Ada freshman makes smooth jump to college

Wednesday, September 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla.-Dan Cody says he got the feeling during summer workouts that he had a chance to play as a freshman at Oklahoma.

Co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops thought so long before that.

"Probably the first time I ever saw him play in person, when he was at Ada last year, I knew he could play," Stoops said. "I watched him on the field, watched him run around, and thought he was a very athletic kid for his size.

"Then I watched him play basketball and knew he was very athletic for a guy that size. His hands and just his motor skills were so intact for a guy that big and that rangy. I knew he had a chance."

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Cody was on the field for several plays against Texas-El Paso last weekend and will continue to figure prominently at left defensive end. Head coach Bob Stoops says Cody is as impressive a defensive end prospect as he has seen.

"He plays with technique, he's very intelligent for a young guy," Bob Stoops said. "He plays physical. He has a lot of qualities you're looking for at the defensive end spot."

Cody actually started out on offense, as a tight end, when he arrived in Norman in June to begin summer workouts. Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said Cody would have been a good fit in the offensive line as well.

"We were all fighting over him," Mike Stoops said.

The needs were greater along the defensive line, so Cody moved to that side of the ball and has stayed there.

"I really didn't care one way or the other," said Cody, who in high school played tight end and defensive end, not to mention a little bit of fullback, linebacker, free safety and even quarterback. "I told them just where I could help the team the best and get on the field the fastest is where I wanted to be."

As he went through the summer workout program, Cody said, he found that he was able to hold up with the veteran players. But he knew the true test would come when two-a-days and fall workouts began.

"You really don't know where you stand until you get out there and do it," he said.

As it turned out, Cody more than held his own. After a short time, he began practicing with the second team, going against the varsity. That left him confident he would at least make the travel squad.

But before last week's opener against Texas-El Paso, coach Bob Stoops said Cody was among a handful of true freshmen who were likely to get playing time. And he did, playing primarily on passing downs.

Did he surprise himself?

"Actually, I did," Cody said. "I knew I would always be trying hard and all that, but I didn't know it would come to me that naturally and as easily as it did. That's not to say it came real easily. I was really surprised it worked out that way. I thought it would be something I'd struggle with at first, but it really kind of clicked with me."

Cody said he felt he played well against UTEP, then found in the game tape many areas where he needs to improve. But his coaches say they couldn't be more pleased.

"He's a really intelligent kid, so picking up the defense has been real easy for him," Mike Stoops said. "He needs to become a more physical player and he will in time, but he showed that he can play."