Two more Sooners likely to leave football program
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
12/20/11 at 4:54 AM
Related Story: OU Football Notebook: Stoops addresses Landry Jones' future
NORMAN - Bob Stoops spent much of his Insight Bowl press conference Monday at the Stadium Club answering questions about players who are defecting, players who are ineligible, players who are injured, players who are disgruntled, players who had a disappointing season.
Once, he even took a question about the importance of beating Iowa on Dec. 30.
"It doesn't erase anything," Stoops said. "But you feel good about winning another bowl game. You feel good about winning your 10th game, this, that and the other. But it still isn't going to give us a championship."
On a cold, wet and otherwise gloomy day, Stoops confirmed what has been a message board rumor for days now, that freshman running back Brandon Williams is transferring.
"He was looking into a couple of places, and we granted him that release," Stoops said. "I didn't hear what exact school, but that was going to happen, sure."
The exact school is apparently Texas A&M, where he would play for former OU aide Kevin Sumlin and be closer to his home and family (he has a baby daughter) in Brookshire, Texas.
"It didn't come out of nowhere," Stoops said. "It's something I know he's thought about. I think the primary reasons are family reasons. And that's OK."
Stoops also revealed what has been speculation all season, that junior defensive end Ronnell Lewis' career at OU is likely done. Lewis was academically ineligible for the Sooners' season finale against Oklahoma State and is likewise for the Insight Bowl, and given his ongoing academic challenges (he was ruled eligible just before the season opener), he will be playing in the pros next year.
"That's probably fair to say," Stoops said. "I don't want to come out and speak for him, but we've talked and I feel it's in his best interest to do that, to go ahead and go on to the NFL. I guess it hasn't been formalized yet, but we expect that to happen and I'm all for it. He needs to do that. We're hopeful that will all go the right way."
Stoops also said other players "for different reasons are considering" transferring.
"There's reasons for a lot of them," Stoops said. "Some want more playing time - I'm not speaking for any particular individual - some have multiple issues that you don't know about within the program, whether it be class attendance, whether it be workout absences, whether it be drug-testing policies.
"Everything they have to handle, there's a lot to it. And to be an athlete in good standing here, you've got to meet certain standards. And if they're not, you know, maybe some guys need to find somewhere where they don't have to meet those standards."
Such is life for a team that went into the college football season as the prohibitive No. 1, then lost its 39-game home winning streak to a losing team, lost for the first time to Baylor, suffered its worst defeat to Oklahoma State in 56 years and finished the season 9-3 overall and in fourth place in the Big 12 Conference standings.
But Stoops, though he acknowledged being frustrated over the defections, said he has had no cause for alarm.
"No. Look at all the guys we have," he said. "You're looking at it in the wrong way."
When reminded that this year's team obviously lacked depth at several key positions - safety, running back, wide receiver, tight end - and that those positions are the ones getting thinner, Stoops said he can't control players who get homesick or cranky because they're not playing.
Two weeks into the season, upperclassmen running backs Jermie Calhoun and Jonathan Miller quit the team, and midway through the year, tight end Austin Haywood walked away (Stoops said Monday that Haywood's comeback attempt is finished and he won't return). Also, two freshmen tight ends, Dan Tapko and Max Stevenson, quit for medical reasons.
But Stoops maintains that nothing special needs to be done to keep dissatisfied players from leaving, whether it's playing time or tension with assistant coaches or a disappointing 9-3 record.
"Those guys that didn't compete early to stick around, so be it. We'll find other guys to do it," Stoops said.
"I can't make a guy that (leaves) early in the season, just because you're not the starter, (he) doesn't want to be here - how am I gonna change that? In the end, sometimes you got better guys that can handle it than you don't."
The Sooners began the season with six running backs, but by season's end had third-string quarterbacks, walk-on fullbacks and linebackers in the backfield. Calhoun and Miller left, Dominique Whaley got hurt and Brennan Clay rushed for 71 yards (2.8 per carry) after a shoulder injury/concussion.
Now Williams (219 yards, 4.8 per carry) is gone, leaving OU with Roy Finch (5-foot-7, 166 pounds) fullback Trey Millard (44 career rushes in two seasons) and Clay (23 yards per game this season) to carry the ball against Iowa.
Stoops said a question about rumors of Clay considering a transfer was "the first I've ever heard of that," and wasn't aware of any reason why Finch wouldn't play in the bowl game despite a recent citation for allegedly vandalizing a computer.
Sooner coaches are recruiting additional running backs (and tight ends, wideouts and every other position) for the 2012 class. Stoops even said he expected "four or five" junior college transfers to join the team at mid-term. That could include a juco running back.
Stoops said the outflow of running backs isn't anything systemic to OU. Like quarterback, it's a position where a player who is used to being the star attraction could easily get discouraged by a lack of playing time.
"Unfortunately, too many guys don't see the big picture, how many carries there are, how many snaps in a year, and what their opportunities can be," he said. "But hey, what are you going to do?"
INSIGHT BOWL: OKLAHOMA VS. IOWA
9 p.m. Dec. 30
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Jumping ship
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384
OU coach Bob Stoops confirmed on Monday that freshman running back Brandon Williams is transferring and defensive end Ronnell Lewis also won't return to the Sooners next season. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Freshman running back will likely transfer to Texas A&M to be closer to his family.
The defensive end is academically ineligible to play in the Insight Bowl, and will likely enter the NFL draft.