Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, speaking to reporters after practice Thursday, called junior-college defensive tackle signee Quincy Russell a “huge difference maker.”
Russell (6-foot-3, 300 pounds), who is expected to enroll at OU in January, originally signed with Texas out of high school, but was forced to spend two years at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College after failing to qualify academically.
“We're excited about him,” Stoops said.
Punter Jed Barnett, from Laney Community College, also signed with Oklahoma on Wednesday, the opening day of the junior college midterm signing period.
“Jed's a heck of a punter too,” Stoops said. “I love his hang time and he averages over 40, and we're losing Tress (Way).”
Oklahoma's recruiting class, which also added a couple important offensive tackle commitments Wednesday, shot up Rivals.com's national team rankings to No. 10.
There had been concerns about the Sooners' lack of offensive and defensive tackles, but those concerns seem to be alleviated for now.
“They'll be another panic tomorrow — why the sky is falling tomorrow for OU football,” Stoops joked Wednesday. “OK? Someone will dream something up to get all the fans in a tizzy.”
RIPKOWSKI GIVEN SCHOLARSHIP
Stoops presented sophomore fullback Aaron Ripkowski with the Derrick Shepard Most Inspirational Walk-On Award at the football team's annual dinner and awards ceremony last Friday.
After the sophomore received his award, Stoops announced his decision to award Ripkowski with a football scholarship.
“I said, ‘Well, he won't be anymore because he won't be able to win it next year, so one of you other guys will have to win it,'” Stoops said Thursday.
Ripkowski, from Dayton, Texas, made his mark on special teams and in the short-yardage “Belldozer” package.
“I didn't know he was gonna announce it at the banquet,” Ripkowski said. “It was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Stoops said he told Ripkowski the good news at practice on the Thursday before OU's regular-season finale at TCU.
“I grabbed him, put my arm around him and said, ‘Hey, Rip, we're going to put you on scholarship for the next season. You've earned it and we appreciate you,'” Stoops remembered Thursday.
“We recognize — and always have here — guys that are making a strong contribution and feel they should be rewarded for it when they do. Rip has a lot of great years in front of us with us. He'll continue to get better.”
DAMIEN WILLIAMS: ‘I FEEL GREAT'
Junior running back Damien Williams said he's enjoyed having some time off to allow his ankle to fully heal.
“I feel great,” Williams said. “I feeling way better than I did a couple weeks ago when we were playing Notre Dame and West Virginia. My ankle has been able to get better.”
Williams, who transferred from Arizona Western and became OU's starting running back in its fourth game, led the Sooners with 905 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
He also showed the ability to break off long, thrilling touchdown runs; his season-long came in a 95-yarder inside Dallas' Cotton Bowl Stadium against archrival Texas.
Williams, though, injured his ankle in a late-October home loss to Notre Dame, and was limited the following week at Iowa State.
“It's great to get this big break, because you actually get to focus on your injuries and what you need to work on,” Williams said. “I feel like this break is well needed for anybody.”
MIKE STOOPS ON SUMLIN: ‘HE OWES ME'
When OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops became Arizona's head coach before the 2004 season, he tried to hire Kevin Sumlin as his offensive coordinator.
Stoops was fired in the middle of last season, and returned to Oklahoma in January. Sumlin, a former OU assistant, now coaches Texas A&M.
“I might still be at Arizona if he would've went with me; I tell him that all the time,” Mike Stoops joked.
“It worked out better for him than it did for me, so he owes me.”