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OU's Dominique Whaley not a typical walk-on player

A non-starter at Langston, running back Dominique Whaley has shined in Sooner practices
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Published: September 1, 2011

NORMAN — Walk-on.

Automatically, you might think of a try-hard guy who turned down lower profile scholarships to play at a big-time program.

That description doesn't apply to running back Dominique Whaley, listed second on Oklahoma's depth chart ahead of four- and five-star recruits.

“Since the first day he got here, he opened all our eyes real big,” said nickel back Tony Jefferson. We're like, ‘You're a walk-on? You should be playing somewhere.'”

Whaley played at Langston, an NAIA school. But even there he wasn't the starter.

Three years later, Whaley will play in front of 85,000 fans Saturday night when the Sooners open the season against Tulsa.

Whaley the walk-on is listed ahead of slippery, lightening-fast Roy Finch, OU's second-leading rusher last year. He's listed ahead of Brandon Williams, a highly touted incoming freshman many believe will be the best of five quality backs once he learns the system.

But Whaley has some talent. Tons of talent.

“I remember the very first (spring) practice he was running down the sidelines,” said center Ben Habern. “I said, 'Who is that?' Someone tells me, 'Dominique Whaley.' I was like, 'I don't even know who he is.' They said, 'He's a walk-on.'

“I was shocked. ‘This dude cannot be a walk-on. He had to transfer in from somewhere.'”

It's an unusual tale, especially considering Whaley's measurables.

Running backs coach Cale Gundy said Whaley weighs 210 pounds, runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, posted a 40-inch vertical leap and broad jumps 11-feet, 1-inch.

“Typically, there's not a lot of guys that show up that have the ability he has,” Gundy said. "We've always had walk-ons that have been very good players and have earned scholarships... But for someone to come in with that ability is a little unusual.”

How does someone as talented as Whaley fall through the cracks?

*Whaley didn't attend summer camps where players get on the radar.

*Growing up in a military family, Whaley moved around a lot.

*He primarily was a slot receiver his senior year at Lawton MacArthur because OU teammate Javon Harris was the Highlanders' featured back.

His only offers were Emporia State (Kan.) and Langston.

The turning point was he gained strength at OU and benefited from Division I coaching.

“Body-wise, I gained a lot of mass,” Whaley said. “I got bigger, stronger. They have great facilities here to help you do that. I'm also a lot smarter because of coaching, a lot of stuff I never knew before.”

It's understandable why Whaley flew under the radar. He didn't get to showcase his talents at Lawton Mac playing behind Harris.

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