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Boomer Bio: Chuka Ndulue
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Sooner defensive end stepping up his game
Deep inside the growling, snorting, cursing and controlled chaos known as the trenches, Chuka Ndulue recently found himself staring across at something defensive ends don’t normally see in that environment — a friendly face.
Oklahoma was battling host Texas Christian with hopes of earning a share of the Big 12 title, and there amidst the shadows and sweat was Ndulue’s former teammate at Dallas Jesuit Prep, Eric Tausch. They traded nods and went about the business of trying to help their respective teams gain the upper hand.
At the end of the day, Ndulue’s four tackles — including his team-leading fifth quarterback sack — helped the Sooners post a 24-17 win and gain a share of the Big 12 title along with Kansas State.
“It was great seeing Eric doing so well as a starter for TCU and knowing that we are both playing at this level,” said Ndulue, who has started nine of OU’s 12 games this season at defensive end. “We’re still great friends, but in that situation, we’re both trying to help our team win a football game.”
Ndulue (pronounced N-duel-E) has developed into a key contributor for the OU defense during his redshirt-sophomore season. Back in 2010, he arrived as a wide-eyed freshman just trying to adjust to the speed of the game and learn the defensive playbook.
While he made enough strides to see action in seven games a year ago, Ndulue was limited mostly to spot duty and mop-up situations.
“My inexperience really showed at times last season. I had some busts and was still trying to get fully adjusted,” said Ndulue, who grew up in Nigeria before his family moved to Texas when he was in seventh grade. “But I have worked really hard to put myself in a position to help the team, and I’ve made some good strides. This season has been a great experience, especially compared to last year. I know I still have some improving to do, but I’m happy with the way things are going.”
The Oklahoma coaching staff is also pleased with what it has seen from the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Ndulue, especially defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright.
“Chuka is strong and explosive and he’s got good speed,” said Wright. “He loves to play the game and he’s eager to learn what it’s going to take for him to keep getting better. You can’t help but like what you see in him and the direction he’s going.”
A season ago, Wright felt Ndulue made positive progress but was hesitant to put him in for certain situations. Not until OU’s final game of the 2011 season did Ndulue see extended action.
“Chuka struggled with some mental aspects of the game early, like carrying out the correct call. But as the season progressed, you could see him start to get it,” said Wright.
By the time the 2012 season rolled around, Ndulue had climbed all the way to No. 3 on the defensive ends depth chart. He has been part of a three-man rotation with R.J. Washington and David King most of the fall.
“Guys like R.J. and David have been great to me. They are always reminding me to keep my head in the game and not to overthink the situation,” said Ndulue. “It helps having that experience around you and seeing how those guys approach the game.”
A four-star prospect out of Dallas Jesuit, Ndulue fell in love with the OU program during his Junior Day visit back in 2008. At the time, he knew very little about Norman or the Sooners — but he left that day with an impression that he could not shake.
“It just felt right, like I was at home for some reason,” said Ndulue. “I think it was the overall unity I saw with the team and the way they seemed like a band of brothers working hard together to get things done.”
Ndulue told his high school coach Bob Wunderlick that Oklahoma was where he wanted to go, and the two started the process of informing coach Bob Stoops’ staff.
“My high school coach helped prepare me in a lot of ways for what I was going to experience at the college level,” said Ndulue, who redshirted his freshman season. “The key for me has been sticking with it and working hard to improve every aspect of my game. Fortunately, I feel that’s showed up in the way I have played this season.”
And according to Wright, his star pupil is only going to continue to get better and more dominant with every practice and every game. That’s something OU fans can no doubt look forward to in 2013 and beyond.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the 2012 Bowl Preview Issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, all toll free 1-888-841-8877)