By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Few would find a silver lining in major shoulder surgery, but Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara believes the injury will benefit him in the long run.
“I think it was,” he said Monday after his first practice since suffering a season-ending torn labrum last September. “As much as I wanted to come in and be a star, I wasn’t ready. I was blessed to only play three games and still be able to get the redshirt and have four years left.”
Consider the spring McNamara’s do-over.
Just a year ago, he was a highly touted tight end from San Diego’s Westview High School who graduated a semester early with the potential of becoming the Sooners’ starting tight end as a freshman.
Technically, he was. McNamara lined up at the spot on OU’s first offensive snap against UTEP. However, he knew deep down he wasn’t physically ready for the job.
“When I weighed in right before UTEP I was only about 230 pounds,” he said. “I realized tight ends weigh about 250 and it’s hard to be physical when you’re less than that. That alone might have been a mental block in itself, but I wasn’t ready to be the in-line blocking tight end that I need to (be).”
McNamara only played in three games, making him eligible for the medical redshirt at the end of the season. The time away from the field allowed him to do the physical maturing that was desperately needed.
The critical 20 pounds he lacked last fall are there. McNamara, senior Brannon Green and redshirt freshman Sam Grant are trying to bring the tight end spot back to the forefront after becoming an afterthought in OU’s game plan last season.
“We have to get better, play physical and play tough and run routes like we know how to run them,” McNamara said. “If we do that, we’ll be good.”
Consistency is the key: OU has two established starting wide receivers with Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard. Those two spots on the outside of the formation are where there is a major competition taking place this spring. Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said Lacoltan Bester, Durron Neal, Trey Metoyer, Jaz Reynolds and Derrick Woods are candidates.
“We’ve got several guys competing right now to be that guy that can line up there every snap and be that example,” Norvell said. “You’ve got Jaz Reynolds as a senior, Lacoltan Bester as a senior and those guys want to play. They don’t want to spend their last year watching everybody else. It’s been very competitive. Durron’s been the same way and Derrick Woods is putting a lot of pressure on a lot of guys because he’s making plays.
That’s the good thing, we have some competition and it’s going to make everybody a little bit more accountable to their performance.”
Limited spring: Center Gabe Ikard is being held out of contact due to a broken right hand. One would think a two-time All-Big 12 performer with 37 career starts under his belt could afford to miss spring practice.
Ikard doesn’t believe so.
“I’m one of those guys that believes nothing good — it doesn’t matter how much football you have played — you don’t want to miss practice because you always want to continue to get better,” he said. “It’s tough, but I’m there for my teammates and I’m working on myself, what I can do and what the trainers will allow me to do. I’m just waiting to get back. I just have to take it slow and be smart and do what’s best for my health and ultimately what is best for the team.”
Rested and ready: Left guard Adam Shead winced and limped with every movement by the end of the 2012 season. He played all season, despite ankle and knee injuries, and was knocked out of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic with a first half back injury.
Nonetheless, Shead said he’s felt good since spring practice began.
“All I needed was some time off,” he said.
Follow me @john_shinn
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.