Preseason revving up for Thunder

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – The new look Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off training camp this week as they prepare for the 2018-19 season. But they did it without having star point guard Russell Westbrook taking part in any physical activities.

Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this month and is expected to be sidelined throughout training camp. The NBA All-Star is scheduled to be re-evaluated in a few weeks.

When Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked if Westbrook could have had the surgery earlier in the offseason so he could have been back on the floor sooner, he didn’t say whether that was an option or not.

“Well, obviously Russell made that decision. He’ll talk about that,” Donovan said. “But I think for him, he felt like it was the best thing to do at this point in time. We feel very, very fortunate that it was obviously nothing serious, and he’s working hard to get himself back, whenever that time may be.”

Despite that, Westbrook heads into the pre-season seemingly happy with the makeup of the team. The re-signing of Paul George has a lot to do with that.

“You know, me and Paul had a relationship before,” Westbrook said. “Being both LA natives, having a little relationship back then, and throughout the season, man, and before the season, just creating a relationship, knowing a little bit more about him, his family, his goals, what he wants to do, and it just clicked from there. We continued our relationship. We continued to stay in contact, obviously, and made it work.”

George was on top of most team’s wish list as a free agent. But he stunned many when he signed a long-term deal with Oklahoma City the first night of the free agency period.

“I think during the season, to start the season off, I was just open, very open about the situation, and in order for me to do that, I had to — for me to give everything I had and for me to be committed, I had to be open about coming here, otherwise I would have been not giving the team every bit of effort or — it just would have been something that I was holding back,” George said. “You know, I just told myself to start the process off, just give this team everything I have and see what happens. Obviously, I’ve developed some good relationships with Russ, with Steven, with Dre, with Coach Donovan, Sam Presti, Klay. I just developed these really good relationships here, almost feeling like I’ve been here for a while. And then just over the course of the whole season, it just steamrolled, just got better and better, and here I am.”

The Thunder also added guard Dennis Schroder in a trade that sent away Carmelo Anthony in a trade. The addition of Schroder deepens the Oklahoma City backcourt. He also answers some very specific needs the team has not had in the past couple of seasons.

But for the 24-year old Schroder, the chance to play alongside Westbrook and George is an opportunity he is looking forward to taking advantage of this season.

“I think, first off, to be in this organization, to see every day Russell Westbrook, Paul George practicing, see what they do off the court, on the court, I think was a big thing for me,” Schroder said. “You know, and the organization, I met everyone. I met the coaching staff, I met the front office, all the people, and it’s like a big family. I’m excited to be here and be a part of this organization.”

Blue & White Scrimmage

Oklahoma City fans can get their first look at the Thunder Sunday when they hold their annual Blue & White Intra-squad Scrimmage. In an unusual move, it will be held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena at 2 p.m.

In the past, the scrimmages have taken place at area high schools as a way to give back to the community.

In the past Yukon, Newcastle, Choctaw, Moore, Bixby, Bethany and Midwest City have all hosted the event. They all drew huge crowds and fanfare. No reason has been given for the move to the Chesapeake.

The Thunder kick off their slate of preseason games Wednesday when they host Detroit at 7 p.m.

King of New York

By Michael Kinney

NEW YORK – Tae Ham hadn’t been out to enjoy the nightlife of New York City in some time. He became a homebody after the birth of his second child.

But on the evening of Aug. 12, Ham found himself relaxing at Mr. Purple, the posh rooftop bar at the Hotel Indigo near the SoHo District.

He was surrounded by young, upwardly mobile New Yorkers enjoying their lives and successes in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. As Ham stared out into the New York City skyline, he recalled growing up in Oklahoma when the setting would have seen more of a fantasy than real-life possibility.

Ham, 44, the founder and CEO of the investment firm Open Hedge, said he has come a long way from the days when he could barely speak English as a young immigrant. He arrived in Lawton with his family when he was 10.

“I wasn’t the smartest kid. I wasn’t the most talented,” Ham said. “But I believe that if you have passion and you’re willing to focus and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to do it, I think that will lead you to greater things in life.”

Ham founded Open Hedge almost two years ago. The motto of the investment company, which is located on 57th Street in the heart of New York City’s financial district, is to bring Wall Street to Main Street.

Before going out on his own, Ham worked for 14 years as a senior executive with Viking Global Investors and HBK Capital Management, a pair of multibillion-dollar hedge funds. While Ham was successful at both companies, he wanted a change. The realization came about three or four years ago.

“I had my first son and I used to go to work at 6:30 a.m. and come home at 9 o’clock,” he said. “So, I never got to see my son for three years. That’s when I started to realize what I’m missing. There’s not a real balance in my life.”

It wasn’t an easy decision. The pay was great, but wealth wasn’t the most important consideration. On the other hand, the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur appealed to him.

Coming to America

Ham was already familiar with challenge, beginning when he and his family first left South Korea.

“My dad, he came to the United States knowing that if his kids stayed in Korea, we would never have the same opportunity that we could have in America,” Ham said. “He believed in the American dream. He didn’t know what that was, but he knew that in America opportunities abound, and he knew that his kids would have better chances.

“So, he came to America first and he brought us after,” he said.

When Ham reached Oklahoma, he had no idea what to expect. He didn’t know anything about his new home.

“None of us spoke English,” Ham said. “We had to learn English when we came here and when we moved to Lawton. I wasn’t particularly thrilled because I thought it was a little cowboy town.”

Ham’s family was poor. His father’s salary as a pastor at a small Korean church barely covered the basics for a family of six. He recalled feeling embarrassed because he was a part of the free lunch program at school. But he learned from that experience, he said.

“It taught me to say, ‘my parents came here with nothing and they’re trying their best to provide,’” he said. “I can’t just sit back. I think my parents instilled this in me too. Believing, whispering in our ear saying, ‘you can be more than what we have done here.’”

Ham was an all-district performer on the Eagles varsity soccer team at Lawton Eisenhower High School. His coach, John Stiefer, said the tenacity Ham displayed on the soccer field helped him get ahead in business. Initially, Stiefer said he was skeptical that Ham had the size and skill to play goalkeeper.

“But, he was tenacious with a ‘the keeper position is mine’ mindset,” Stiefer said. “Each training session was a competition for him and his skill improved exponentially. Tae was very intelligent and this enabled him to gain more skill on the technical and tactical aspects of goalkeeping. He was a very hard worker.”

But one trait stood out to separate him as an outstanding ‘keeper from every other player, his former coach said.

“It’s courage,” Stiefer said. “Tae was a very courageous keeper. All of the practice and training repetitions cannot elucidate courage. Time after time I saw him sacrifice his well-being to make outstanding saves.”

Ham graduated from Eisenhower in 1992 and earned a bachelor of arts degree across the state at the University of Tulsa.

First financial lessons

Ham’s first job was in Dallas working at Microsoft. He then joined the company Data Returns. He was 23-years old and seemingly had everything he wanted in front of him.

But that is when life decided to deliver its first blow as the dot.com bust hit. Data Returns busted and Ham was left out in the cold, but with some life lessons.

“When the dot.com bust occurred I lacked the finance knowledge to protect myself. Sonny (Perdue), at one point his net worth was over a billion dollars, and he didn’t protect himself,” Ham said. “I think a lot of the people that worked at Data Return were in the same boat. So that’s one of the reasons my vision was I want to go to business school to understand finance and accounting.”

Ham made the decision to deviate from his initial plan and head to business school in New York, where he attended Columbia. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one he knew he had to make.

“I think any time you leave a place that you’re comfortable in, it’s hard,” Ham said. “It challenges you. It pushes you and it’s hard for people to be uncomfortable, but I think being uncomfortable is a great thing. You can’t be comfortable. If you’re comfortable you sometimes forget that you could achieve more.”

That is the mindset Ham continues to carry with him today at Open Hedge. He hopes that young women and men coming out of Oklahoma now realize they can do whatever they want and not to use where they came from as an excuse not to dream big.

“If you look at the kids that work at my previous firms, most of them were Harvard grads, undergrads, Ivy League grads; and most of them had opportunities that people from Lawton or even Oklahoma just didn’t have,” Ham said. “But I think people understand your passion. They understand your work ethic. They understand that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters what you do.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer

Story ran in The Journal Record

Sooners ready to get back to Big 12 action

By Michael Kinney

After escaping with a victory over Army last weekend, the sixth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners return to Big 12 action this week when they take on the suddenly formidable Baylor Bears. The game is set for 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Baylor comes into the contest with a 3-1 record after beating Kansas 26-7.

“They are a lot better,” co-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh said of Baylor. “They are playing very physical. They got bigger. You can tell that on tape. They understand the scheme better. Obviously, their numbers are better. It’s going to be a tough challenge. I think it will be across the board, the best d-line, linebackers, secondary wide, I think it will be our toughest challenge. We have to prepare well this week.”

When the Sooners (4-0) were asked about what to expect from the Baylor defense, the same word kept popping up. Physical.

“What stands out is how physical those guys are,” tackle Bobby Evans said. “It’s a pretty well-coached team. They come after the ball pretty hard.”

The Sooners other offensive tackle, Cody Ford, agreed.

“Their physicality. I think that stands out the most. Especially among their d-linemen. I think that will be the best d-line will play at this point. The defensive end, No. 93 (James Lynch). He stands out the most to me. They all have the same physicality I think.”

Bedenbaugh was especially impressed with Bears defensive scheme.

“They play a bunch of guys at a bunch of different positions. Most of the time you have to study one or two guys, maybe three or four,” Bedenbaugh said. “But all of these guys will play all over the place. I’ve never really seen many people do it. Their two d-ends will play a shade, a three, both d-ends. It’s going to be critical they study each guy, know the guys they’re going to face. Prepare.”

Oklahoma owns a 24-3 (.889) all-time record against Baylor and is 12-1 versus the Bears in Norman. In the Big 12 era, the Sooners hold a 19-3 series advantage (9-1 at home).

In Saturday’ win over Army, one of the most exciting sequences of the night was one Oklahoma never wants to see again.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Sooners had two shots at a touchdown from inside the one-yard line. But they were rebuffed twice by a stout Black Knights defense.

The series of plays was still on the minds of the offensive line as they began preparation for Baylor this week.

“It’s very frustrating,” Evans said. “Because it’s on us. We put that on our backs. We took that to heart. We didn’t create enough movement on the goal line. That’s all that was. We take a lot of pride in that, so it doesn’t matter how many people are I the box. We still have to create some type of movement.”

However, Bedenbaugh said the blame for the goal line stand goes on his shoulders.

“The lesson learned is I have to scheme better,” Bedenbaugh said. “That’s the biggest lesson. It’s not on those guys. I have to do a better job of putting them in position to be successful.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Oklahoma gets all it can handle from Army

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN — Throughout the week, the Oklahoma coaches tried to hammer into their player’s heads that Army was a different team. Despite not having a roster full of five-star recruits and running a throwback offense, they knew what type of fight the Black Knights would bring if they were allowed to hang around.

Even though the players said they headed every word, it wasn’t until they face Army on the field that reality set in and they found themselves in an all-out battle.

It took a takeaway in overtime before the fifth-ranked Sooners (4-0) were able to call it a night with a 28-21 victory over the Black Knights. At Memorial Stadium Saturday.

“This army team, them boys were tough. You can say what you want,” OU linebacker Curtis Bolton said. “It’s a little outdated, the triple option. But at the end of the day, them boys are out there trying to win a football game. They did a good job. They played a hell of a football game. I’m glad we came out with the W.”

It took a couple of huge defensive stops for Oklahoma to leave the stadium without one of the biggest upsets in school history on their ledger.

The first came near the end of regulation with the Black Knights driving toward the Sooner’s endzone. With the game tied at 21-21, all they were looking to do was keep churning minutes off the clock and set themselves up for a game-winning field goal.

But the Oklahoma defense forced Army into a passing situation on third down and the Sooner’s Mark Jackson deflected the pass from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins and defensive end Kenneth Mann made the interception to give the Sooners the ball at their 38-yard line.

That led to Oklahoma quarterback leading the Sooners down the field to the Army 16-yard line for a chance to kick their own game-winning field goal. However, Austin Siebert attempt went wide-left and the game went into overtime.

“I was surprised he missed it, but he’ll make the next one,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “I knew he had full confidence obviously centering the ball and getting it to the spot he wanted it. I had full confidence in him, (holder Connor McGinnis) and our entire offensive line to protect him. I had full confidence he was going to make it. If I’m ever in the same situation again, I’ll probably do exactly the same thing.”

In overtime, the Sooners got the ball first. Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for the go-ahead 10-yard touchdown pass to put Oklahoma up 28-21.

“Mindset was just to keep our composure and play our game,” Lamb said, “do things that we got and use every player that we have, make sure everybody gets their win and push.”

The Black Knights attempted to respond but once again the Sooner’s defense forced them into a passing situation on fourth down. Under pressure, Hopkins was picked off by Parnell Motley to end the game. Up until that play, Army was 4 for 4 on fourth downs.

“I think adversity is good for any team and every team needs it at some point during the season so we don’t get to the end of the season and be shocked,” defensive end Armani Bledsoe said. “But a good team win and a great win overall.”

Bolton ended the night with a total of 23 tackles, which broke the school record. However, he still didn’t even lead the team. Middle linebacker Kenneth Murray smash the record with 28 tackles, which is the highest total in the FBS since 2000.

Murray said he knew coming into the night he had a chance to have a special game.

“That’s the first thing I thought as soon as I saw them on tape,” Murray said. “They obviously like the run the ball. Coach told me as soon as I got done with the Iowa State film, he said they had the ball for like 40 something minutes last week. I was like it’s going to be an opportunity for me to go out there and make plays. I just went out there to make tackles and stuff like that. I just honed in on what I needed to do, paid attention to my keys and made plays.”

Army held the ball for 44:41 against a tired Oklahoma defense. The Sooners offense was only on the field for 15:19. Their 40 plays were the third-fewest in recorded program history.

Murray attempted only 15 passes and completed 11 of them. He threw for 165 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also carried the rock for 84 yards and another score.

Trey Sermon paced the Sooners with a season-high 119 yards rushing on `18 carries. It was his second career game with more than 100 yards rushing.

Oklahoma gets back into Big 12 play next Saturday when they host Baylor.

“I’m glad to get back into what we’re comfortable with,” Bolton said. “The game last week against Iowa State, we’ve got a lot to build off of from that. I know there are a lot of Big 12 teams that are watching that tape, they think they’re going to get us in a few spots. We’re just trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

stadium.jpg

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story will run in The Yukon Review

Army presents Oklahoma defense with unique challenges

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

When Oklahoma hosts Army Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, they will be facing something unique. In a time where seemingly every team runs the same type of offenses, the Black Knights will come into Norman with a style very few of the players have seen.

Led by Kelvin Hopkins Jr., Army is second in the nation with 62.3 rushing attempts per game. They pound out 306 rushing yards a game.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knows his Sooners will have their hands full stopping the potent triple-option attack of the Black Knights Saturday.

“It’s very unique and it’s difficult to transition into more patient, react to box, try to keep people off your legs,” Stoops said. “So there’s a lot there, and then their ability to execute so many different variables in the triple option is challenging in a lot of ways. The difficult part is the amount of time they could hold the football. When you look at, they’re averaging I think close to 40 minutes a game holding the football, and that can be very difficult.”

One of the traits of the triple option is offensive linemen blocking low and into the legs of defenders.

“The hardest things to do is to keep people off your legs,” Stoops said. “We’re not used to everybody crawling. They’re gonna dig through and what they do is … It’s how they do it. They stay low and try to rip their gaps and get in people’s legs and tie people up. And we’re gonna have to be good with our hands and protect ourselves and try to keep ourselves free.”

Lethal passing game?

The Black Knights put up only 13 passing attempts a game, but lead the nation at 23.3 yards per completion.

“I think when you look at their ability to throw the football has been a little more prevalent this year than they did in the past,” Stoops said. “I thought the quarterback last year was really outstanding handling the football. This guy throws the ball maybe a little bit better, they feel a little bit better with their passing game under him. He throws the ball well, but that’s the effect of crowding the line of scrimmage, trying to crowd their run game, get an extra body in there to defend the run; then they’re gonna hurt you with a play action pass. So, those have been very effective for them this year and that’s something that we’ve worked a lot this work and will continue to work the rest of the week.”

Secondary can’t lose focus

Because the Black Knights will lull opposing defenses to sleep with a constant run game, Oklahoma’s defensive backs know they can be hit for a bomb downfield at any moment.

OU cornerback Tre Norwood says it all starts with discipline.

“It’s gonna be different. As a corner, especially in the Big 12, you’re used to pass heavy teams,” Norwood said. “It’s one of those games you have to be fundamentally sound, disciplined, just read your keys and just stay locked in. You can’t get laxed today because it’s just run, run, run and then that’s when a pass comes. It’s just one of those things you have to work on. Work on your eye discipline and just doing your job, that’s the main thing. Focus on doing your job and not trying to do too much.”

Old style new to Sooners

Since only the service academies and a select few FBS teams still run the triple option, very few members of the Sooners have ever seen it in person. With most high schools running some version of the spread or RPO offenses, Saturday will be the Sooners first indoctrination to the offense.

‘I believe it’s going to be the second time,” defensive tackle Neville Gallimore said. “Tulane last year had something similar like the triple option. But it’s new. It’s going to be another challenge to me. As long as we prepare the right way, we should be fine.”

Bounce back week for defense

Despite beating Iowa Saturday, the Oklahoma defense knows it didn’t play to the level they had in the first two games. Missing tackles was their biggest issues. That is an element the team says its focusing on during the week.

“It starts there in practice. I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen it. Wasn’t pleased with tackling and all this, this past week so we got to coming in practices,” Norwood said. “Focus on tackling and no matter what always getting to the ball. Wrapping up, that’s going to play a big part in this game. Everybody knows they’re run heavy team. Strong guys, so you have to make sure you wrap up and tackling is going to be the main key to this game.”

Mental toughness

“Tackling at the end of the day is our effort,” Norwood said. “You can teach it. You can always teach it at practice, the fundamentals. Taking the right angles and such things like that. But when it comes down to it in the game, it’s just a will to want to get those guys down. Make the play. I feel like it’s all effort and just the want to.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer

Story first appeared in The Yukon Review

Small frames, big games for Sooners

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

At 5-foot-10, Oklahoma Kyler Murray wouldn’t be considered an NFL prospect by most observers. Even if he wasn’t destined to take his talents to Major League Baseball, the Texas native would be considered too small to make it in the league.

However, don’t tell him that. Murray, who threw for 348 yards and three TDs against Iowa State, believes height is not a requirement to play the position. At any level.

“I don’t believe in those,” Murray said. “There are a lot of 6-foot-5 guys in the (NFL) that aren’t very good I feel like. If you can play quarterback, you can play quarterback. If you have the feel to play quarterback, then you can play it. Some guys have it, some guys don’t.”

The same mentality appears to be shared by wide receiver Marquise Brown.  Coming off his nine reception, 191-yard performance against Cyclones, Brown has continued to catch the attention of NFL teams. Despite only being listed at 5-foot 10, 168 pounds, he is proving he can play at the next level.

“Marquise is playing with a chip on his shoulder like all the other small guys,” Murray said of Brown. “Me, myself Baker (Mayfield). Every guy they say can’t play a position because their too small, you have to have that chip on your shoulder. That is something he has on his shoulder. He is trying to prove himself, obviously. For NFL scouts and things like that. He wants to play at the next level, just like anybody else does. He has to prove those things like come across the middle, catch competitive balls. Not just be a one trick pony type of guy. For scouts to think that he can do that or take a chance on him, a small guy, he has to do those things and he’s doing them all right now.”

 

Lack of catches

Through three games tight end Grant Calcatera has recorded six receptions for 70 yards.  He had two catches for 41 yards versus the Cyclones. It’s not the output many expected of the 6-foot-4, 221-pound sophomore heading into the season.

Everybody wants to get balls,” Calcatera said. “But at the end of the day, we’re winning every game. We’re executing, I’m blocking well. So when you’re not getting the ball all you can do is do everything else right. I think for me I just got to focus on my assignments every week. If balls come my way, they come my way. If they don’t, I’m going to continue to do my best to try and help the team any way I can.”

However, quarterback Kyler Murray said Calcatera’s time will come.

“Right now, he hasn’t caught a lot of balls yet,” Murray said. “But obviously, we have a lot of weapons. Which is kind of a blessing for me. For those guys, they sometimes might not get the ball as much as they like. But it’s a team game. We’re all in it for one reason and that’s to win. Defenses are going to key in on Marquise (Brown) and CeeDee (Lamb) and those guys. You can’t sleep on Grant. I’m glad we have him.”

Close to breaking a long one

Riley said tailback Trey Sermon is close to breaking a long run for a touchdown. Sermon agreed.

“I definitely feel that way,” Sermon said. “My offensive line does a great job and just every time I touch the ball I feel like it’s getting closer and closer.”

Sooners settle on starting center

After watching his two centers go back and forth for three games in and out of the starting lineup, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh announced that redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey has won the starting job. Senior Jonathan Alvarez will be the back.

“It’s happened. We needed continuity at that spot,” Bedenbaugh said. “It’s happened and we’re going to move forward. Creed is going to be the guy. Yes he is.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story appeared in The Yukon Review

Sooners built for competition

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

Days after Oklahoma defeated UCLA, sophomore wideout CeeDee Lamb was still being asked about his spectacular non-catch in last weekend’s. Even though the one-handed grab was ruled out of bounds, that has stopped Lamb’s phone from blowing up.

Lamb said he even surprised himself when he went back to see the replay of it.

“I actually jumped higher than I thought,” Lamb said. “I was pretty up there. I surprised myself, to be honest. I just jumped to see if I was able to get to it. The next thing you know I caught it.”

Lamb said he doesn’t know what his vertical jump is right now. But he believes it increases during games when the adrenalin is pumping and more people are watching him.

Teammate Marquise Brown is one of those who was watching Lamb as well.

“That was crazy,” Brown said. “I was watching it and was like ‘oh, he just caught that.’ They should have just counted it for the effort.”

Because the wide receiver room at Oklahoma is so competitive, Lamb knows Brown will be trying to outdo him this week at Iowa State.

“There is no telling what Jet has in his bag,” Lamb said. “I will just wait till he pulls out something spectacular. He will probably pull out a helmet catch or something. I will just be prepared. We always compete, so I hope he gets it.”

The competition that Lamb and Brown have between each other is just a small sample of what seems to be the driving force behind this year’s Oklahoma squad. Whether it’s individually or group vs group, the Sooner’s foundation is built on competition.

“We compete through offense, defense, special teams,” Brown said. “We compete, compete, compete.”

While the offensive and defensive lines get after it as do linebackers and runningbacks, it’s the receivers and defensive backs who seem to take the most joy in going after each other.

“It’s just great going against those guys every day,” safety Justin Broiles said. “Every day we’re competing. In and out. It’s vice versa. Monday we might get them. The next day they might come back out and get us. You just get fighting, keep pounding at each other.”

With a player like Broiles on the field, it’s hard for things to not turn competitive. The 5-foot-10, 180 Oklahoma City native is not afraid to get up on the faces of his offensive players on his team and opposing squads.

““I’ve always been one to try to get in your head,” Broiles said. “If I can get in your head, it’s over with then. It’s just something that comes from being JB. That’s just being me. (I know I have them) when they start getting frustrated when they start trying to get extra after the whistle. That’s when I know it’s over with now. I’ve got you.”

According to Brown, their daily face-offs in practice has them prepared for anything they will encounter on Saturdays.

“It’s competitive. Every practice is so competitive. Not only are we competing with the DBs, but we’re competing with each other. I make a play, CeeDee wants to make a play, AD wants to make a play. The youngins want to make a play. So, it’s like we’re all competing, going hard. The DBs are just pushing us, pushing us. So, it’s like when we get out here (games) we want to get rewarded for it for the work we put in.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider.

Sooners lose Anderson for the season

Photo by Jay Beauchamp/Creative Storm Media

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN –Despite its convincing 49-21 victory over UCLA Saturday, the mood in the Oklahoma locker room was a somber one. Starting tailback Rodney Anderson left the field injured and his prognosis was unknown.

On Sunday the Sooners confirmed that tailback Rodney Anderson was done for the season with a knee injury which he suffered against the Bruins.

“We’re heartbroken for him,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said of Anderson. “He’s overcome so much in his career, and if anybody can do it again it’s Rodney. He’s played a lot of great football and has a lot more ahead of him. He’s just a tremendous person and player and we’ll miss him on the field. But we know he’ll be with us every step of the way as a team captain, and that other players will step up in his place.”

The injury occurred on the final play of the first quarter when Anderson was tackled by the Bruins. He was taken to the OU locker room and didn’t return to action.

Riley said he talked to Anderson’s family and they have decided not to specify what the injury is. But According to offensive lineman Ben Powers, the team knew the severity of the injury before the game was over.

In his four seasons at Oklahoma, Anderson has been injury plagued. He suffered a broken leg in 2015 and a fractured vertebra in 2016. He has played a total of 14 games.

“The injuries he has had have been isolated,” Riley said. “It’s not like the guy has gone out there and had four or five knee injuries on the same one. And the way this kid can rehab, the physical specimen that he is, I told him I don’t think this injury will have any impact on the rest of his career in football.”

However, doesn’t know where Anderson will be playing next season.

“I fully expect that he will play (next year),” Riley said. “He will probably have a decision to make if it’s going to be at this level or the next level. That will be an interesting one, but one that doesn’t have to be made now.”

With Anderson out, the Sooners will rely on a committee of runningbacks until one separates from the pack. They include sophomore Tre Sermon, senior Marcelias Sutton and freshman T.J. Pledger and redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks.

“As the backs here go forward, it’s going to be based on performance,” Riley said. “Kind of like we were last year with a large part of the season. If all those guys are performing well, but nobody is totaling outplaying another, I’m sure we will play a bunch of those guys. If we get a guy that gets hot and really starts playing at a high level, we’ll certainly feed him more reps and with that more opportunities. We feel good about those four.”

Anderson’s production could

Murray says he has faith in whoever lines up behind him. They will get their first chance to show it Saturday when the Sooners travel to Iowa State.

“This is the University of Oklahoma. We have to reload,” Murray said. “Next man steps up and I believe we have the players to do that. It’s obviously tough losing him, but we have guys that have to step up. You can’t replace a guy like Rodney, but I don’t think we’ll have to. We have a lot of guys in the offensive room that can make plays and we will see guys step up. Nobody thought Rodney was Rodney until what he did last year. We have guys that can replace him, I feel. I’m not too worried or not whether we will be able to replace him.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story first ran in the Yukon Review

Bruins offense could present challenges

By Michael Kinney

Curtis Bolton put on a show Saturday. He recorded six tackles and recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown against Florida Atlantic.

Bolton earned Big 12 Defensive Player of Week honors, which had defensive coordinator Mike Stoops singing his senior will linebacker’s praises

“Curtis played outstanding,” Stoops said. “Curtis made some plays. That’s what he does. He runs around, he plays with great effort, He’s made himself a better player. We need him to continue to progress and he can really help us if he can continue that climb.”

However, Bolton admits a few years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. The California native says that it has taken some time for him and Stoops to get a good understanding of each other.

“Me and coach Stoops, it is an interesting relationship,” Bolton said. “In my younger years, I needed a lot of time to mature. I needed a lot of time to build my consistency. I think a lot of times in my younger years he was frustrated because I felt like he could see what I could become. But I wasn’t becoming all that I could be. That was something I needed to grow up in and realize. That has kind of been my main focus in the last two years. I think over the last two years we’ve built it up. I think he understands where I’m at as a person. I’m trying to understand where he’s at. But it’s tough being a D-coordinator. I’m just trying to play sound football. At the end of the day, if there is one position he can count on, it’s the will linebacker.”

Kenneth Mann named a captain

“It’s a huge honor,” Mann said. “I was really happy to hear that. I was shocked to hear it to. It’s a huge honor, a big role.”

Mann said being captain was something he had made a goal of his.

“It was something I wanted to get to as a goal,” Mann said. “To be a leader on this team like that. It’s just cool to hear.”

UCLA bringing an up-tempo squad to Norman

UCLA coach Chip Kelly is known as one of the innovators of the up-tempo offense. His teams tend to go at an even faster pace than most of the squads Oklahoma faces.

“Well we’ve grown accustomed to playing that way and our guys, even our young guys are adapting to playing fast,” Stoops said. “For the most part, we were able to communicate well. We had some missed calls, missed assignments throughout the course of the game Saturday but 90 some percent was good, and the communication part. We get that from our offense pretty much daily. We should be well equipped to handle it.”

Sooners looking forward to the challenge

“I think they are a good tempo offense,” junior corner Parnell Motley said. “Just kind of slow it down. He kinds of brings this NFL strategy back to the college level. It’s good to see some things like that and line up to it and see what we can do with it.”

“They run a good offense,” senior safety Kahlil Haughton said. “They have a lot of good players they can spread out. And their quarterback is really good. They have a chance to be mobile with him. All around they have a really good offense. We’re excited about the chance to go out there and stop another team.”

PAC 12 Experience

Stoops said he and Kelly became good friends when both were in the Pac 12 facing each other every year when he was at Arizona and Kelly was at Oregon. It also gives the Sooners a small advantage in the fact he has taken on a Kelly coached team before. But not much.

“I see some similarities when we played when I was at Arizona. I went back and looked at some things and I looked at, you got to look at Philadelphia and San Francisco. He’s adapted as he’s moved the last two or three places,” Stoops said. “I think you have to adapt to your players and to the quarterback and do what they do. And he’s had a whole slew of different prototypical, non-prototypical. This kids a great athlete and a great thrower so again he just again, I think he has a lot of offense that can fit each particular team. And he can come at you a variety of different ways. When you look at all that, there’s a big body of work. There’s a lot to defend.”

Bolton was not satisfied with his TD celebration Saturday

“I wasn’t able to get it all,” Bolton said. “I was kind of just hyped at the point. I have a little something, but with the new play clock rule, everybody grabbed me talking about we’re not trying to get 15 (yards) and I understood. I just kind of ran off. But it’s going to be better, trust me. That’s just something y’all are going to have to see. I have to make the plays first. Celebrations are fun and all, but at the of the day, if you’re not making plays, it doesn’t matter what you’re celebrating.”

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Notebook: QB market always open at OU

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

Lincoln Riley is one of the few college coaches in the nation with a luxury at quarterback. Despite losing a Heisman trophy winner from last season, he enters the 2018 campaign with two signal callers who he considers more than capable.

While Kyler Murray earned the starting role during preseason camp, Austin Kendall has proven to be a player Riley can trust the offense with if something happened to Murray.

Behind those two are redshirt sophomore Tanner Schafer and true freshman Tanner Mordecai, both who played Saturday.

Not many other programs, especially those who can contend for a national championship, have that situation. And he is a commitment form 5-star high school phenom Spencer Rattler for the 2019 class.

Despite that, Riley said Monday that he is always on the look out for a new quarterback because that is the nature of the college game these days. Past experience has taught him to not be caught off guard when quarterbacks decide to leave.

“You’re always on the market for a quarterback now,” Riley said. “Even if you have four, you may really only have two. We’ve learned that. Obviously, we went through that the first year. We’ve had to be smart about taking care of our guys. That’s just the world we live in you see it all over the place. Guys not winning jobs and leaving, transferring out. Teams losing two or three guys at a time, especially after a competition. I think we’re always going to be able to attract good ones because of the history here, because of what we do, because of the players we can surround them with. I think we’re probably in a better position than most because of that. But the door is never shut on a great quarterback coming in here. I think you’re always on the market.”

Sooners ready for Bruins defense

Despite losing to Cincinnati Saturday, the UCLA defense has the attention of the OU offense. They held the Bearcats to 110 yards passing on 14 of 26 passing. No wideout had more than 29 yards receiving.

The Sooners Marquise Brown had more than the entire Cincy passing attack by himself Saturday.

“They are a very athletic defense,” Brown said of UCLA. “They all swarm to the ball and they have a good secondary. Their whole secondary can play. You can’t take any of them for granted.”

On Brown’s 65-yard touchdown catch against FA, he had to twist his body in order to haul in the pass. He said that is something he worked on in the offseason.

“I worked on that a lot, no matter how the ball is thrown you just have to find a way to catch it,” Brown said. “I encourage them to do that. When you are in trouble, I’m back out there. So just throw it as far as you can. Me and Kyler’s (Murray) relationship has been growing since last year. I was getting most of my reps with him starting out when I got here. We were always clicking. And now we are just keeping it going.”

Oklahoma (1-0) hosts UCLA (0-1) at Noon Saturday.

Walk-on success

Myles Tease, Lee Morris, and Drake Stoops are just the latest in a line of walk-ons who found success at Oklahoma. According to coach Bill Bendenbaugh, it’s because of what the Sooners do during the week.

“Everybody gets reps. It doesn’t matter who you are,” Bendenbaugh said. “I’m not saying other places you don’t. But those guys here really get an opportunity. If you walk on here, you’re going to get an opportunity to get reps. Every guy that we have here is getting reps. It’s unique here. I’ve never been a place where we do two groups in practice. This was the first time I’ve ever done it. It started with coach (Bob) Stoops. It’s a great thing. I think that’s another reason some of our guys can play earlier than maybe other places. Because they are getting reps, they are getting coached every day.”

Morris is no longer a walk-on after Riley presented him with a scholarship during practice Monday. Saturday, Morris blocked a punt that led to a touchdown and caught another.

Story ran in The Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider