something like that.”

Two Way Jamison

D’Shawn Jamison was a 4-star cornerback coming out of Lamar High (Houston). He was considered one of the top defensive backs in the state.

Now, heading into his first year at UT, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound athlete is listed as a wide receiver in the media guide. However, Herman reiterated that it’s not a permanent move.

“He is going to play both this year, he has been working at both throughout the offseason. He has been doing drills with both the slot receivers and the DBs. We certainly plan to use him on offense. But I think it’s more of a stop gap.”

However, Herman said, depending on how Jamison does on the offensive side of the ball, he could wind up staying there past this season.

“He may go light the world on the fire then go hey coach, can I stay here,” Herman said. “You come into our program, you can play whatever you want to play. You look at the depth chart and say I want to play this. It usually always works itself out. It’s always the young man’s decision. If not, you don’t have a full buy in. “We approached D’Shawn and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a need for some dynamism at that slot receiver position, and you certainly have it. The DB room is pretty packed this year, not to say that you can’t crack into it, but we’d like for you to at least get some work at slot receiver and see how it goes. By all accounts, he’s having a really good offseason.” …

Other Freshmen

Herman was asked what he has seen from freshman running back Keaontay Ingram so far.

“Nothing,” Herman responded. “We’ve been doing running drills. I mean he looks great doing running drills and going around cones in shorts. The real proof will be when we put the pads on.” …

Senior defensive lineman Breckyn Hager says freshman DB B.J. Foster has made an impression early on.

“That whole class is pretty darn talented,” Hager said. “But as far as impressing an old head like me, B.J. Foster. He’s a missile. I’ve seen him take off like a missile.” …

Defensive lineman Chris Nelson has been impressed with the entire freshman class.

“I would say all of them have. They are looking toward us (upperclassmen), they are taking coaching. None of them are big headed at all,” Nelson said.”They all want to get better. I feel like all of them are taking the next step.” …

Herman explains one of the differences from last year’s team.

“There is a difference between compliance and committed. I think last year we had a lot of compliant guys. They were yes sir and nod your head and do what you’re asked to do,” Herman said. “But I don’t know if they really deep down believed in their core that the way that we’re doing things is the only way that you can win championships. So, I think right now, there is not a doubt in my mind that the belief in that locker room is there. These guys are working harder. They’re closer, they like each other. They like coming to work every day.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider for EyeAmTruth Media

Sooners still potent on offense

By Michael Kinney

FRISCO, Texas –Lincoln Riley is trying. Oklahoma’s head coach keeps trying to tell anyone that will listen that the quarterback competition between Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall is still going strong.

However, not many people are buying it. That is especially true of the media who were on hand Monday for Big 12 Media days at the Star in Frisco.

Yet, that didn’t keep Riley from trying to explain even though Murray returned to OU after signing a pro baseball contract, he hasn’t won the job yet.

“Kyler is not the quarterback yet. There is good competition going on and Kyler is going to have to fight like crazy to win this job,” Riley said. “It’s a different competition. It’s very different, both have been Baker’s backups in the last two years and they’ve been in multiple years and they’re both ready to be the starting quarterback at Oklahoma. First things first. He’s got to win that job and whoever wins it, whether it’s Austin Kendall or Kyler Murray, it will be different, no question.”

According to Riley, the battle for who will be the Sooners starting quarterback will roll into camp.

“They have different skill sets than Baker, there are some things that Baker did better than these guys and things that these guys do better than Baker did,” Riley said. “That’s always the job. Once we narrow that job down of tailoring that job to those guys and giving them the best chance for success. I think the most important thing or at least most important thing early for us is let’s make sure we get the right guy, put them through this competition and test these guys. Let’s really put them through it because we’ve got two guys that are more than capable of getting this team where we need to be.”

When Oklahoma’s offense is brought up these days, the topic of conversation seems to always be what they lost. From a Heisman trophy winning quarterback to premier tackle to a highly productive tight end, the Sooners lost a lot of talent.

Yet, the OU players who showed up to Media Days says their cupboard isn’t empty.

“I think if this team reaches its potential then we can play with them and we can beat anybody,” Riley said. “It’s a long road. There are a lot of teams that I think are capable of doing that and it’s hard to do. We’ve had a chance to get to the playoff twice, have had a chance to win this league three times in a row and it’s hard.  We will have to fight like crazy to give ourselves that chance again.”

Their unit that seems most prepared for that fight is the Oklahoma offensive line. Despite losing Orlando Brown and Eric Wren, the front line hasn’t lost its confidence.

 “The offensive line at the University of Oklahoma, I think it stands out,” senior Ben Powers said. “I think we play hard. I think it’s clear we want to be out there, and we want to be the best. We want to dominate every single play and we want to put people in the dirt.”

Powers said the Sooners can still be one of the best offenses in the nation. Much of that will depend on the Oklahoma run game. With a new quarterback under center, much of the team’s success could be dependent on the offensive line and tailbacks such as Rodney Anderson.

“We’ve leaned on him quite a bit. But not just Rodney, but Trey Sermon had a tremendous year for us as well,” Riley said. “Also bringing back Marcelias Sutton and a couple new guys there. The backfield’s always been a strength at Oklahoma, and it’s our hope that it always will be. It’s a very important position. And then once again, having that offensive line that we have, to be able to run behind, makes a big difference for whoever’s playing quarterback.”

For Anderson, he just wants to see the unit play consistently to the level they expect.

“I feel like we always have a certain level of play at Oklahoma,” tailback Rodney Anderson said. “We try to main that throughout the season and be consistent.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeamTruth Media

OU high jumper announces he is leaving

By Michael Kinney

Just over a month after finishing up his first season of collegiate track at the University of Oklahoma, Vernon Turner dropped a bombshell on social media. The freshman from Yukon announced via Twitter Wednesday that he was leaving the Sooners program after just one season.

“It has been a good ride at OU, but unfortunately some things didn’t work out, with that being said I am transferring, please respect my decision,” read Turner’s Twitter account.

The announcement comes just weeks after Turner placed sixth overall in the men’s high jump at the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.

Turner was not happy with his performance.

“If you are jumping big throughout the year, it matters,” Turner said. “But when it matters, you need to be able to jump those heights in meets where it actually matters. That is the main thing I took away, which is no matter how good you do all year, that last meet is the only one that matters.”

During the regular season, Turner set a new personal record of 7-7.75 indoor and hit 7.5.75 during the outdoor portion. Both would have won him NCAA titles at both the indoor and outdoor championships.

Turner was also a first-team All-Big 12 and first-team All-American during the indoor season during his freshman campaign.

Yet, some of Turner’s comments directly after the NCAA meet showed his displeasure in some aspects of his season.

“I wouldn’t say it was a successful year,” Turner said. “I would say it’s something to start to build on. We can only go up from here.”

Turner has not announced where he will be transferring to yet.

“I ask that no coaches reach out to me until I send out my release form, I am not fully released yet and I do not want to ruin my eligibility,” Turner stated on Twitter.

At Yukon High School, Turner was a two-time Gatorade Oklahoma Boys Track and Field Player of the Year (2016, 2017) and won the 6A state title in the high jump three consecutive years.

Turner also owns the NFHS high jump record of 7-foot-6, which he set in April of 2017.

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider  with EyeAmtruth.com

 

No. 2 tight end feels at home with Sooners

Michael Kinney

Sometimes the recruiting process can be a long and arduous journey. For some athletes, it can take two or three years before they can finally envision which school they want to be at for the next three to four years of their lives.

That was not the case for Austin Stogner. The Prestonwood Christian Academy tight end knew right away where he wanted to be. He didn’t have to be wined and dined or handed a bunch of flattering compliments. The moment Stogner arrived on the University of Oklahoma campus, he knew he was going to be a Sooner.

“I always had an eye for Oklahoma,” Stogner said. “I knew when I took my first visit  that that’s the school I’m going to go.”

Stogner took his first official visit to Oklahoma during the spring of his sophomore year. From that point on, the 6-foot-7, 232-pound tight end only saw crimson and cream.

Growing up in Plano, Texas, Stogner is more than two hours away from Norman. He is surrounded by other schools such as TCU and Texas. He is within a few hours’ drive of half of the Big 12.

Yet, none of them appealed to Stogner like the Sooners.

“It’s just a feeling of it. I love the campus, love everything about it,” Stogner said. “The way they use the tight end, it’s special.”

With his height and frame, special is a great way to describe the way challenges Stogner puts on defenders.

“Stogner is still raw from a technical perspective, especially in terms of his route-running, but the physical tools are clearly in place,” a recruiting analyst said. “He’s got the size and athleticism to eventually become a consistent matchup problem for opposing defenses.”

However, it hasn’t been all roses and rainbows for Stogner. Heading into the summer last year he suffered a knee injury. It was the first serious injury of his career so it was uncertain how he would handle it.

“I knew that I was going to still come back and play,” Stogner said. “It was just a matter of time. I struggled through it throughout the whole year but now I’m good now.”

The injury forced Stogner to miss the first three games of his junior campaign. Despite that, he still accounted for 41 catches for 459 yards and 10 touchdowns.

While Stogner knew he would be back on the field, it was still brutal for him to have to be on the sideline and not being able to help his teammates.

“The toughest part was just watching my teammates play and me not being out there to help them, that was the biggest part for me,” Stogner said. “ It was my first time being injured. So I think it’s a learning experience for sure, learned a lot. But it was tough. It was tough not being out there for them.”

Yet, almost immediately after he returned, Stogner fell back into the groove.

“My second game back is when I started to get back into it,” Stogner said. “I just felt it. I felt good in practice, felt better. I knew I was back.”

Aside from the injury, Stogner was also going through a position change. After playing predominately at defensive end as a sophomore, his coaching staff decided to make tight end became his primary position as a junior.

“You could see that he created matchups situations that were almost invincible,” Prestonwood coach Chris Cunningham said. “Whether it was a linebacker trying to run with him or a safety trying to body up, he was going to create some advantage with his size, his quickness and his hands. When he was in there (on offense), we saw it and said those things we need to have more of. As a staff, we said we decided we’ll figure out something at defensive end, but our offensive production can be greatly improved by putting him on that side of the ball.”

It didn’t take long for Stogner to realize which side of the ball he preferred.

“I like offense more,” Stogner said. “Yeah, I like offense. Because I get to catch passes and I get to hit people Tight end is one special position where you can catch passes and also  hit people.”

While catching passes and dealing out hard hits came naturally to Stogner, there was another aspect to the position he knew he had to work on. In order to be an effective tight end and not just a glorified wide receiver, blocking had to become second nature to him.

“That was one of my main focal points, my main focal points of the season was becoming a better blocker,” Stogner said. “So I did, we did that working with coach, really helped me a lot. All it is is just practice, having the mentality to go out there and block. It’s a big thing. My ability to block and also catch passes at the same time. Will create mismatches, mismatches at the next level. So that’s a big thing.”

What works in Stogner’s favor is that he is a willing blocker.

“I love to block, I always loved to block,” Stogner said. “Sophomore year they didn’t really have me blocking very much. I played mostly defense sophomore year, so junior year it was just technical things I had to work out.”

The hard work paid off as Stogner as he helped Prestonwood compile a 12-2 record and win the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools State Championship.

In the title game, the Lions down 18 points heading into the fourth quarter. Stogner had four catches for 55 yards before they started double-teaming him. His presence then opened up opportunities for his teammates to come up with big plays.

“I won one in basketball the year before but in football, it was my first state title so it was good,” Stogner said. “ to finally being able to come down, we came back from 18 in the fourth quarter.”

Along with winning a state title, Stogner ended the year as the No. 2 ranked tight end in the country according to Rivals.com. He was also rated as the 109th best player in the country.

But even before Stogner had made the full switch to tight end, he had programs salivating over him.

“It was last January after the Nike opening in Houston where I got seven offers the next week,” Stogner said. “My first one was three weeks into my sophomore season. And then I only got one, and then January rolled up and the Nike opening, and then I got a lot that week. That’s when my recruiting started to pick up.”

Stogner has picked up almost 30 offers from schools around the country. They include Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma State and TCU.

“I think he had a good sense of what he was looking for to begin with,” Cunningham said. “To me that that is the start of handling that well. I think so many kids go up there not knowing what they’re looking for in the school they want to go to and it becomes overwhelming. From the git-go, Austin knew what he was looking for.”

What Stogner was looking for was  Oklahoma.

“It was crazy because I knew I was going to go to school there,” Stogner said. “So I was really excited. I waited out. I still needed to visit the other schools the next year. But yeah, I guess they kind of knew. They knew I was going to commit.”

It took Stogner just two months to make it official. He committed to Oklahoma on June 23 after another visit to the school.

“I visited in June, me and Spencer Rattler the same day,” Stogner said. “And I committed that Friday, and he committed that Monday or Sunday.”

The way the Sooners have shown a willingness to involve their tight end. He sees himself fitting the mold set by Mark Andrews.

“Mark Andrews, he was a great player,” Stogner said. “They use him as a priority in that offense.”

Sophomore Grant Calcaterra is currently the only one tight end on the Sooners roster. By the time Stogner arrives in 2019, he could have an opportunity to fill a huge need.

“I’m not going to place any numbers around it, but I’m gonna work my butt off when I get up there,” Stogner said. “I’m working my butt off now. So I’m getting ready.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

 

Thunder get their man

(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)

By Michael Kinney

When Oklahoma City’s 2018-2019 season is made into a documentary or at least a highly stylized highlight package, there can only be one name for it: “Scared money don’t make none.”

When Thunder General Manager Sam Presti quoted this A Tribe Called Quest lyric during an ESPN free agency special on Paul George, it summed up the team’s new aggressive mindset when it comes to going after players.

“I’m a big A Tribe Called Quest fan,” Presti said. “There is a line that basically says, ‘Scared money don’t make none.’ I think that’s the case. If you expect Paul George or any player to have any confidence in you as an organization, you have to demonstrate it yourself. Scared money don’t make none.”

It proved to be successful late Saturday night when George announced he would be resigning with the Thunder. While attending a party being thrown by Russell Westbrook in Arcadia, George stood on stage and told the 500 invited guests exactly what they wanted to hear.

“If y’all don’t quite get it, let me say it again,” George told the crowd with Westbrook strutting behind him. “I’m here to stay.”

The guests were then treated to a concert from hip-hop legend NAS as George and Westbrook celebrated with the rest of the Thunder organization.

According to reports, George will sign a 4-year max contract worth $137 million. He holds the option after the third year, which could allow him to resign again and push the total value to a seven-year deal worth $290 million.

When the news broke that George was going to be staying, fans lost their minds and acted as if they had just won an NBA title. In his one season with Oklahoma City, the forward averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds. 3.3 assists, 2.0 steals and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.

This is not the position most NBA analyst thought the Thunder would be in when they traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana in 2017 for George, who had just one year left on his contract.

The prevailing theory at the time was that George was just going to be in Oklahoma City for one season. That the native of Los Angles had his eyes locked on returning home and playing for the Lakers.

But Presti and the entire organization weren’t going to let him get away without a fight. From the moment he became part of the team, George was slowly pulled into the Thunder culture and seemingly grew closer to Westbrook.

At the end of the year-long recruitment, George has become the one thing the franchise never had: A big-time free agent who chose to be in Oklahoma City.

Presti had been able to pull off miracle trades and turn draft picks into future MVPs. But to get a player the caliber of George, in his prime, to choose the Thunder when they had other options had eluded him until now.

Hours after George announced he was staying, the Thunder came to terms with free agent Jerami Grant. The 24-year old will sign a three-year, $27 million contract to return to Oklahoma City.

Up until LeBron James chose to make the Lakers his new home, the Thunder had owned the free agency period just by keeping its core team intact.

However, it does come at a cost for the Oklahoma City owners. The team’s salary will reach more than $157 million dollars. The salary cap is ‘only’ $101.8 million.

Because Oklahoma City has gone over the salary cap line in the past, their luxury tax for the 2018-19 season will be just under $138 million. That is a total payout of almost $300 million. It will increase with every free agent they are able to sign.

Yet, Presti and the Thunder knew this was a distinct possibility when they traded for George and Carmelo Anthony last year. The fact they are willing to pay that type of money now when they wouldn’t back in 2012 with James Harden show just how much the league has changed in those six years.

Oklahoma City still has a few questions left unanswered. What will they do with Anthony and his contract? The fact he was not at the party Saturday says a possible buyout is looming.

Also, will the Thunder bring back Raymond Felton and Corey Brewer or go seek out other low-cost free agents?

But as of right now, Oklahoma City’s core is signed long-term and that is something most franchises in the league can’t say.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

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