NORMAN — When Bennett Okotcha struggled on the football field, he turned to his high school coach.
So when the redshirt freshman defensive back started feeling like he no longer fit in with the Sooners, he called Coppell (Texas) football coach Joe McBride. On Tuesday, McBride confirmed that Okotcha has left the Oklahoma football team.
“From what I understand, it was a tough fit for a while and it just became a little tougher and tougher,” McBride said.
The departure of the redshirt freshman defensive back makes him the second player to leave OU this month. The first was guard John Michael McGee, who no longer wanted to play football.
But the past two years, there have been a lot of comings and goings in Norman.
Just this preseason, Kameel Jackson left after suspension, Londell Taylor was ruled academically ineligible, both Ben Habern and Dylan Dismuke were lost to career-ending injuries and the names of Brandon Young, Seth Carter and Michael Hill disappeared from the roster.
Last season saw a lot of players leave Norman too. Names like Austin Haywood, Justin McCay, Sheldon McClain, Eric Humphrey, James Haynes, Brandon Williams, Jonathan Miller, Brandon Wegher, Dan Tapko, Josh Aladenoye and Jermie Calhoun are gone. Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez also left. Then defensive coordinator Brent Venables was the next to go.
Martinez and Venables recruited Okotcha. They knew his talent, and they were both gone within a week. Then there was the surgery on his knee and recovery. “It was really not having guys around that knew his ability and recruited him,” McBride said. “He just felt like a misfit a little bit and couldn’t find his way.” On August 12, Okotcha tweeted “talkin to my highschool football coach, Joe McBride always gets my mind right for anything, especially football though #noexcusesmentality.”
McBride knew when the last phone call came from Okotcha that it was serious. Okotcha wanted to leave.
“Ultimately, he needed to be happy,” McBride said. “If he wasn’t, then it wasn’t ever going to really work if he couldn’t find happiness.”
So the high school coach told the player to talk with his college coach and share his feelings. Sooners coach Bob Stoops declined to comment on anything about Okotcha when asked on Tuesday, saying he’d like to focus on the players that are still on the team.
“You know, there’s just a lot of difference in how you deal with kids from college to high school,” McBride said. “It’s just a lot different … especially with a national team like Oklahoma.
“It’s a big, big business, and there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of things pushing you to be better and achieve and all that. I just think that there maybe were some personality conflicts with some that he just had a hard time dealing with.”
Now the redshirt freshman will join his brother Evans, who is a running back, to play at Texas — San Antonio.
Okotcha was a three-star recruit out of Texas and the No. 42 cornerback in the country, according to Scout.com. In 2009, he made two interceptions, caught nine passes for 142 yards and scored a touchdown.
The player and his high school coach last talked on Monday.
“Honestly, he’s a little relieved,” McBride said. “I talked to him the whole way and said, ‘Tough it out and ride it out,’ but I’m not in his shoes on a day-to-day basis and I think he felt real relieved and is ready to turn the next page and go to the next page.”