NORMAN – Neville Gallimore can make a claim that many of his Oklahoma defensive teammates are not able to do. The senior lineman has been guided by the same position coach during his entire career.

As Gallimore enters his final season, he spoke impressively of defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux.

“He’s always held me to a high standard. He lets me know when it’s great. He lets me know when it’s not great,” Gallimore said during Big 12 Media Days. “You need a coach who is going to be there for you but still hold you to a high standard. Me and Coach Thib, we have a great relationship. We talk every day. The thing that I love is it’s not just me, but he wants the whole defensive line to be great.”

Thibodeaux worked his players hard in drills during a 20-minute open practice session on Monday. He commanded perfection when his defensive linemen hit tackling sleds.

Years ago, Thibodeaux was the pupil. A former All-Big 12 pick in 2005 at OU, he remembers assistant coaches like Bobby Jack Wright, Chris Wilson and Jackie Shipp. He’s thankful for their leadership and is seemingly passing it on to players like Gallimore.

‘It was tough love. But I knew all those guys love me. And I knew all those guys had my best interest at heart,” Thibodeaux said. “And what makes this place special is it is probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. And that’s why I love it so much.

“Because when I look back at it, nobody took it easy on me. But they pushed me. They made me dig deep and made me find out some things about myself maybe I didn’t know. That’s what makes the relationship special.”

Thibodeaux said he’s talked to guys about the defensive line tradition over the years. He’s had past stars Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy meet with his players. He’s sent them texts focused on the Selmon brothers. He’s even slid in some slides of his highlights.

“They’ve always got to know that they stand on the shoulders of giants. That’s important. The tradition, the standard has already been set, and you’ve got to meet it. Ain’t no coming short,” Thibodeux said. “You’ve got to hit the standard. And when you don’t hit the standard, you hear about it. They know about the history.”

His words automatically drew this question – have his guys hit that standard over the past few years?

“No. We haven’t. That’s been crystal clear. We’ve got to be better and I think those guys have taken on their responsibilities,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s easy to talk about it, but come Saturdays, we’ve got to produce.”

Thibodeaux was asked about his players.

He said senior Marquise Overton is healthy and has a chip on his shoulder “and I think that’s when he’s at his best.”

Junior college transfer LaRon Stokes is expected to make an impact, Thibodeaux said, adding “He really had a good practice today. He’s one of those guys that we can play inside, we can play him outside.”

“Dillon (Faamatau) is playing well … I know it’s early. Isaiah Thomas has really flashed. You could tell it’s slowing down for him and he’s making plays,” Thibodeaux said. “Then you blend in a mix of the two puppies, Marcus Stripling and Kori Roberson. Jalen Redmond. I feel like the group is going to be athletic. And there’s going to be some guys that can get to the football.”

New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s scheme offers more opportunities for defensive linemen to make plays. The players have been excited about it, Thibodeaux said, and they’ve bought in.

“Coaches came in and demanded some things and they’ve met the demands,” Thibodeaux said. “Just the energy that these guys create when they take the field, I’ve been proud of them. And mentally, they continue to push. We want to be the toughest group on a team.

“That’s easily said. We got to go out and do it in games.”

Eric Bailey

918-581-8391

eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391