Two players who are poised to have breakout seasons in 2016 are redshirt sophomore linebacker Tay Evans and walk-on redshirt sophomore wide receiver Nick Basquine. SoonerSports.com spoke with each, as well as first-year defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux to get their thoughts on how fall camp is going so far.
REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER TAY EVANS
What have you seen from the linebacker group so far at camp?
“I’m feeling good about where we are. Everybody is playing fast, playing hard and I feel like they all know what they’re doing already, so I think we’re getting better. As far as newer guys, EB (Emmanuel Beal) has stepped up. He’s making a lot of plays. Hulk (Arthur McGinnis) is coming along and Ruben (Hunter) is playing really well, too.”
How has your role changed this year?
“I definitely have more of a leadership role. Coming into this season I’ve had to step up and continue where Dom (Dominique Alexander) left off, and I have to keep that going and make sure everyone in this group is on the same page.”
What are some things you’ve been trying to improve on individually?
“I always am just trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. I want to be a student of the game and know my assignments and where I’m supposed to be in this formation or that formation.”
What’s it like playing with your brother, Bobby?
“It’s been fun. I love it. I love every day of it. It’s a blessing for us. We always talk a little trash to each other. I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get you this play! You can’t hold me! You can’t block me!’ He’ll be like, ‘Man, watch me!’ It’s a lot of fun for us.”
Who are some young guys you’ve been impressed with so far?
“A.D. Miller has been really impressive, and Hulk (Arthur McGinnis) has really been stepping up and making plays. A.D. is going up and grabbing balls, and he’s really just improved a lot in his route running and making catches.”
Are there any NFL players you try to model your game after?
“I love Corey Nelson. He plays fast and hard, and he always knows where he’s supposed to be. He’s a student of the game and I’ve always wanted to play like him.”
REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVER NICK BASQUINE
What has camp been like for you?
“It's been a grind. It's been my first time getting real reps because they're anticipating me to play, and I know I need to be at the top level. It's a different perspective, and I'm trying to take advantage of my opportunity right now.”
You first got people's attention in the spring. What made you so successful then?
“I got hurt last camp so I was out during the whole season. I worked with my strength coach, Mahala Wiggins, on speed and agility and football work. That's how I elevated my game and stayed with the first team; I didn't watch any scout team. I stayed locked in during meetings to strengthen the mental side of my game. When the spring came around, I was ready to play."
When did you realize that you might be able to see the field and get reps?
“Probably the first day I got moved to the "A's" in the spring; that's when I realized the coaches were really looking at me. I've been trying to take advantage of that opportunity ever since.”
Being from Norman, has hit it you you'll be seeing the field for the Sooners?
“That's been a dream of mine since I was little, growing up and watching the Sooners play. It hasn't happened yet, but I know it'll be a surreal feeling. But when that happens, I'll be ready for it.”
For fans that haven't seen you, how would you describe your game?
“I would say crafty and deceptive. Good speed, good hands.”
You're currently a walk-on. Did you have other scholarship offers out of high school?
“I did have offers. I had multiple from the Mountain West Conference and the American (Athletic). My first one was New Mexico late in my senior season. I almost went there because that was the first coach that believed in me, Coach Bob Davie. I thank him for that opportunity.”
What made you decide to stay here and walk on at OU?
“Location; they're all out there (far away from Norman). And not to throw slight on any of them, but they weren't winning programs and I knew while I was in college that Oklahoma could do really good things, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH CALVIN THIBODEAUX
Does is feel pretty cool to be going through fall camp at OU as a coach now?
“It does feel surreal. I kind of got that out of the way during spring practice, but it is still neat to be out here remembering all the times you were out here grinding on this field when you were a player. It feels pretty cool to be out here in a different role and a different capacity.”
What has your impression been of the defensive line through camp so far?
“We keep taking strides every day. We still have work to do, but I really like the way we have taken steps forward every day.”
How does it help to have so many veterans on the line?
“It really helps because you have guys that have been through the fire. You have Jordan Wade, Matt Dimon, you got Charles Walker and Matthew Romar, D.J. Ward. All those guys have played and have a lot of experience. To be able to mix that in with a bunch of young guys that have special athletic ability, it’s pretty great group.”
Do you want to keep your starters in as much as possible or would you prefer a rotation?
“With big guys you always want to be able to roll them. Big guys can’t go much longer than six or seven plays at the top level so you want to have some depth. We feel like we are still developing that and guys are going to step up. That makes the competition in fall camp very competitive so we’re going to see how this thing shakes out.”
What, if anything, has surprised you to this point in camp?
“I wouldn’t say anything has surprised me, but the upperclassmen have done what I thought they would do to this point. You have seen flashes at times from Neville Gallimore. The athletic ability is there, he just needs to be more consistent.”