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A rite of passage

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Brian from Jacksonville:
I really like Chad Owens. I think we could have a great, speedy return man. His acceleration before and after the catch was nice. Do you agree? Would the Jags use him as a receiver?

Vic: Chad Owens was sensational through the first three days of training camp. Every time I looked up, he was catching a pass. It's as though the quarterbacks are looking for him. I've reached the point that I think Owens has to be considered a legitimate wide receiver prospect, and not just a return man. Size is the issue.

Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
What exactly is the "Oklahoma" drill?

Vic: The "Oklahoma" is an old-fashioned blocking and tackling exercise that puts two blocking bags 3-5 yards apart and a blocker and a tackler between them. As I've seen the drill acted out, if the blocker is a guard, tackle or tight end, then a center is included to snap the ball to the quarterback who then hands the ball off to a running back who is to charge straight ahead. The "Oklahoma" is not an agility drill. It is about power football. The blocker's job is to move the defender out of the way so the back can charge through the "hole." The defender's job is to stand the blocker up in the "hole," shed the blocker and tackle the running back. The back's job, if the defender is not cleared out of the "hole," is to move the "pile." Some coaches use variations of the "Oklahoma," but what I've described is the "Oklahoma" in its pure form. My high school coach used an interesting variation that eliminated the blocker. He would put a defender on his back between two dummies two yards apart, and a running back three yards deep with the ball in his hands. When the whistle blew, the defender had to come up off the ground in time to meet the runner head on. It's all old-time football stuff and a lot of people would say it's overrated and meaningless. I disagree.

Joe from Green Cove Spring, FL:
Who was the best and worst in the "Oklahoma" drill?

Vic: I've only covered one other team, the Steelers, and they did the "Oklahoma" religiously on the first day of every training camp. It became a tradition under Chuck Noll that literally drew huge crowds. The fans loved it and even as the team was practicing two fields away the fans would gather on a hillside at a corner of another practice field where the two blocking bags were positioned on the ground for what would occur later. Noll always arranged interesting matchups that drew ooh's and aah's from the crowd and the players. He would pit, for example, the highest-drafted offensive lineman against Joe Greene, or the highest-drafted defender against Mike Webster. Greene and Webster were the best defender and blocker I have ever seen in the "Oklahoma." Jack Lambert was one of the all-time worst in the "Oklahoma." Clearly, you don't have to be an "Oklahoma" star to be a great player.

Mack from Jacksonville:
Any chance we will see the "Oklahoma" drill tonight since it was rained out last night?

Vic: It's on the schedule for tonight.

Jim from San Diego, CA:
So how many e-mails did you get asking to explain what an "Oklahoma" drill is, including this one?

Vic: "Oklahoma" questions are challenging J.J. Stokes for the all-time, one-day "Ask Vic" record. I'm amazed at how many people are unfamiliar with the "Oklahoma," so I've decided to make it the feature attraction in today's "Ask Vic" column. It's good rainy-day stuff, right? The "Oklahoma" has always been considered a rite of football passage; it was, at least, where I learned the game. The real value of the drill, in my opinion, is that it sets a tone for training camp, and it always surprised me that Tom Coughlin didn't use it. My guess is that Coughlin did it so many times as a player for Ben Schwartzwalder at Syracuse that Coughlin vowed to never use the drill when he became a coach. It sends a message to the players that nobody is above blocking and tackling; that blocking and tackling represent the basic fundamentals of the game and everything starts with those two acts. That's why you do it on the first day of full-pads practice. In the old days, when the first practice was full pads, you did the "Oklahoma" before anyone threw a pass; first we'll block and tackle, then we'll throw the ball. The drill also addresses egos and reputations. You don't politic in the "Oklahoma." It's a king of the hill drill and your performance is for all of your teammates to see.

Erik from Hastings, MI:
Do you think Matt Jones has the speed to play receiver in the NFL and is he going to start?

Vic: Is he going to start? How would I know that? Sure, he has the speed to play wide receiver. He has more than enough speed. He has great speed and he has great hands. What we need to see now is if he has the feet to get into and out of his cuts. Route-running is a big part of playing wide receiver. It's what made Jerry Rice the greatest receiver in history.

Ken from San Bernardino, CA:
Can you refresh our minds on the dates (for this year) and roster limits all NFL teams must make cuts by?

Vic: Rosters must be cut to 65 on Aug. 30 and to 53 on Sept. 4.

Will from Jacksonville:
Who has more pressure to perform this year, Matt Jones or Reggie Williams?

Vic: All first-round picks face pressure to perform. The difference between Jones and Williams is that Jones will be allowed time for learning in his rookie year, whereas Williams had his rookie year of learning last season and is now facing a season for which major results are expected.

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