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Emmanuel Beal Q&A
Sooner linebacker talks football and much more

The Lackawanna pipeline is real.

It flows from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to any number of key points across the country, delivering half-baked talent to established football programs set on nurturing and developing those players.
And by the looks of Oklahoma’s 2016 football roster this season, Norman is at the top of the list.

Ask linebacker Emmanuel Beal.

He’s seen it in action.

Beal rode the pipeline into town this past summer, along with Lackawanna teammates Karpri Doucet and Ashton Julious. Since his arrival, the 6-foot, 215-pound Beal has become one of the Sooners’ most consistent playmakers on defense.

Through the first 10 games this season, Beal ranked second on the team with 63 tackles, trailing only fellow linebacker Jordan Evans (76). On top of that, he had six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a pair of QB sacks.

“We are extremely pleased with the way Emmanuel is playing, especially when you consider he’s only been on campus for four months,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “He has taken some big steps to put himself in a position to make a difference with our defense.”

Back in 2008, the Sooners signed linebacker Mike Balogun out of Lackawanna, and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh helped reconnect OU to the juco program when he was hired in 2013.
Sooner Spectator caught up with Beal after the Sooners’ 45-24 win over Baylor to get his thoughts on the pipeline and a number of other topics.

Sooner Spectator: What has been the key to your success here at OU so far?
Emannuel Beal: Really, just trying to be physical and making plays. Those are the two things I have tried to focus on since I got here. I’m probably considered a little undersized for a linebacker at this level, so you have to find a way to make up for that if you can. Playing a physical style of football is important for me. You have to bring it every day — especially when you are working against one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12 every day in practice. Knowing your position and being smart about everything you do is also important, and working on my technique has been another key for me.

SS: What was it about OU that made you believe it was the right place for you?
Beal: First of all, Coach (Tim) Kish. He’s a great coach, but he’s a lot more than that. He’s a family man and he’s fun to be around. We’ve had a pretty good connection from the start and it’s grown from there, especially since I got on campus here. Plus, I was also impressed with the program OU has, the tradition, and the whole school.

SS: Has it helped your transition from junior college to OU having two of your teammates from Lackawanna here with you?
Beal: It’s made a big difference — just having those guys here and knowing they are going through the same experience I am. It gives you a feeling of comfort, to some degree. There is always going to be some anxiety when you are put into a new situation, especially one like this where so much is expected of you. We all talk about it and try to help each other. I think that’s been good for us.

SS: You were born in Michigan but moved to Columbus, Ohio, when you were young. What was it like growing up there?
Beal: It was good. I went to a high school there called Reynoldsburg and basically grew up playing in Ohio State country. I probably played against an Ohio State recruit in every game I played. So I knew some of the Ohio State players when we faced them earlier this season. But that’s a game I don’t really care to look back on too much. We put it behind us and we’re only looking forward.

SS: What sort of expectations did you have for yourself when you arrived on campus back in the summer?
Beal: When I got here, I didn’t look at any depth chart and didn’t care who was on the depth chart at linebacker. I just had to focus on what I needed to do to get on the field. Oklahoma was the first program to give me an offer, which gave me a lot of confidence. They gave me that offer for a reason — because they saw something in me. That’s all the motivation I needed. I felt like if I got here and worked hard and did everything they asked me to do that I could put myself in a position to play. The move to inside linebacker was a bit confusing because I had not played there before. But it has all worked out.

SS: What has been your favorite moment as a Sooner so far? It can be a certain game or a season or even a single play.
Beal: To be honest, my favorite moment so far was watching Jordan (Evans) just go off like he did against Baylor (9 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions). He was amazing from start to finish. That was fun to watch, especially against a team like that. And I had a close-up view of it all.

SS: What was the biggest hurdle for you making the leap from juco to Division I?
Beal: The plays, the calls, the language — it was all different from what I was used to before I got here. Juco is just a step above high school, so the language is pretty much the same there. But not at this level where you have to learn so much in a short amount of time. It’s all football, but just a lot to take in and learn if you are new to the system.

SS: What is the best way to describe OU’s current defense?
Beal: Basically, it’s a work in progress. We have lots of new guys in the mix this season, myself included. Any time you lose some of the veteran players like we did from last year, you’re going to need some time to grow together and gain experience together. Everybody knows we’ve had some struggles this season, but I feel like we are getting better every day in practice and it’s starting to show in games now. Slowly but surely, I can see our overall confidence growing and just guys at different positions starting to play better, more aggressively as they get comfortable.

(Editor's Note: This Q&A appears in the 2016 Basketball Preview issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, call 405-364-4515)