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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.
Granger's improved play comes down to two linked factors Ēbetter 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. ‚ÄúNow, I know the plays. I know the calls. I know where my gap is supposed to be. I know what I can and can‚Äôt do.
‚ÄúSo I can pin my ears back and do it without second-guessing myself.‚ÄĚ
Venables said Granger‚Äôs success can be seen in his play and his attitude.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs really playing with a lot of confidence,‚ÄĚ Venables noted. ‚ÄúAnd it‚Äôs as simple as he‚Äôs created good habits in practice. And he‚Äôs kind of having fun with it, too.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs so simple, yet it‚Äôs hard for guys. When guys figure it out, they usually arrive at some level. He‚Äôs got the kind of talent and ability, if he keeps doing what he‚Äôs doing, he can be a terrific player for us.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great player,‚ÄĚ Cooper said. ‚ÄúAnd he makes me better every day. We try to make each other better. We really try to help each other.
‚ÄúDeMarcus is a big strong guy who moves extremely well. It‚Äôs so hard to block somebody like that. And he‚Äôs such a tough kid, too, when he comes off the ball. He has a real leverage and power.‚ÄĚ
Best of all ‚ÄĒ for Granger and the Sooners ‚ÄĒ he‚Äôs no longer second-guessing Shipp.
The Sooners‚Äô 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.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs always like that with Coach Shipp,‚ÄĚ Granger said. ‚ÄúIf 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.
‚ÄúYou can never sit down in that meeting room and be like, ‚ÄėOh, I‚Äôm the starting defensive tackle this week.‚Äô 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.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to play hard, because any second of the day you can get your position taken.‚ÄĚ
Granger has played hard. And practiced hard. And his game shows it.
That hasn‚Äôt 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‚Äôt been a personal weakness for some time.
‚ÄúI hate Mexican food,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt even like it when they serve it in the cafeteria. I‚Äôll go out and get a burger or something. I can‚Äôt eat Mexican food any more.
‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt always like that, but once you eat it every day ‚ÄĒ mom would bring it home, because she was tired and didn‚Äôt feel like cooking. You just get tired of it. I don‚Äôt even choose Taco Bell whenever I have a chance. I‚Äôm gonna go eat somewhere else.‚ÄĚ
Granger‚Äôs 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‚Äôt until late in the season that Granger started putting it all together.
‚ÄúI got to understand the defense a lot more and knowing where to be,‚ÄĚ Granger said. ‚ÄúAnd knowing what I can‚Äôt do. Coming from high school, you think, ‚ÄėI can spin out of that gap and make the tackle.‚Äô
‚ÄúHere, you spin out of the gap and two people are in the same gap, it‚Äôs touchdown. And it‚Äôs all on you. So I had to learn to fix my mistakes and learn what I can and can‚Äôt do.‚ÄĚ
Granger is still learning, the lesson learned from Shipp in August a sign of maturity. He‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs playing really, really well,‚ÄĚ Venables said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs practicing with a great deal of urgency and effort. And it shows up on the field on Saturday.
‚ÄúI think he understands Coach Shipp won‚Äôt go away. He probably started off not doing that in fall camp. Coach Shipp isn‚Äôt looking the other way. DeMarcus figured it out quickly and wasn‚Äôt satisfied where he was at and wanted to change it. So he did. And he‚Äôs been really playing well.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve just always been amazed how a person can take an old car and make it look like it‚Äôs never been touched,‚ÄĚ Granger said. ‚ÄúYou can find an old classic car in a junk yard, fix it up and it‚Äôll look like a car coming straight off the assembly line.
‚ÄúThe paint‚Äôs gone and it‚Äôs all rust, because it‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ
Another Granger fascination led to his chosen major ‚ÄĒ criminology. He fell in love with the idea of chasing crime scenes by watching the television show CSI.
‚ÄúIt got me wanting to be in forensics,‚ÄĚ Granger said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs harder than it looks on TV, though. But I watch every season of CSI.
‚ÄúCSI Miami is my favorite.‚ÄĚ
Granger sure used his senses ‚ÄĒ and strength ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôt have been any better.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs just the ideal play in that game,‚ÄĚ Granger said. ‚ÄúEvery kid lives to make a play in that game. Being from Texas, I had my family and everybody there to see me. Right time.
‚ÄúIf you watched the highlight, Auston English helped me, he held the screen man, and I had enough time to make the sack. You‚Äôve got to put those on your stats and remember them.‚ÄĚ
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!