Madu's motor offers options
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, August 16, 2009
8/16/09 at 5:44 AM
NORMAN — If you thought Mossis Madu's transition from running back to wide receiver was radical, it's nothing compared to another move the Oklahoma junior could have made.
"I threatened that if (offensive coaches) weren't going to use him a bunch, I'd move him to corner," Bob Stoops said. "He's just a really good athlete. He can do a lot of things."
Well, Madu has rushed for 707 yards in token tailback appearances the past two years. He can catch well enough to have made the move out wide last spring. But playing defense would have been quite a change.
"Actually, when I came to the camp here, coach Bo Pelini (OU's secondary coach in 2004) was looking at me as a defensive back," Madu said. "I started at strong safety my junior year of high school. They were recruiting me that way for a little bit.
"But I don't know how I would have taken moving to defense. I don't think I would have had it in me over there."
Not to worry. It appears the Sooners have found plenty for Madu to do on the offensive side of the ball.
He'll play slot receiver to take advantage of his shiftiness, something that will come in handy as he navigates the middle-of-the-field traffic. He has also been practicing at outside receiver.
"We don't want him to be pigeonholed," wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said recently. "We want him to be able to play the (receiver) position, and the only way he can do that is to play outside. So he's been outside. He hasn't been in the slot all camp ... Ryan (Broyles) has been inside in the slot and he's been outside."
Also, it's not like Madu's days at tailback are over. Remember the 114 yards he racked up in the Big 12 championship last December, after DeMarco Murray went down on the opening kickoff? Murray's still not healthy, after tweaking his hamstring, which leaves the snaps for Madu, Chris Brown and Jermie Calhoun during camp.
"I'm still playing running back. I played a lot today, actually," Madu said after practice last Friday. "Everybody keeps mistaking that I'm a full-time receiver. We're doing things where I play receiver, and we have sets where I line up at running back. We're moving me around the field to set up different things for the defense. They're just trying to find ways to get me on the field."
A healthy Murray, plus Brown, gives the Sooners a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Thus the concern that Madu won't see enough time in the backfield. Thus the decision last spring to try him at wide receiver.
And it's going pretty well.
"Just get the ball in his hands," said a smiling Broyles, who has played with Madu since their days together at Norman High. "He's quick. He can make things happen out there in space."
First, of course, the ball must get into those hands.
"Sometimes I get too anxious when the ball's in the air and I want to make a move before I catch it," Madu said. "It's just a matter of concentrating on the ball, waiting for it, being patient.
"There's also little things, like being on the backside of a play and running the wrong route. If I keep studying plays, I'll be fine."
It's what the Sooners are counting on.
"He's a talented guy," Stoops said of Madu. "I've watched him catch the ball for a long time. He's got excellent hands. He makes people miss him. He's just a versatile athlete."
Said Broyles: "We just want to get him the ball. Any way he can get on the field, it betters our team."
Guerin Emig 581-8355
Oklahoma's Mossis Madu stiff-arms a Missouri defender in the Big 12 Championship last year. Sooner coaches have been using Madu at outside and slot receiver this summer. Shane Bevel/Tulsa World