Sooners' Ndulue a growing football talent
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
4/25/12 at 3:56 AM
NORMAN - It's a name we might be seeing a lot of the next three years, so let's have the courtesy to get it right. He is Oklahoma defensive end Chuka Ndulue.
Pronounced Choo-ka En-DUE-lue-ay.
"My mother and father are Nigerian," he said. "I lived the first 12 years of my life in Nigeria."
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that soccer was Ndulue's first love. He played the sport until reaching ninth grade in Texas, when he literally outgrew it.
Ndulue says he went from being a 135-pound freshman to a 205-pound sophomore. He got red-carded for accidentally running over a flyweight midfielder, and that was that.
"My high school (Dallas Jesuit Prep) coach was like, 'Yeah, you should stop playing that and focus more on football,' " Ndulue said.
A wise piece of advice, if what OU coaches have seen over the past five months is any indication.
"After two years of being here, he's finally to the point that I really think he's on the verge of exploding and becoming a really good football player for us," said defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. "He's strong. He's explosive. He's got good speed. He loves to play. He has fun with it. He's a great practice player.
"He's a guy you're really pulling for all the time. He's so prideful and wants to be so successful, and you really want it for him, too, because he works so hard at it and it's so important to him."
That combination of physical ability and desire helped Ndulue have a promising recent spring practice season. It ended with his starting opposite David King at defensive end in the Red-White Game.
Ndulue showed enough strength to bull his way into the backfield and initiate a 2-yard loss by Roy Finch. He showed enough agility to tip away a Drew Allen pass toward Trey Metoyer in the flat.
"Chuka has had a really good spring," OU coach Bob Stoops said a couple days before the scrimmage. "He had a great winter, too. He's definitely showing up a bunch."
Stoops reminded reporters Ndulue was coming on strong toward the end of the 2011 season, enough to get meaningful snaps in the Sooners' Insight Bowl victory over Iowa.
"Part of a guy playing for me is trust," Wright said. "I've got to be able to trust that he can go out there and run our defense, carry out the calls, be in the right spot and not make mistakes. That was really what he struggled with early on, just the mental aspect of always carrying out the correct call. He finally got to the point where I trusted that he would go out there and do it without jeopardizing our team."
Ndulue's bowl appearance showed he had come a long way from Oct. 1, when the redshirt freshman made his first two college tackles against Ball State.
"I was like, 'Please don't mess up. Don't do anything stupid out there,' " he said. "Frank (Alexander) was like, 'C'mon, little brother, just get it together and focus on what Coach is telling you. Rely on your instincts and mental training.' "
Now that Alexander and fellow 2011 starting end Ronnell Lewis are gone, that becomes even more important. It goes for King and R.J. Washington, the favorites to start the 2012 opener, and for Ndulue, who has put himself firmly in the rotation.
"Coach Wright and I have been working on getting my technique better, staying square in the run, staying low and flipping my hips, getting underneath the guy's pads in pass rush," Ndulue said. "I'm still young. He wants me to think at the same level as David and R.J. That's what I'm trying to do right now, get better mentally."
It sounds like that's exactly what he's doing.
"Chuka is not a finished product by any means, but he's on his way," Wright said. "He's going to be a good player."
Original Print Headline: Sooners' Ndulue a growing talent
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355