Offseason Momentum

Image from

When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.
Sun Tzu  The Art of War

Now that the dust has settled on the 2013 season culminating in the huge sugar bowl win, I want to talk about how big momentum is going into offseason workouts.  Every player that comes to Oklahoma dreams of playing in games like the Sugar Bowl.  The timing of that win couldn’t have been better.  That victory against Alabama was perhaps the tipping point in getting recruits like Joe Mixon, Marquise Overton, Joseph Paul and got us in the conversation for many others.  It has erased years of final game disappointments, and immediately added legitimacy to what Bob and his staff are trying to do. I won’t spend too much time talking about the recruiting momentum and how big that has been for us as well as how big it continues to be, I do want to touch on how that win against previously invincible Alabama will catapult our team into offseason workouts.

No player stands out to me in writing this piece more than Taylor McNamara.  Taylor was the number two tight end in the country coming out of high school two years ago.  Most everyone, myself included had visions of Jermaine Gresham gashing defenses down the seam when we signed Taylor.  McNamara, like most freshmen who move away from home got a little homesick, and to this point, hasn’t really been heard from all that much.  Fast forward to January 2, 2014, and all of a sudden, Taylor’s in on several plays.  He made a big second down catch for a first down, and after the game, I don’t think there were many Sooners who had a bigger smile than he did.

Why this is all important, is that as a very young man, you tend to be more emotional than you are as you get older.  There are going to be so many young players we haven’t seen a lot of who step up in the offseason.  These next four months are going to be huge in the overall physical development of these guys.  Spots that were previously tied up will be up for grabs.  We have nine returning starters on defense, but there will be a lot of guys who will have an opportunity to work themselves into playing time.  The offseason is when you gain trust from your coaches.  You gain it through work ethic, showing up on time, making all of your workouts, and just doing the things that help you become a man and a reliable player.  I tried to make a list of young players who will need to seize the opportunity, but there are just too many to list.  That’s scary…for opposing teams.  It’s scary because with so many freshmen and sophomores on the two deep this past year, when those guys turn into juniors and seniors, we may be playing for some big time hardware.  It’s also scary because you’d have to be blind not to see how talented these guys are, though you obviously hope the “love” doesn’t go to their heads.

The momentum that such a win provides to such a young team can’t be overstated.  With Bedenbaugh and Montgomery coming in and preaching new concepts in year one to all of these young guys, everything that was preached instantly has more credibility.  Schmitty asking for one more rep, one more sprint and one more set of stadiums doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.  It just shows these guys that if they buy in to the culture, stick together and just put in the work, good things will come.  On the other side of it, think about how these guys would feel going into a long cold winter and offseason coming off of a crushing loss to the nation’s best.  I’d like to hear what you guys think about it.  Who are some of the players that stand out in your mind?  Who are some guys who you think will breakout in the spring?  At any rate, it’s going to be fun for the next few months.  The momentum we’ve gained can’t be denied.

  • Jason Scism

    Guys like McNamara will be highly motivated to work and contribute for next year. I expect he will be the man at TE next year.
    Do you think with B. Walkers quick first step that he can play end opposite of Tapper? Man that would really add some beef on that line. What do you think the two deep will be on the Dline next year?
    I am super excited for next years team, I really think we are the class of the big 12 and have a good shot at making the title game.

    • Sonny Schovanec

      B. Walker ???? Huh?

      • Jason Scism

        yeah sorry I meant Charles not Brandon. LOL Brandon was a very good o-lineman though.

    • Super K

      Charles is very explosive indeed. Can’t wait to see him play in the spring

    • soonerthunder

      I’m not at all dissatisfied w/Grissom or Dimon or several others playing opposite Tapper either. Walker’s very good, everyone says, but so are Grissom, Ndule, Dimon, etc. Think we are just fine with them too. If he does beat them out (which I doubt, might share, but even if better, don’t think coaches will just hand position to him w/o others playing considerably), then he’s like 1st round draft good, IMO

      • Jason Scism

        I agree those guys are really good, but I have alway thought OU would like to have 3 guys on the line in that 290-320 range.
        Tapper is 265lb ? He is obviously to good to keep off the field and Grissom sure played great as well.

    • JY

      Just the depth and the competition will pay huge dividends. When guys can play fresh, it allows them to give superb effort. Then both of them will want to be the big dog and make the big play. Grissom and Walker opposite of Tapper will be huge.

  • Sooner Ray

    Nice piece JY, I look forward to hearing about emerging talent every year. I really think Ross should have a breakout year but I may be biased because I seen him play in H.S. The kid can move the ball, I just hope the light comes on for him in the off season.

    • soonerthunder

      Me too. I love Ford, but the jury is still out as to who has the best career at OU: Ford, Ross, or Mixon. don’t count out Ross. He’s is very, very, very good. He might be the best of the three (forget “stars”; think Bradford and Knight versus QBs w/more “stars” when you think about Ross).

  • lovethemsooners

    I sure hope the light does go on for McNamara. It seems like the TE has always been a big part of our offense up until these last couple years. I was always confused why the elite TE’s weren’t lining up to play at OU after watching how much we used to get the ball to Jermaine Gresham. So now that the TE position hasn’t been a major part of our offense for the last two seasons, it makes it tougher to recruit that elite TE. Hopefully McNamara can help change that…..if not, maybe that new JUCO talent we just signed.

    • Sonny Schovanec

      OU getting away from the TE is kind of a misnomer because Gresham wasn’t your traditional TE per say. I know Gresham was a TE and OU used him a lot but Gresham wasn’t your traditional TE at OU. He was/is a freak of nature. In reality a lot of Jermaine’s big plays were from the inside reciever or if you just have too call it TE from the “flex”. Gresham would skinny up a post, split the safeties for 70 yards and even though he was in a “two point” flexed out (inside wr) he would be applauded for catching a TD as a TE. McNamara will be a traditional, hand down TE guy. With OU going to bigger sets I can see them using McNamara more.

      • Unique Landscaping

        I agree with OU going to bigger sets, especially if rumors bear out and Blake makes the move to the end of the line.

    • Blueline Pete

      It already has. You saw him have a strong bowl game. Mono knocked him out and he’s just getting his strength back. He’ll show up this year I’m sure.

      • soonerthunder

        He had mono? didn’t know this. That will explain A LOT! Mono will kill energy and strength and takes months to regain. Just have to be patient w/gaining back strength b/c it will NOT come back quickly. You CANNOT operate at same level in a strength and/or conditioning sport. So McNamara had mono? That is good news (not that he had it–that’s BAD), but that is good news that that is a very reasonable explanation to why he couldn’t show up during the season and play. He had mono?

        • Blueline Pete

          Yes, he had mono

      • Sonny Schovanec

        Mono?? Had no idea about that. sheez mono will keep you from contact for weeks if not months. Your Spleen enlarges with mono. If you take a hit to an enlarged spleen it will burst and you run the risk of bleeding out. Not to mention mono zaps all your energy. Had a kid miss an entire year due to mono.

  • blaster1371

    I think Alexander will need and should have a breakout year. He will need to own the linebacker position as he sheds the “Nelson’s replacement” moniker and relies less on Shannon to get him lined up correctly or make the calls. Another “need and should “step up season has to come from Darlington. He has big shoes to fill with Ikard gone and we see how critical it is for the center to get the o-line on the same page.

  • Indy_sooner

    1. Ford. Needs to work on ball protection and catching, but when we let him loose last year NO ONE had an answer for him, even when Bama knew what we were about to do
    2. Darlington for obvious reasons as well as the person he’s replacing will need to own the line
    3. Byrd

  • Jared William Reininger

    Keith Ford is going to light it up next year. Along with whatever other backs work into the rotation. Mcnamara I think just need a bit of confidence, he didnt have a ton of stats but he got playing time, set some decent blocks and put some stats up. That could be huge. I think his blocking is what needs the most work. One guy that I have heard from several people at OU that has been shredding the first team defense even is Jordan Smallwood. So anxious to see how true that hype is or who else is going to step up. But I think Knight may be the biggest benefactor. He seems like a level headed kid so I hope the hype doesnt go to his head but if it doesnt and he gets that confidence and can replicate what he did against alabama… out. Could be a Chase for 8 year.

  • Atlantasooner

    JY is right you could rattle off a whole bunch of names. But here are 5 I’m looking forward to.

    1. DJ Ward – best instate defensive talent since Gerald. If he’s past the health issues, then he could be a huge weapon for the new defense.
    2. Charles Walker – the senior film monster from the last class. Five star potential. He could play DE on early downs, then DT on late downs.
    3. Hatari Byrd – the safety spot is open for him. Can he be the leader in the defensive backfield. He has all the physical gifts. If he has a huge spring, then the biggest defensive question gets answered
    4. Derrick Woods – speaking of players with major momentum. There are two open WR slots. His huge catch in the Sugar Bowl gives a glimpse at his potential. Size and speed.
    5. KJ Young – players were raving about him. He could take over the slot spot in spring.

    • bmrsnr

      What position do you see DJ Ward playing?

      • Atlantasooner

        DE. DJ Ward looks like he could be 6-4, 260 already.

  • Stephon tiger

    Alex ross.

  • Travis Coyle

    A month ago I was wondering where Mcnamara had been. I know he was homesick and then he got hurt. I’m excited to see him take over that position since he has the most talent and has been there the longest. Then I would go with Bryd. Bryd looks physically ready now. Other than that I am now sure how his coverage skills are or what kind of speed he has.

  • Cary Newman


    In watching the Sugar Bowl (again), Alexander appeared either late or indecisive in changing direction on Bama’s last TD. Do you attribute that to inexperience or something else?

    • SoonerinLondon

      Both the LBs took really bad angles on that play. They looked tired and I think that took away from their mental sharpness and good fundamentals on that play.

  • SoonerinLondon

    I won’t list players but will comment on the offseason if we’d had a crushing loss to Bama. Certainly, we may not have gained recruiting momentum, but I believe in the guys in the OU locker room and think they would have used the loss as a gauge of how far they had to go, how much more they needed to do, how many more reps they needed to work. I think even a crushing loss would have built momentum for this team. These guys are winners and know they can define their own futures.