Sooner Report: Knight News and More

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
AUGUST 14, 2014

Knight Named to Manning Award Watch List

Oklahoma redshirt sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight was one of 32 quarterbacks named to the Manning Award watch list on Thursday. This summer, Knight attended the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.

The winner of the award, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, will again be selected by a voting panel, which includes national media and each of the Mannings, after the bowls. The Manning Award was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It is the only quarterback award that includes the candidates’ bowl performances in its balloting.

Additional quarterbacks may be added to the Watch List after the start of the season. The list of 10 finalists will be released on Wednesday, Nov. 26. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 14. The Manning Award will be recognizing its 11th winner this year.

2014 Manning Award Watch List
Anthony Boone, Duke, Sr.
Terrance Broadway, ULL, Sr.
Shane Carden, East Carolina, Sr.
Rakeem Cato, Marshall, Sr.
Connor Cook, Michigan State, Jr.
Cody Fajardo, Nevada, Sr.
Devin Gardner, Michigan, Sr.
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State, Sr.
Connor Halliday, Washington State, Sr.
Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, Sr.
Taysom Hill, BYU, Jr.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford, Sr.
Brett Hundley, UCLA, Jr.
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green, Jr.
Chuckie Keeton, Utah State, Sr.
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State, Sr.
Cody Kessler, USC, Jr.
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma, So.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State, Sr.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon, Jr.
Nick Marshall, Auburn, Sr.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State, Sr.
Bryce Petty, Baylor, Sr.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, Jr.
Keenan Reynolds, Navy, Jr.
Jake Rudock, Iowa, Jr.
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana, Jr.
P.J. Walker, Temple, So.
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss, Sr.
Jake Waters, Kansas State, Sr.
Davis Webb, Texas Tech, So.
Jameis Winston, Florida State, So.


Big Targets

The Sooners have a number of big targets this season for quarterback Trevor Knight. In fact, wide receivers Dorial Green-Beckham, Dannon Cavil and Dallis Todd and tight ends Blake Bell and Taylor McNamara, all stand at 6’4” or taller. But, yet another big target stood out Wednesday night in native Oklahoman Jeffrey Mead, a 6-foot-6-inch freshman from Tulsa’s Union High School.

During the team period, Mead leaped to make an impressive, one-handed catch that garnered the attention of his teammates, generating plenty of “oohs and aahs” from his offensive teammates. 

“Man, it was [Michael] Jordan-esque,” fellow wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “The sun was shining right on him. He just went up big and grabbed it one-handed. Jumped real high too like he was trying to dunk a ball.”

Mead said it is the best catch over his preseason, but he does not know if it was the best overall.

“It was a slant route, get inside the guy, show the quarterback your numbers and just react to the ball,” Mead said. “So I saw the ball, timed it and went up and got it. It was one-handed. It was basically a one-handed vertical catch. He [the quarterback] threw it pretty high and I completely, fully extended, my feet were a little bit off the ground and I caught it. It was in traffic, across the middle.”

Hopefully, it will be just the first time we discuss a great catch by Mead.

Looking to Lead

This time last year, redshirt sophomore Zack Sanchez was a relatively unknown player at cornerback for OU. Then, the 2013 season happened.

Sanchez started all 13 games for the Sooners, tallying 46 total tackles (33 unassisted, 13 assisted). Additionally, he recorded 13 pass breakups and two interceptions for 117 yards, including a 74-yard return for a touchdown at Kansas State and a 43-yard pick in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama. Following the season, he earned Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America.

In 2014, Sanchez hopes to build off last season statistically while also claiming more of a leadership role to his teammates in the secondary.

“I am taking more of a leadership role this year, being one of the guys with more experience in the back end with all the freshmen and younger guys coming in,” Sanchez shared. “That’s been the biggest thing is trying to fill that leadership role and be the guy the young guys look up to.”

Along with stepping up as a leader, Sanchez hopes to make tweaks to his game in order to improve on the field.

“I want to be a lot better, a lot more consistent as a player in every aspect of my game,” Sanchez explained. “I need to tweak the things that I struggled on last year and continue to improve my strengths this year. I want to have no weaknesses out on the field.”

Opposite of Sanchez, a handful of players are fighting for the other starting job at cornerback, including redshirt senior Julian Wilson, sophomores Dakota Austin and Stanvon Taylor, as well as freshman Jordan Thomas. Sanchez said he believes any of his teammates competing for the job would be successful.

“They are all capable, all good players, all making plays every day, day in and day out,” Sanchez said. “Whoever ends up being the starting guy is going to be the right guy for the job.”


Rapid Improvement

This offseason, the OU coaching staff has spoken highly of redshirt freshman linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Assistant head coach and cornerbacks Coach Bobby Jack Wright quipped on Twitter that this Houston native may be one of the top competitors on the OU defense this season.

This is partly due to the fact that Okoronkwo, referred to by most Sooners simply as “Obo,” has quickly improved during his time in Norman.

“He’s made unbelievable progress since his freshman year, and most of it is he got lost in there,” said Tim Kish, assistant defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. “Things were happening too fast. His eyes were going right, left and everywhere in between. Once he learned how to focus, read his keys and do the fundamental things right, he’s started to become really a good football player. That’s what has transitioned this year.”

Likewise, Obo has continued to gain confidence and learn various aspects of the game.

“That has a lot to do with it but physically he is as gifted as anyone we have on this team, so he knows if he does the right things fundamentally he is going to be in good shape,” Kish explained. “Those things both add into the equation.”

Preseason Honors

This preseason, the Sooners have received a variety of honors, including being tabbed as the favorite to win its ninth Big 12 championship in the 2014 Big 12 Football Preseason Poll, voted on by media representatives who cover the conference. OU garnered 47 of 56 first-place votes and 548 total points to top the preseason rankings.

Additionally, four Sooners were named to the 2014 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Teams, including senior offensive tackle Daryl Williams, senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt, junior linebacker Eric Striker and sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez. OU’s four honorees trailed only Baylor (7) and Kansas State (5) for the most in the league. OU also joined Baylor as the only schools to have multiple student-athletes listed on both offense and defense.

Williams has also been placed on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, while Hunnicutt is on the watch list for the Groza Award, a year after being a semifinalist for the honor. Striker’s name appears on four preseason watch lists: the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards.

Bright Smiles

No matter where he goes, it’s hard to spot wide receiver Sterling Shepard when he’s not flashing a huge smile. In fact, Shepard’s smile is so bright, we asked him about it after practice.

"I don’t think so (that any of his teammates have whiter teeth than him), but the closest to the whitest would probably be Trevor Knight. We battle," Shepard said. "His dad is a dentist, so he has got a little upper-hand on me, but I do what I can. I’m trying to catch him right now. We go through phases. His will be whiter than mine and then mine are whiter than his, but we always mess with each other."



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