LaRon Stokes wasn’t on Oklahoma’s radar when he played high school football at NOAH, a Tulsa-based homeschool organization.
But when Calvin Thibodeaux received a phone call during Stokes’ time at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and then arranged a visit, the OU defensive line coach knew when he saw Stokes that he had found a gem.
“Coaches say, ‘I got a guy that’s 6-3, 6-4’ and you get there and, you know, I’m 6-1 and he’s telling me he’s 6-3 but he’s shorter than me,” Thibodeaux said with a smile. “But I was looking up to LaRon and I was like, ‘Oh, snap.’ I got on the phone with coach (Lincoln) Riley and said ‘Coach, we need to offer this guy.’
“The rest is history.”
Stokes, a 6-foot-4, 267-pound junior, could immediately improve the Sooners’ defensive line.
“You would think homeschooled, that maybe he would get in front of this big group at a place like Oklahoma and would have some issues. But it’s been great,” Thibodeaux said. “The guys love him. He’s awesome. He doesn’t say much, but when he does talk, the players listen. He’s a funny guy, too. He’s kinda sneaky with his jokes and stuff like that. But he’s been great.
“I think the transition has been really easy. Usually you get a guy in December and they’re making mistakes, but he was one of the guys who wasn’t making many mistakes. He was in great shape. I’ve really been impressed with him so far.”
Find the ball
Thibodeaux was asked what the emphasis for the Sooners’ defensive line will be in 2019.
“Sacks. You gotta make plays. What we were doing before, we were playing blocks, building a wall and that was considered good. Using your hands and two gap and things of that matter,” Thibodeaux said. “And it’s a little different. You got to produce it. It ain’t about just being in a gap. It’s about finding the football. There’s a big emphasis on getting to the ball.”
OU hasn’t reached 30 sacks on five occasions over the past 19 seasons, including the past three years.
First-year cornerbacks coach Roy Manning said he has been impressed during the early days of fall camp.
The biggest emphasis has been placed on weaving the older players and newcomers together, especially with the countdown toward the Sept. 1 opener against Houston approaching.
What has his upperclassmen group been like?
“Parnell Motley, obviously a senior who played a lot of football. As a senior, the expectation is that you are going to have your best year. That’s how it should be,” Manning said. “Tre Brown, a junior, I thought he had a really good summer. It seems like he’s playing pretty damn good. Again, it’s early, but we’re going to take those wins every chance we get and be positive with those guys.”
Manning also had a message for freshman cornerbacks Woodi Washington and Jaden Davis.
“You are not a recruit any more. All that talking is done. You are a part of this team. Those guys, obviously, have had a summer to get somewhat acclimated. They got a lot of good work there. They hit the ground running,” Manning said. “I don’t look at them like freshmen. You are dressed in a jersey, number and helmet. You are like a lot of the rest of the guys. Go out there and take care of business and make plays and be noticed on that film.”