By Shawn Hein
When Cole Dugger transferred to Owasso back in February, one of the top priorities for the former Collinsville quarterback was to learn and, preferably as soon as possible, speak the native language.
The Rams’ football language, that is.
“Literally for coaches and athletes, when you move to a new place, the first thing you have to learn is a new language,” said Owasso coach Bill Blankenship. “Football is football. But what we call something is not what the other team calls it.”
Dugger admitted to being overwhelmed at first glance.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Dugger said. “I came in February and he threw the playbook at me. I was kind of blown away, like I was never going to learn this…By the end of the first week of spring ball, I had pretty much understood and got all the signals. As of right now, I felt pretty comfortable. I feel I’ve learned it. Not mastered it, but I’m getting there.”
Along with a new language, Dugger said the playbook was a bit more robust and required a great deal out of the quarterback position.
“This is definitely more advanced,” said Dugger, who helped the Cardinals to a berth in the Class 5A state semifinals last fall. “It’s more of an up-tempo. We don’t huddle as much so there’s a lot of signaling going on. You have to know what everybody’s doing. You have to call the protection. I never had to any of that before.”
Dugger entered spring ball as part of a quarterback competition to replace North Texas-bound Will Kuehne. Dugger, junior Melchisedech Porter, a move-in from Broken Arrow, senior Kellen Pokoski, junior Seth Henrichs and sophomores Solomon Skalnik and Jacob Clifton were all in the mix.
Following the conclusion of Thursday’s two-day team camp at Owasso Stadium (see PHOTO gallery), Blankenship said Dugger had separated himself, in part due to his prior experience.
“You can tell he’s played and been successful at Collinsville,” Blankenship said. “They coached him well. He’s playing well.”
Blankenship added, “I think the first week of practice we’re trying to give everybody reps and figure out who’s going to separate. I thought by the second week of spring he really separated himself from the other guys. Once (Dugger) had earned more reps by his play, then I thought he really started to take off.”
In his first full season as a starter at Collinsville, Dugger completed 65 of 117 passes for 872 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions while orchestrating a run-first offense.
At Owasso, Dugger expects to use both his arm and legs more frequently.
“It’s a big adjustment,” he said. “It’s a lot more pressure on your shoulders. But I like it.”
When word of Dugger transferring to Owasso became known, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound quarterback said running back Isaiah Jacobs was one of the first Rams to reach out to him, via text. He also knew several of the receivers prior to joining the program.
“It’s been fun getting to know everybody and build relationships,” Dugger said. “It’s made me a better person, honestly. I’ve really reached out to people and they’ve welcomed me.”
With nearly every skill position and several offensive linemen back with a year of seasoning, Dugger said the Owasso offensive unit has a high ceiling going into 2019.
“It’s more of a balanced attack,” Dugger said. “And, with Isaiah back there, it creates a lot of running opportunities for me because they’re going to crash down on him because he’s such a freak. It opens a lot of windows for me...(As an offensive unit) I think we can be as good as we want to be.”
Owasso closed out its six-school team camp at Owasso Stadium, which took place May 29-30. Bentonville, Arkansas, Booker T. Washington, Stillwater, Union and Yukon each joined the camp.
Ram head coach Bill Blankenship, who will begin his third season in charge this fall, was pleased with what he saw from his squad that returns 15 starters.
“I thought our guys played a little more maturely than we did a year ago,” Blankenship said. “It’s obvious that they got a bunch of experience. The coaching makes more sense. I just think we’re ahead of where we were a year ago. Now we’ve got a long ways away but I like our physicality and I like our speed.”
Blankenship said seniors such as Jacobs, Mario Kirby and Duece Mayberry shined, which he anticipated. Senior defensive end Haydon Grant drew kudos, as did the play of the Ram offensive line.
“We didn’t know if our offensive line could hold up and pass protect because we’ve had a hard time all spring blocking against our defense,” Blankenship said. “And I actually thought we did reasonably well the last two days against the other teams’ defenses.”
Gundy in the house
Stillwater senior quarterback Gunnar Gundy, one of the top returning signal callers in the state after helping the Pioneers to the Class 6AII championship game, brought along his well-known father on Thursday. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was among the spectators at Owasso Stadium.
Owasso running back Isaiah Jacobs announced Wednesday on his Twitter account he had received an offer from OSU.