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April 12, 2012

Taylor McNamara making peace with getting better

True freshmen Taylor McNamara walked into tight end coach Bruce Kittle's office a couple of weeks ago and told him some surprising news.

"Coach, I just want you to know, I finally stopped hating OU this week," he told Kittle.

McNamara, a mid-semester early enrollee at OU, is continuing a California tradition set forth by Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills, two San Diego natives who passed on the final semesters of their senior years and took part in spring practices at Oklahoma.



McNamara's experience, although somewhat surprising, hasn't been all that different than two years ago when Jefferson and Stills started.

When Jefferson was in Norman that spring, I was part of a photo shoot for a magazine cover featuring the mid-semester transfers back in 2010.

Jefferson was there for the shoot. But he wasn't anywhere close to the player I talked to before he arrived at campus. Jefferson was visibly tired. He barely said anything. He was completely exhausted from morning workouts, classes, meetings and more workouts.

McNamara has been going through the same thing this spring.

"University life is unforgiving at times so he had classes to make and learning specialists and just the pace of what we do and how fast we go and how many demands there were, kind of caught him a little bit," explained Kittle on McNamara's comments about hating OU. "I didn't know he hated it, but I knew it was pretty overwhelming for him. It just was a lot leaving Mom and Dad and all that stuff."

If you need proof McNamara truly is coming around, his Twitter feed Wednesday night spoke to his growth since arriving at Oklahoma.

"Man I do not regret coming early though, I've gotten so much better and really needed this experience, can't wait for the season!" tweeted McNamara.

Oklahoma really needed McNamara too.

After the loss of a young and talented Austin Haywood to team disciplinary issues in 2011, the Sooners were left with absolutely zero tight ends heading into spring football. McNamara and junior college transfer, Brannon "Moose" Green, have been the only two scholarship tight ends working with the offense this spring.

There has been little information available on either tight end through spring practices, so when tight ends coach Bruce Kittle entered the Adrian Peterson Team Meeting Room Tuesday, he was asked what he liked most about his newest players at the position.

"One thing I like is that they're bodies in the room because before that we didn't have very much," Kittle joked. "It gives us a lot of depth that way."

Green is the experienced player between the two. His junior college roots give him a leg up in the game-ready category.

"He's been more of a physical presence guy and he's thicker," explained Kittle. "Taylor's about 230 or 235 and Moose, when he played last year he was about 260, and we've got him at about 250 and he's down a little bit.

"He's bigger and stronger, but he's an older guy and two years older. I think the mental part has still been an adjustment and how fast we go and all the different routes. But he's done a real nice job at that.

"He's not quite as fluid as Taylor, but he's got a great set of hands and he's very predictable on his routes. He runs very decent routes and when he does get open they get him the ball and he catches it. He's done good with that."

McNamara remains the most likely candidate to flex out and make bigger plays down the field heading into 2012. But adding strength to his impressive frame is one of the things which will make him more comfortable at the position.

The lack of a physical presence is partly the reason he grew to hate OU early this spring according to Kittle.

"He has to get stronger in both his legs and upper body," said Kittle. "He's not used to facing David King every day or Chuka (Ndulue) and those guys. The size and strength and speed of the guys he faces on the edge are a lot different for him.

"It's hard when you get punched in the face twice by David King on repetitive plays and then thrown on your back. The world is not a very nice place some days. Learning how to pick yourself up and comeback and get your hands inside and fight through that - that's part of the lesson. He keeps responding and keeps coming back and he's working through it. We'll be fine by the fall."

Green and McNamara continue to learn about being better players throughout this spring.

And in the grand tradition of the Cali Trio, McNamara went to Twitter to tell people exactly how much he has learned this spring in Norman.

It's certainly been more than just how to get trucked by David King during practice.

For McNamara, those lessons have made him better. Even though he's been frustrated, he's knows that now.

"If I knew what I knew now and was a junior in high school like i could be," tweeted Mcnamara. "I woulda had the most hamm senior year of football ever."

Those of you who follow the trio on Twitter, and now McNamara, know enough to interpret "hamm" as a very good thing.



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