OU's Dominique Whaley "ready to go" after injury
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Thursday, August 09, 2012
8/09/12 at 6:08 AM
Related Story: OU practice report: Sooners start two-a-days
NORMAN - Dominique Whaley remembers "everything going numb."
He remembers leading fellow Oklahoma running back Roy Finch on a sweep around right end, blocking on the first play of the OU-Kansas State game last Oct. 29, and having 228-pound linebacker Arthur Brown crash down on his lower left leg while tackling Finch.
Whaley remembers "not being able to get up, them telling me what happened, every single part of it."
Observing the grisly scene, you couldn't help but wonder if one of college football's freshest success stories - from high school receiver to little-used Langston Lion to Subway sandwich artist to leading rusher for the pre-2011 season top-ranked Sooners - had ended with a shattered left ankle.
"I didn't think that," Whaley said. "I did think, 'Man, can't you just, like, tape it or put a boot on it or something? Just throw me back out there.' "
No, Whaley was going to be just fine.
"It's just a deep-down desire. The man above has touched him by giving him that drive," OU running backs coach Cale Gundy said. "You can try to instill that into people, but some people just have it, and he has it."
Doctors put pins in Whaley's lower leg the morning after the game. Later that night, about 30 hours after the accident, Whaley tweeted: "Tomorrow starts day one of my recovery process."
Then he disappeared from the rest of OU's season and stayed off the grid during OU's most recent spring practice.
"Luckily we have a training staff that is very educated," he said with a grin. "If it was up to me, I would have been out there in the spring game."
Attacking the weight stations, whirlpools and other elements of his rehab like he did the Texas defense on that 64-yard touchdown run last Oct. 8, Whaley pushed ahead of schedule.
The Sooners who showed for Big 12 Media Days in late July were optimistic. Coach Bob Stoops pronounced him "cleared to do everything."
"He looks fine. He's ready to go," quarterback Landry Jones said. "He'll be the same old Dom he was last year."
The Sooners could only hope. Whaley rushed for 627 yards as OU started 6-0. He missed the Texas Tech loss with the flu, then was carted off the field in Manhattan. The Sooners finished 10-3.
They needed Whaley to stay the course. They needed to see him show up for camp this month, put on the pads and cut and hit just like he used to.
Whaley sounded confident. Asked at the start of camp if he felt like the same player, he replied: "If not the same, better."
"I'm a lot stronger," he said. "My frame has gotten a lot bigger."
Last Sunday, the Sooners ran an inside handoff drill in shoulder pads for the first time. It was the kind of thing they were waiting for, to see if their success story had a few more passages left.
"I went into their meeting room after watching their practice with the defense," Stoops said of the running backs. "It struck me just watching it in inside drill and things he was in. ... He looked good, which was really encouraging.
"I walked into his meeting and I said, 'Cale, Dom looked good for the first day in pads.' He thought the same thing."
"Dominique has looked really well," Gundy confirmed. "We have not had to manage his reps. ... Even today I went up to him and told him I wanted to slow him down a little bit. He told me, 'Coach, I can't do that. I don't want to do that.' "
Don't be surprised if the Sooners stay cautious through two-a-days. It was a nasty injury, after all.
"Now, cutting and all that, he's still rusty. It's natural to take a little time to keep getting it," Stoops said. "But that was a good sign, on the first day when you had to make some cuts. We were locking people up and he was hitting the holes and accelerating through them in a nice way."
Don't be surprised if Whaley keeps accelerating, right toward OU's Sept. 1 opener at UTEP.
He remembers something else about what happened at Kansas State: "a lot of blanked-out words going on there."
"I obviously wasn't very happy about it," Whaley said. "But it's like a lot of people say: Things happen for a reason. You just have to put it in God's hands. Look at me now.
"I'm ready to go."
2012 OKLAHOMA RUNNING BACKS
Dominique Whaley (Sr., 5-11, 204): Walk-on who became OU's leading rusher last year with 627 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games. Should be Sooners' go-to ball-carrier, provided he is fully recovered from his broken ankle.
Brennan Clay (Jr., 5-11, 201): 2011 starter both before Whaley's emergence, and then after his injury. Had 401 yards over the past two years while also returning some kickoffs.
The wild cards
Trey Millard (Jr., 6-2, 256): First-team All-Big 12 fullback who many expect to touch the ball much more this season. Averaged 7 yards on 24 carries a year ago, one of which went for a 61-yard score at Kansas State.
Roy Finch (Jr., 5-7, 175): Seven-game starter at either slot or tailback, he rushed for 605 yards and caught 34 passes. Working primarily as a slot receiver in camp, so his future appears there.
Damien Williams (Jr., 6-0, 208): First-team junior college All-American who rushed for 1,931 yards and 26 touchdowns at Arizona Western.
Alex Ross (Fr., 6-1, 204): High school All-American for Jenks whose speed also helped him to a Class 6A track state championship in the 200 meters.
David Smith (Fr., 5-10, 193): Three-star signee from Midlothian, Ill., who totaled 805 yards rushing and receiving as a senior.
9:30 p.m. Sept. 1
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Original Print Headline: Full Strength
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Dominique Whaley's 2011 season ended when he broke his left ankle against Kansas State. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World file