Years Kanak, Kobe McKinzie And Kip Lewis arrived at Norman this spring with great fanfare.
The trio of linebacker recruits arrived in Oklahoma with a diverse skill set that wowed fans about the unit’s growing potential under the head coach Brent Venables and defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Canopy.
Kanak, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound product from Hays, KS, reportedly turned heads during spring training for its sheer speed and athleticism, something that was on full display during the OU spring match. .
The 236-pound McKinzie expects to be a heavy hitter and Lewis will be called to defend from sidelines to sidelines at 198 pounds.
With the likes of By Shaun White, David Ugwoegbu, Danny Stutsman, TD roof And Shane Whiteter ahead of them, there isn’t much pressure on the trio of freshmen to make an immediate impact. But getting signed up early put Kanak, McKinzie and Lewis on the path to success early in their OU careers.
“They are very far ahead because they arrived here in January,” Roof said during his press conference on Tuesday’s media day. “The shock – it’s bigger for some than others – the shock of going from high school football to college football, especially in a place like the University of Oklahoma. There is a jump there. Everything is faster. Certainly, in our program, there is a high level of responsibility. The news. Like hey, this is my dorm. This is where I eat. This is the weight room. I’m supposed to be here at six, but it actually means 5:50. All those things that go into the newness of it.
“… They are much better off coming in the middle of the year and being where we are now than if they had arrived in June. This is not to say that the guys who came in June didn’t have a great summer because they did. It is a transition. There is growth and learning that happens with those transitions. “
Stutsman, in particular, was impressed with the growth freshman linebackers have shown since arriving on campus in January. In sophomore only, Stutsman took freshmen under his wing to help them acclimate to life in Oklahoma.
Heading to their first fall camp as football players at the OU, Stutsman said all three true freshmen worked to thrive during the fall camp.
The buzz surrounding Kanak has been a major storyline all spring, and over the summer it only got better, Stutsman said.
“Every single day it’s me and him in that ghost room and we push each other,” he said. “We have improved and Sooner Nation already knows this. The hype is around him and the hype is real.
And while McKinzie and Lewis may have taken a back seat to Kanak this spring, Stutsman said the duo kept their heads down and continued to grow throughout the summer as well.
Scroll to Continue
“They made drastic improvements,” Stutsman said. “… They’re eager and they’ve had their ups and downs, but you know when the summer and the spring dance came – they kept making leaps and bounds. And every single day they worked hard to get better and better. And looking back to where they were then and where they are now, these are drastic improvements.
“We pushed all the linebackers and we’re proud of them. We give them that praise and all when they deserve it and stick with them because we know how great they can be, man. Those two guys are talented, man. The way Kip can move and the way Kobe can hit, man, that’s great. This is the future “.
The pressure would always be on Kanak, McKinzie and Lewis solely because of who their coach is.
Venables played and coached the position and never misses an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the position for his defense.
“I’m the defense quarterback, that unit is,” Venables said of the linebacker position on Tuesday. “And they have to be the heart and soul of your team if we want it to be worth it.
“… They have always been a link for me, as a defensive coordinator, to do whatever you want done. Both on the front and on the back. They are the ones we will really rely on. “
Stutsman said the entire linebacker group understands how important they are to defense and has taken on the challenge of living up to Venables’ standards.
“It was a blessing. (Venables and Roof) know so much about the game of football and defenses in general, “Stutsman said.” I mean, every time they talk in those meetings you’re trying to jot it all down as fast as you can, bring it all in because they have so much knowledge for the game.
“And I think the linebacker room, we all know the opportunity we have and how grateful we are that they are there and every day we take advantage of it. We are always in the Coach Roof office trying to ask for an extra movie. See what more we can do for him and we’re just grateful to you.
That understanding and urgency filtered through to the three freshmen, who are ready to try and fight for shots as they head to their first campaign with the Sooners.
Do you want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the AllSooners dashboard community today!
Sign up today for your premium membership at AllSooners.com and access the entire Fan Nation premium network!
Follow All Sooners on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest OU news.