Obo Obo in Focus

Image from Soonersports.com

I’m sure many of you love hearing about how players that we haven’t seen on the field yet are doing or had been doing in practice. Throughout the off-season we will try to bring you some “behind the scenes” looks at some intriguing players on Oklahoma’s roster. For now most of the information will be based on what we saw last time we had a chance to look at some of the OU prospects (we saw most in practice/Fall camp this past season) but hopefully this spring we will be able to bring you more updated information. As many of you know these are all young players that are developing fast. We saw how quickly some of our young players grew up between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. I suspect we will see a great deal of growth this off-season.

When I first saw Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Obo) play it was back in high school where he played the 3-tech and NT position. He was obviously undersized at those positions. But even as an undersized interior d lineman in high school you could see he had incredible hips and a great first step which would show up in fall camp as well. I loved that he didn’t mind playing in the interior line in high school. It showed me he didn’t mind getting physical and dirty. Anymore high school players want the glamour and the spot light but playing DT means you won’t necessarily get all of the sacks. That’s especially true when you play in a place like Houston where just about everyone runs a zone scheme and your interior linemen are going to regularly get scooped by the center and the guard. But despite that Obo still found ways to get in the backfield, make plays and rack up tackles for loss. He had developed a couple of pass rush moves such as bull rush and then he would show off a club/short swim move which allowed him to get vertical quickly, knifing through a double team then getting a TFL. For such a young kid at the time it was very impressive.

When I had a chance to see Obo again last fall camp at OU he looked like he had put on a little weight. I had never seen him up close until last camp and I was really shocked at how long he is. His wing span is unbelievable and as a pass rusher that is definitely something that can benefit him if he learns how to use it. His bull rush wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in high school, which obviously isn’t a surprise. But you could still see that incredible first step. I think Obo will compete for the other hybrid position opposite Eric Striker. Like Striker Obo can turn the corner with ease and that is one of the first things you want to see from a potential pass rusher. It something I’m still not certain I’m seeing in someone like Michael Onuoha. But Obo definitely has it in my opinion. A great initial first step can do a lot but it’s the ability to flip the hips and collapse the pocket that can separate a guy from first team and second team.

I think Obo knew he was going to redshirt and I believe it was the best thing for him. The red shirt year should have helped him develop the size and strength he needs to hold up in run support but overall, I always liked what Obo brought from that stand point. He wasn’t as big as he needed to be but he’s a strong kid. And with a year of weight training there is no reason why he can’t sit in the 230 to 238 lb range by spring.  He is not a text book tackler but certainly knows how to get a ball carrier down. Obo has a chance to make a big impact this next spring. I’ll be curious to see what counter move he will be working on from the club/swim move to a possible inside move of some sorts. He always seemed to have a have a good initial punch with quick hands.

To bottom line this for you Obo has the right combination of qualities to be a really excellent hybrid OLB in our scheme. Last week coach Wright mentioned that they would probably start Devante Bond as an inside linebacker. Most folks, including myself, assumed that Bond would be an outside LB. But you have to wonder if perhaps they are seeing the benefits of Obo’s red shirt year and feel like they could potentially have three elite pass rushing linebackers on the field with Bond, Obo and Striker. As such the desire to try Bond as an inside linebacker would make sense because Oklahoma would then have a number of ways they could mix and match personnel to get great run support on the field and great pass rushers on the field.

Obo is just another one of the many reasons that there a lot of people, including us Brainiacs, who believe this defense is headed to nasty heights. We look forward to bringing you an inside look at some of these players when spring ball starts. We can’t wait!

UPDATE (added by Super K): Just wanted to add that there seems to be a discrepancy regarding how Devante Bond will be used. Coach Bobby Jack Wright was asked about him and said:

Wright

However, there is also a quote from coach Kish on Soonersports.com that says:

Kish

 

Perhaps the difference in the quotes is simply due to the fact that it’s still under discussion but it could also be based on the 3-3-5 alignment where the ILB really sometimes looks like and aligns in an OLB spot because of where Striker lines up. That’s especially true in certain down and distances. We saw them move Shannon around quite a bit. And there was a point early in the season where it was hard to really name an LBs spot because of the alignment. Some of the coaches are still using old 4-3 lingo. Our depth chart on Soonersports never even accurately reflected the scheme change by using traditional odd front parlance.

  • Rob Stover

    Great write up. However, I am pretty positive Bob said bond was am OLB while Bolton and Evans were ILBs. Obviously, that is all up for debate as these kids get into spring and fall ball.

    • Super K

      I didn’t get a chance to hear coach stoops comments. We’ll need to go back and listen. I always assumed Evans would be ILB, Bond and Bolton OLB but I do recall hearing coach wright say they might try Bond at ILB last week but he might have misspoke. Ace and I talked about it and we were both surprised. Either way I don’t think anything is set in stone till they really get a feel for them in the spring and fall.

      • Ed Cotter

        Pretty sure it was Bond as the ILB and Bolton as an OLB as well, since Bolton played mostly OLB/DE at Vista Murrietta. He is a pass rushing demon like Striker.

        • BR

          ahhh, i havent seen film on Bolton yet, thanks i’ll have to look…thanks again Ed & TFB

          • Ed Cotter

            It’s a nice problem to have guys that can play multiple positions. It’s just that having seen Bolton play, he didn’t play inside, he was mostly on the outside and on the LOS as an outside rusher. I did read the BJW comments about Bond playing inside. Didn’t catch Kish’s comments, but he’s the LB coach so his statement will ring more true. Trying not to cause any confusion, so sorry if it did.

        • Crimsonncream7

          Bob for sure said that Bolton was going to play inside and also Kish said Bond would be outside. Both of those statements seem the most likely…

          • EasTex

            I watched the replay of the Soonersports signing day coverage and that is exactly what they were saying.

      • BR

        Watching Bond’s film was very impressive, with his speed it just seemed unfair to the other D players, they couldnt get any tackles, he ate’em all up..haha…I’d love to see him opposite Stryker IMO.

  • ToatsMcGoats

    I can’t imagine what all of these LB’s are gonna look like once all the redshirt years are served…Striker, Bond, Alexander, Bolton, Evans…Pappa Kish’s job looks like it may be a little easier in the years to come!

    • Ed Cotter

      Having depth is a wonderful thing!

  • soonerjunky

    I am hoping Big Mike develops into a play maker. Local kid with great size. It does seem that every position ids starting to get real crowded. This is a good problem.

  • Shelby is a Patriot

    Man, these guys will be a nightmare for QBs next season.

    • blaster1371

      This is not knock on Striker, but if Bond learns the defense well and Bolton is strong enough to hold up now he is in college, Striker will see the field less than last year. The reason I say this is both Bolton and especially Bond have a stronger variety of pass rush moves than Striker, who seems to rely solely on the wide, get the edge move. Unless Bond is totally lost in the scheme I just don’t see how he is NOT on the field 80% of the time, and the only reason its not every play is because he will need to get a rest here and there.

      • Shelby is a Patriot

        Regardless, it’s a nice problem to have!

      • tforce

        Agreed. Striker has to develop proficiency in coverage and in holding the edge to see the field as much next year. If he can do this, it helps him and the team immensely. Because of the talent on the field last year and the incoming LBs, he’ll be pushed to do so.

  • EasTex

    Talent doesn’t appear to be lacking with this young defense. What I am most interested in is who will be the leaders this coming season with Colvin, Lynn and Nelson gone. I think Grissom and Tapper will be leaders, after that I don’t know. I could see Hayes being replaced by one of the young safeties coming up.

    • Ed Cotter

      Frank Shannon could also step up as a leader.

      • blaster1371

        Yep. I think his ‘quarterbacking” the defense front 7 the last half of the season hasn’t been given enough credit. While I am excited about all the new guys, I think the improvement of Alexander, as an individual linebacker and Shannon, working in tandem with Alexander, is a key to this defense getting stouter against the run.

      • EasTex

        He sure seemed to do a good job with the calls on defense.

      • tforce

        I loved then win over Bama, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking OU’s LBs weren’t overwhelmed by the Tide’s running game. Bama got 7 ypc on designed run plays. Bama’s running game was efficient and explosive. OU’s offensive effiency kept Bama from running the ball straight at OU all game.

        Some of this is on the OU LBs. Nelson was the only guy last year who could meet and stuff a pulling OL consistently. This is why I think Bond may actually play inside vs teams with a power running game. He’s big and strong enough to meet and possibly defeat second level OL blocks.

        Vs spread teams, Bond can move outside and provide a tough challenge to OLs that want to slide protection towards effective pass rushers (Striker or Bond, who do you slide towards?).

        The odd man out, I think, will be Alexander. I think he’s average at lots of things right now. Unless he gets stronger and/or faster this offseason (btw I hope both happened), I think OU will have better situational options

        • Cary Newman

          I agree with you on Alexander. I understand it’s only one play, but he did not good on Bama’s final touchdown. I don’t know if it was lack of recognition or maybe something else. But he did not good in space. It will be interesting to see how he progresses this spring.

          • EasTex

            That 6’3″ long stride by Henry fooled a bunch of folks.
            When he cut back inside Alexander was still moving towards the sideline away from the cut Henry made, as he should have to force the runner back to where his help was. Not making an excuse, just an observation. Henry is a mismatch for just about everybody, particularly when a defense doesn’t prepare for him.

          • Sooner Ray

            And let’s not forget that he was a freshman who was forced into play due to injury by the starter. Big improvements are usually made between the first and second year.

          • EasTex

            Yessir and he is still a growing young man.
            He moved ahead of Franklin on the depth chart at the start of the season and went on to win Big 12 honors. He had himself quite a Freshman year.

          • Cary Newman

            That is true, but reviewing that play really bothered me. I know Mike and Kish will continue to work with him. They’re really high on Dominique.

    • ohiosoonerdevildog

      I agree. Hayes was beat a lot vertically last year. Would not be surprised to see him replaced next season. Not trying to knock the kid, just seems like he lacks some vertical speed.

      • Sooner Ray

        Enter Steven Parker. Known for speed and cover.

        • ohiosoonerdevildog

          Yeah Ill take it. Even one of the younger safeties.

      • EasTex

        My thoughts exactly and he is the lone returning Senior in the back four. Hayes made some plays and always seemed assignment sound, but his apparent lack of speed worries me.

      • tforce

        The whole secondary needs to tackle better too. With bigger WR coming to the Big12, OU needs S that can get guys down.

  • OklaSooner

    It’s gonna be a long offseason….
    But love this feature!

  • Fear The Magic

    After watching clips of Bond its easy to see that he’s a natural pass rusher and he should be playing OLB. However if Obo has similar abilities then it does make sense to put Bond inside as he would be great against the run as well. He probably weighs 240 plus and having him and Shannon in the middle would make our Rushing D pretty stout.
    I have to say that Im pretty intrigued with what Jordan Evans brings as well. We didnt get to see him on the field much but in the time that he was he certainly looked like he had the nose for the ball. Im really excited about all the talented kids we have both on O and D.

    • tforce

      Evans showed well vs Tech and has an obvious role vs spread to pass teams because he’s fast and plays fast and can hit. I think he’ll get even more run in 2015 after Wilson is gone if he shows he can cover like he did vs Tech.

  • Sooner Ray

    Thanks for the good insight Ace, hope you all are able to hit some practice sessions to keep us informed on all these guys. These coaches have always been good at coaching guys up to play where they are needed as opposed to where they are used to playing. Having so much talent and versatility to work with should make the next few years very exciting.

  • Adrian

    Regardless it’s a good problem for Mike Stoops to have. Too many good linebackers lol also I was with Hatari recently and the guy is huge. I hope he gets that starting safety position because he would lay some lumber on someone. Also who do you want to see in the open Corner position? Cortez, Stanvon, Kj Young? Again, another good problem.

    • soonerjunky

      Cortez will have to stop failing drug tests if he wants to be a starting CB. He does have the size. Sanchez has everything a Corner should have except for speed. I would bet Sanchez is a 4.7 guy. I bet the other Corners pass Cortez up on the depth chart. I see Sanchez and Austin or Taylor starting at CB. I see Daniel Brooks is listed as a DB now, also thought this was interesting from soonersports.com McQuinnie, Vontre DB 6-1 204 Fr. DeSoto, Texas (DeSoto HS)
      . Thought he was a LB

      • Sooner Ray

        I thought McQuinnie was always a DB, that’s where he’s played in the film I have watched.

  • Cory Reedy

    Is it August yet?

    • Sooner Ray

      I wish!, never have to bust ice for livestock in August.

      • Shifty

        Don’t get your tractor stuck!

        • Sooner Ray

          4 wheel drive tractor buddy! bring on the mud and snow,

  • ohiosoonerdevildog

    Who do you guys see as our 11 main starters next year on defense? Assuming everyone comes back healthy from injuries.

    • tforce

      I don’t think of it this way anymore bc the coaches don’t.
      There will be different set designed to meet and exploit specific teams and situations. For example, OU’ll role out different defenders vs Tech than Bama.

  • wolfbuilder

    In 27 days we will get a chance to find out what might be going on with these young guys.

  • wolfbuilder

    Hey has anyone heard any talk about players that might be moving around to find spots on the field, like maybe some DB’s moving around

  • Doobie74OU

    It seems like these Coaches are up for anything to me! I think they would start Striker a NT if they thought it gave them the best chance to stop the run and rush the passer. I think most everything above is just coach talk anyway. They have a tentative plan for these guys but when everybody shows up this Spring/Fall the best players are getting on the feild. Nobody is getting a spot handed to them and there is compitition at every position. And no its not AUGUST but if we hope really hard maybe it will get here SOONER!

  • hOUligan

    Obo is going to give the defense a little more size at the OLB. Bond, in a NSD interview, said he was slated to play the Jackbacker or SAM slot and match up on TEs. OU could use his someone with his size and strength inside against the run, though.

  • Tim McGinnis

    I asked OBO yesterday on twitter how much he weighed, he told me he’s almost 250lbs. So he’s been putting on the weight.

  • Tim McGinnis

    Obo is almost 250 lbs per him.

  • Super Keith

    For what it’s worth, Bond said he would be playing the Jack when he was being interviewed on signing day. If that’s the case, I’m starting to think that Bond may be a pass rusher, and possibly more stitutional. We are actually looking pretty good at LB depth, so it’s not impossible to imagine he would be off of the field in a 3-3-5 look.