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OU football: Wanya Morris' off-field issue a 'learning period', DaShaun White's targeting penalty an 'easy fix'

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DaShaun White

Fifth-year linebacker Dashaun White during the game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska on Sept. 17.

After an off-field issue forced Wanya Morris to miss Oklahoma’s first two games, he returned for the third drive of the Sooners’ contest against Nebraska last Saturday.

Last season, the former five-star recruit who transferred from Tennessee played in just six games as a backup. Now, he says he has matured and is ready to contribute as OU’s starting right tackle.

“For me, I just took it as a learning period,” the senior said of missing the first two games. “I took it as an experience I can get better (from). I got two more weeks than everybody else to prepare and get ready. All I did was stay in the weight room and stay in the playbook, and when I came back, it was like clockwork.”

The Grayson, Georgia, native practiced with the scout team while waiting to play.But going against first-team defensive ends like Reggie Grimes, Ethan Downs, and even stud freshman R Mason Thomas and veteran backup Marcus Stripling aided his preparation.

Morris also said head coach Brent Venables helped him grow during his playing hiatus.

“Those two weeks I had off, that definitely helped me see a lot (and) learn more about myself,” Morris said. “How you respond to things is how you know you are as a man. So, I took that as like, how I’m going to respond will build my character.”

In its 49-14 win over the Cornhuskers, Oklahoma rushed for a season-high 312 yards and allowed only two sacks. Morris also flashed with a few devastating pancakes.

“Just being able to come back and play and get his feet wet again, I think it was great for us,” offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “Creating depth at that position is so critical for us being able to go do what we want to do.”

With a new mindset, Morris aims to build off the lessons he learned while sitting out.

“You got consequences in life,” he said. “And you got to take those consequences no matter what they are. … So that’s what I did. (I) took what I got and try to make the best of it.”

DaShaun White says targeting will be 'easy fix'

As Oklahoma prepared to face Nebraska last week, Venables preached tackling at pad level.

He specifically singled out linebacker DaShaun White, the Sooners’ starting Cheetah, who was aiming too high in drills during the week. Venables also reminded White about the message pregame in Lincoln.

After starting hot with six total tackles and a sack against the Huskers, the redshirt senior was called for targeting in the second quarter and ejected for a hit he made on quarterback Casey Thompson.

“So originally when they called it, I thought it was just gonna be roughing,” White said. “But as soon as they said targeting, I had a thought like, did I or did I not? So since I didn't know if I did or didn't, I knew that I probably did. So I kept my head up… it came and got me and it's an easy fix.”

While White was disqualified for the rest of the game, he was a significant contributor to OU’s early lead and preached words of encouragement from the sidelines. The North Richland Hills, Texas, native said he has found his groove at his new position.

“I feel really good,” White said. “I think that the position was really a lot of things that I felt like I've always done well that I've had to push to the side and just be like a real (middle linebacker). Just being in this position allows me to do a lot of things I feel like I do at a high level.”

Lawrence makes difference in secondary

Key Lawrence was pivotal to the OU secondary’s success against Nebraska in his return from a hamstring injury.

The junior safety, who’s in his second year in Norman after transferring from Tennessee, forced a fumble, made a fourth quarter interception and tallied six tackles against the Huskers.

“It made a huge difference because he's a playmaker,” cornerback Woodi Washington said. “He gets the ball and he's gonna make plays, and when he does get to the ball, he's gonna punch the ball out, as you’ve seen last game and Kansas last year and a couple more games from last year. Having him out there is definitely great.”

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said Monday the secondary allowed more explosive pass plays against the Huskers than he would like, but was pleased with their overall effort.

The secondary’s success has also translated to strong play from the defensive front. OU’s defense leads the nation with 32 tackles for loss and is fourth in sacks with 13.

“I think we're doing a pretty good job covering guys, and the D-line has done a great job just getting to the quarterback,” Washington said. “I think it's usually a single play is four seconds and I think we're getting it in two or three.

“Everybody's standing in the appropriate gap, and then guys are just covering well, so I think it’s giving the quarterback trouble. He can't throw the ball, so it’s giving the D-line a chance to get back there.”

Mason Young is the OU Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He is a senior majoring in journalism and has interned at the Tulsa World and the Detroit Free Press.

Assistant sports editor

Colton Sulley is one of the OU Daily's assistant sports editors and covers OU football. He is a junior majoring in journalism. 

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