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OU football: Isaiah Coe emerging alongside former JUCO teammate Perrion Winfrey after blocked kick vs Nebraska

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Isaiah Coe

Junior defensive lineman Isaiah Coe attempts to make a tackle during the game against Nebraska on Sept. 18.

Isaiah Coe shot out of his stance, shoved his blocker to the ground and hoisted his hands into the air just quickly enough to bat away the opposing extra-point attempt.

At that moment, the junior defensive lineman believed the swatted football was on the ground, and he was headed to the sideline until he saw senior safety Pat Fields sprinting toward Nebraska territory. Coe quickly realized Fields had caught the blocked ball and he celebrated as the senior captain returned it for two points and swung momentum in Oklahoma’s favor.

“That play happened after a negative play defensively,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “Obviously, it’s an extra point, they scored a touchdown. If we give in to our feelings in that moment, we have an emotional reaction, what a missed opportunity if we don't play that next play.”

In just his third game at OU, Coe, an Iowa Western Junior College transfer, made his presence felt in the No. 4 Sooners’ 23-16 win over the Cornhuskers last Saturday. Already, he has registered three tackles for loss and a sack this fall since coming to Norman in the spring, and his special teams play was another example of his instant impact.

“Coach Grinch, he's really big on responding. He always tells us to play the next play, there's always a down that has to be played,” Coe said Tuesday, speaking to the media for the first time. “So actually, blocking the kick was a real emphasis this week from (linebackers coach Brian Odom), just because if you actually (saw) during the game, we were really close to blocking a couple of their kicks, but we just never really got it.

“You just gotta have that mindset (of) ‘OK, next play,’ and so I just really kinda got through there and tried to make a play for my team.”

Listed third at nose guard on Oklahoma’s most recent depth chart, Coe is quickly climbing the ranks behind starter Perrion Winfrey, his former teammate at Iowa Western who transferred to OU last season. Winfrey has broken out for 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss across the Sooners’ first three games in 2021 and could be a first round NFL draft pick come April.

After the 2020 JUCO season was canceled due to COVID-19, Coe was disappointed he wasn’t playing. Despite that, he watched the Sooners, regularly communicated with and encouraged Winfrey and gained a unique perspective on his friend’s maturation as he observed from afar. Then, when Coe arrived at OU for spring practice, Winfrey helped acclimate him to the Sooners’ defensive scheme.

“Just knowing everything that we've been through from now to junior college, just seeing him reaching all these goals that we all set. … It's really fun to see, and I'm waiting for my turn to come by, so when I can, I know he'll be right there for me celebrating, being one of the first people to congratulate me, Coe said. “It's a real brotherhood between me and him, and I just want to see him be the best he can be. I know he would want the same for me.”

Coe said he was a dominant force at most places he’d previously played, so he had to learn his role on a stacked defensive line including Winfrey, redshirt sophomore Jalen Redmond, redshirt senior Isaiah Thomas and redshirt junior Nik Bonitto, among others.

Eventually, he found his footing and climbed the depth chart following Oklahoma’s opener against Tulane after redshirt junior noseguard Jordan Kelley missed the contest due to a medical issue.

“Isaiah Coe has taken advantage of a couple guys being out,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “We had a couple guys that missed some practice time and he's one of the guys that has really stepped up, gotten an opportunity and has made the most of it. I know everybody saw the block the other day, but he's done a lot of other very promising things that have us excited about him.”

Coe registered a sack and TFL against Western Carolina then added two more TFLs against Nebraska. But more than anything, his extra point snuff against the Huskers became the definite first step to emerging from Winfrey’s shadow and asserting himself on Oklahoma’s defensive line.

“(Defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux) kind of wants me to be my own man, make my own name for myself and not just be ‘oh, that’s Perrion’s former teammate,” Coe said. “He wants people to know me as Isaiah Coe.”

Sports editor

Mason Young is the OU Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He was previously assistant sports editor and has covered women's gym, wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. Email Mason at masyoung@ou.edu and follow him on Twitter @Mason_Young_0

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