It's summertime in Norman, Okla., and if you've ever lived in the area, then you know what that entails.
Ridiculously warm and muggy days, followed by wonderfully breezy nights; Lindsey Street is actually manageable to drive without the hoards of students flocking around campus; Oklahoma football is a topic talked about by all the locals, most of whom could do "a much better job" coaching the team than Bob Stoops.
Normanites (the appropriate term for anybody who has lived in Norman for at least four years) have only a little over a month left before a new class of students arrives at the dorms, eager to see what the suburban metropolis has in store. Norman will once again be lively, with gleaming eyes and national championship hopes, as over 80,000 people pile in to Gaylord Memorial Stadium for each home game.
They aren't just players on a football team; they're your friends, classmates, sons, heroes and local celebrities. They're a hopeful glimpse into the future for kids playing organized football in the area and a wishful look into the past for everyone that has ever touched a pigskin.
We look up to them when they do good but are quick to throw them out for new bodies when they've done bad.
They're entertainment, but we still want to get to know them and invite them to dinner.
For me, summertime in Norman is a means of inviting all these players to a metaphoric dinner that all the fans throw. It's a time to let you know who is out there on the field, what they've done in the past and what they're projected to do in the future.
It's time for player profiles, and we're starting with the defense.
Last week, I profiled junior free safety Tony Jefferson, a player that will be called upon to be a leader in a secondary that needs to find an identity and redeem itself from a few disappointing performances.
This week, we're moving to the linebacking corps and profiling another player who will be asked to be a leader of the defense: junior Tom Wort.
Wort's success at Oklahoma started when he was just a freshman, and his production hasn't stopped.
As a freshman, Wort started in nine games and totaled 66 tackles (7.5 for loss) and 4.5 sacks. His play on the field earned him freshman All-American honors and solidified his spot in Oklahoma's linebacker rotation.
However, even after a stellar freshman season, Wort's eventual starting role as middle linebacker wasn't assured.
The starting spot was meant for Austin Box, a rising senior who died tragically before the 2011 season began.
It was under these severely unfortunate circumstances that Wort was named the official starting middle linebacker.
But he made the most of a heavy-hearted season.
Wort totaled 71 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore, which isn't much of leap in production from year to year.
However, anybody who watched the games would have been able to tell exactly how much Wort had improved over the summer.
Wort is a very fast sideline-to-sideline linebacker with a knack for blowing up the run, and his speed is also beneficial to coverage, as he was able to pick off two passes last season. With a full season of being a starter under his belt, I expect all of Wort's numbers to go up during his upcoming junior year.
With Travis Lewis now departed to the NFL, Wort is the perfect candidate to replace Lewis' leadership on and off the field.
Wort may very well play with the most emotion and heart of any player on the Sooners defense, and that can be both a blessing and a curse—normally more the former than the latter, though.
The "curse" of his high-emotion, high-motor style of play reflects in his inability to stay on the field throughout the course of games. I'm not sure if he is hitting too hard, or if he just isn't tackling properly, but he had to sit out more than a handful of series and the entire Texas Tech game due to injury.
It seemed that most of the in-game, series-missing injuries he obtained were either stingers or cases in which he simply had the breath knocked out of him.
Still, it's better to have a player that possesses that type of emotion than a player just going through the motions. Wort will need to use his energy to get the rest of the defense pumped up and on his level.
Sooner fans would be more than happy to see a defense full of Wort-like clones.
Like Jefferson, Wort still has two years of eligibility left, but he has the raw ability to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft early.
While I think it's unlikely to happen, Wort could be lured in by the thoughts of NFL money.
CBS Sports already has a big board set up for the 2014 draft, and Wort is currently the No. 8 inside linebacker prospect. Just a few months ago, Wort ranked as high as No. 2 on the same big board, so the drop to No. 8 has been sudden.
However, like mock drafts, big boards are destined to change a million times before any draft ever takes place.
The future is bright for the native of England who spent his high school days playing football in Texas, and he will be a huge contributor to an Oklahoma defense hoping to lead its team to both Big 12 and national championships.
So, to all the Sooner fans, I hope you enjoyed your dinner.
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