OU's Jamell Fleming is focused on the present

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: August 19, 2011

Jamell Fleming doesn't care to go into details about what got him booted from Oklahoma's football team in the spring.

All that, Fleming says, is in the past.

At this point, he'd rather focus on the present.

“It was a humbling experience,” admitted Fleming, the senior defensive back who is believed to have been guilty of academic misconduct. “I'm just glad I can be back and I can help the team out.”

But in what capacity?

The coaching staff isn't gift wrapping anything for Fleming.

Not his starting spot. Not assurances on playing time.

Now, he has to earn both.

On the first day of fall practice, Fleming was relegated to B-team duty. Sophomore Gabe Lynn, after a strong showing in spring practice, was elevated to the first team. Though Fleming has rejoined the first unit in recent days, he still has a legitimate reason to look for Lynn over his shoulder. The coaches have yet to announce a starter for the boundary cornerback spot opposite Demontre Hurst. And the competition at corner thus far has been one of the biggest storylines as the season opener nears.

“Gabe was here,” said defensive backs coach Willie Martinez. “We recognize (with) Jamell the year he had last year, too. That's a good problem to have.”

It was Fleming's absence that created the competition. Had he been around, the ballhawk likely would have had a stranglehold on his spot.

But he wasn't.

“The whole time, Gabe Lynn, Lamar Harris, some of the other guys have gotten those reps that they generally would not have gotten,” Martinez said. “And they've proven themselves.”

Now it's Fleming's turn … again.

“They do need to be reassured that I can play and that I can help out the team and do the right things,” Fleming said of the coaching staff.

He must be doing a decent job. So far, not one bad word has been uttered about Fleming. Coaches have praised him for returning bigger, stronger and faster. Teammates have marveled at what great shape Fleming is in and how he hasn't lost a step.

“I think a lot of that credit goes to his family,” Martinez said. “He's got a great support system, a great family that really loves him and really put him in a great situation when he wasn't here and made sure he was taking care of his obligations even though he wasn't here.”

During his time away, Fleming lived with his sister, Clara, in Texas. Clara's husband, Torrey Prather, a personal trainer who played football at Texas Tech, North Texas and in a few minor leagues, put Fleming to work.

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