Anyone trying to grab the Sooners' national crown will have to go through Rocky
By Mark Bechtel
While he doesn't have the hairdo or the hardware to match Bosworth, Calmus is at least more dependable. Bosworth missed one of the biggest games of his career, the 1987 Orange Bowl, after testing positive for steroids. Calmus played the biggest game of his career, the 2001 Orange Bowl, with a broken thumb. (That was nothing new for Calmus. He had nine tackles against Oklahoma State in 1999 while playing with a broken bone in his right leg, and as a seventh-grader he played in a baseball game with a broken ankle.) In the Orange Bowl he forced Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke to fumble deep in his own territory in the fourth quarter, setting up the game's only touchdown. The Calmus-led Sooners D kept the Seminoles' offense, which came into the game averaging 39.9 points, off the board, and Oklahoma won its seventh national title -- but first since 1985.
"Rocky has a knack for finding his way to the football, even though most offensive schemes are designed to keep him from doing that," says coach Bob Stoops. Calmus, who has added 35 pounds to his frame since arriving at Oklahoma, has used that nose for the ball to offset the fact that he is not the most physically gifted linebacker on the team. "I don't stray too far," says Calmus of his freestyling. "I better make the play, or I'll hear about it."
Calmus hasn't heard about it much in his three years in Norman, during which he has surpassed Bosworth's record for tackles for loss by a linebacker, with 42. Shortly after the Orange Bowl he had surgery to repair the thumb -- a bone from his hip was grafted into his hand -- allowing him to enjoy a rare spell of fitness. "This is the first summer I was able to lift without a cast," he says.
The prospect of a stronger Calmus leading a defense that has six starters back should make Stoops fret a little less about having to replace quarterback Josh Heupel, last year's Heisman runner-up. The two leading candidates are junior Nate Hybl and sophomore Jason White, a pair Stoops considered to be on equal footing heading into two-a-days. Before coming to Norman 2 1/2 years ago, Stoops spent three years as an assistant to Steve Spurrier at Florida and saw firsthand the effectiveness of a dual-quarterback system. So don't be surprised to see both Hybl and White playing. "They pretty much bring the same things to the table," says Stoops. "They're big, strong guys who can run and have strong arms. The only difference is that Nate is a better golfer and Jason is a better basketball player."
Whoever is under center will have the benefit of being surrounded by a bevy of talented skill players. The top eight receivers (who accounted for 3,512 yards and 21 touchdowns) and top two rushers (Quentin Griffin and Renaldo Works, who combined for 1,216 yards and 22 scores) are back, and sophomore running back Jerad Estus was impressive in spring drills.
Last year Stoops got used to having people, as he says, "put bull's-eyes" on his team, waiting for the seemingly overachieving Sooners to lose. This season, again, the defending national champs are sure to be marked. Waiting for them to get toppled, though, may not be a good idea. Says Stoops, "We know how to put bull's-eyes on other guys too."
Issue date: August 13, 2001