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Revved Up & Remodeled
OU's DeMarcus Granger Committed To Becoming Impact Player

DeMarcus Granger bull-charged into the Texas backfield and seemed to swallow Colt McCoy whole.

The big Sooner defensive tackle closed in on McCoy, spread his arms wide into a full wingspan, then wrapped the Longhorns' quarterback into a ball and squatted on him for a much-coveted sack.

"Yeah, he got himself one," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said with a laugh. "Big fella jumped up, it was a lunar eclipse out there. The quarterback's like, 'What is that?' It's like he just blanketed him. Jumped up, had a six-inch vertical. That was really impressive."

Venables was having fun now.

Six inches, not 60?

"Six inches," Venables said. "And that might be exaggerating. But those are the kinds of things that feeds those guys. And it lends credibility to all the things Coach (Jackie) Shipp is asking him to do."

Earned some cred for Granger, too. After a spotty preseason that saw Shipp question Granger's role on the defensive line "call it an attention-getter, and a good one at that" the Sooner sophomore is playing his best football since arriving on campus two years ago.

"By far," OU center Jon Cooper confirmed. "He keeps getting better. You can see him penetrating three, four yards into the backfield every run play and also getting pressure on the quarterback.

"That's unbelievable."

Granger's improved play comes down to two linked factors better practice habits, leading to a rise in confidence.

"It has to do with a lot confidence, not second-guessing myself like when I was a redshirt-freshman a year ago," said Granger. “Now, I know the plays. I know the calls. I know where my gap is supposed to be. I know what I can and can’t do.

“So I can pin my ears back and do it without second-guessing myself.”

Venables said Granger’s success can be seen in his play and his attitude.

“He’s really playing with a lot of confidence,” Venables noted. “And it’s as simple as he’s created good habits in practice. And he’s kind of having fun with it, too.

“It’s so simple, yet it’s hard for guys. When guys figure it out, they usually arrive at some level. He’s got the kind of talent and ability, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he can be a terrific player for us.”

Cooper said he and Granger help each other through practices, hooking up for extra work if Granger is focusing for a certain look from a center, or if Cooper needs attention preparing for quick and strong defensive tackles.

“He’s a great player,” Cooper said. “And he makes me better every day. We try to make each other better. We really try to help each other.

“DeMarcus is a big strong guy who moves extremely well. It’s so hard to block somebody like that. And he’s such a tough kid, too, when he comes off the ball. He has a real leverage and power.”

Best of all — for Granger and the Sooners — he’s no longer second-guessing Shipp.
The Sooners’ defensive line coach demands much from his position players. And he accepts no excuses.

So when Granger seemed less than fully committed in the preseason, well, Shipp suggested that somebody else could be playing on Saturdays.

“It’s always like that with Coach Shipp,” Granger said. “If my technique is bad, if my hands or my feet are bad, best to believe that somebody else will be starting on Monday or next Saturday.

“You can never sit down in that meeting room and be like, ‘Oh, I’m the starting defensive tackle this week.’ Because any second of the day, Cory (Bennett) can take your position. Adrian (Taylor) can take your position. GK (Gerald McCoy) can come in and play nose.
Every guy can play both positions.

“You’ve got to play hard, because any second of the day you can get your position taken.”

Granger has played hard. And practiced hard. And his game shows it.

That hasn’t always been the case.

Granger, one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country out of Dallas Kimball High School, showed up at OU overweight and out of shape.

His mother, Debra Granger, works at a Mexican restaurant, although DeMarcus insists that fare hasn’t been a personal weakness for some time.

“I hate Mexican food,” he said. “I don’t even like it when they serve it in the cafeteria. I’ll go out and get a burger or something. I can’t eat Mexican food any more.

“I wasn’t always like that, but once you eat it every day — mom would bring it home, because she was tired and didn’t feel like cooking. You just get tired of it. I don’t even choose Taco Bell whenever I have a chance. I’m gonna go eat somewhere else.”

Granger’s weight and body shape were an issue his first year on campus, drawing special attention from strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt.

Once too hefty at 352 pounds, Granger spent his redshirt year as a true freshman on the Schmitty plan. Fifty-two lost pounds later, Granger looked like a new man.

The leaner body improved his quickness and allowed him to get on the field a year ago. But it wasn’t until late in the season that Granger started putting it all together.

“I got to understand the defense a lot more and knowing where to be,” Granger said. “And knowing what I can’t do. Coming from high school, you think, ‘I can spin out of that gap and make the tackle.’

“Here, you spin out of the gap and two people are in the same gap, it’s touchdown. And it’s all on you. So I had to learn to fix my mistakes and learn what I can and can’t do.”

Granger is still learning, the lesson learned from Shipp in August a sign of maturity. He’s also producing.

Through the first seven games, the big sophomore led OU defensive tackles with 17 tackles, of which six were for losses. His 3.5 sacks stood as an impressive total for an interior lineman.

“He’s playing really, really well,” Venables said. “He’s practicing with a great deal of urgency and effort. And it shows up on the field on Saturday.
“I think he understands Coach Shipp won’t go away. He probably started off not doing that in fall camp. Coach Shipp isn’t looking the other way. DeMarcus figured it out quickly and wasn’t satisfied where he was at and wanted to change it. So he did. And he’s been really playing well.”

Granger faced his challenges and fixed them.
And that seems like a theme with him. Granger has a thing about old Mustangs, with a desire to one day fix up classic cars.

“I’ve just always been amazed how a person can take an old car and make it look like it’s never been touched,” Granger said. “You can find an old classic car in a junk yard, fix it up and it’ll look like a car coming straight off the assembly line.

“The paint’s gone and it’s all rust, because it’s been sitting out so long. But they make it look like new. I love reading about it, watching car shows. If I ever have a chance to go into business, I would love to open up a store for old cars and stuff.”

Another Granger fascination led to his chosen major — criminology. He fell in love with the idea of chasing crime scenes by watching the television show CSI.

“It got me wanting to be in forensics,” Granger said. “It’s harder than it looks on TV, though. But I watch every season of CSI.

“CSI Miami is my favorite.”

Granger sure used his senses — and strength — to sniff out Colt McCoy in the Red River Rivalry.

Once on the scene, he was determined to crack the case. Back in his hometown, it couldn’t have been any better.

“That’s just the ideal play in that game,” Granger said. “Every kid lives to make a play in that game. Being from Texas, I had my family and everybody there to see me. Right time.

“If you watched the highlight, Auston English helped me, he held the screen man, and I had enough time to make the sack. You’ve got to put those on your stats and remember them.”

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Oct. 26, 2007, issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, call toll free 1-888-335-4385 today!