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Boomer Bio: Cory Brandon
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Sooner Offensive Lineman Stepping Out of Shadows
Oklahoma fans might not know Cory Brandon. But by now, they should.
It was four years ago this summer when Brandon — then a 6-foot-5, 255-pound high school prospect at Corsicana, Texas — gave his verbal commitment to play for the Sooners.
It’s been a long, slow, laborious process for Brandon, but now — a 6-foot-7, 308-pound junior at OU — he’s ready to step in as the starting right tackle.
“I love the opportunity,” he said.
Brandon, recruitniks might recall, was OU’s first commitment of the 2006 class. Sooner coaches recruited five offensive linemen that season, and the only two still left — Brandon and Trent Williams — are projected to start this season at right and left tackle, respectively. Curtis Bailey departed early on, Chase Beeler transferred to Stanford, and junior college transfer Brandon Walker was a three-year starter.
Everyone knows Williams. He became a starter at right tackle midway through his true freshman year after Branndon Braxton went down with a broken leg. When Braxton came back, Williams held on to the job. Now a fourth-year senior, Williams is projected as a first-round draft pick next spring.
Brandon? No such resume — at least not yet.
“Cory Brandon’s been around a while, and he’ll need to step up and be more of a leader,” said outgoing center and offensive co-captain Jon Cooper. “He’s been waiting his turn, and hopefully, now that he’s getting his chance, he can step up big-time, because it is kind of tough when you’re waiting to lead and be out there with the other guys and trying to step up. That’ll be another big chance for him.”
So far, Brandon’s experience is limited. He played in two games — Middle Tennessee and Texas — as a true freshman, but missed the rest of the season with injury and received a medical redshirt.
In 2007, he got into six games as a backup to Williams and then-left tackle Phil Loadholt. Last season, Brandon played in nine games, a total of 148 plays, at left and right tackle.
The Sooners’ penchant for blowing out opponents last season helped Brandon develop a little faster. OU had a 40-point third-quarter lead in five different games. It was especially helpful in identifying replacements for Cooper, Loadholt, Walker and Duke Robinson, who have all graduated to NFL training camps.
“It helped all of us, all us young guys,” Brandon said. “We all needed the reps. We could all use it. I think next year, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Maybe just as helpful to Brandon’s development was the first week of bowl preparation last December. That’s when the starters essentially get the week off from practice and all the backups get all the snaps.
“I got a lot of reps,” Brandon said. “It was real good, and it helped me out a lot.”
Brandon said during the spring that sometimes opportunities are presented, and sometimes they’re seized. He thinks he didn’t seize his opportunity early in his career, but he’s eager to do it now.
He committed weighing 255 pounds, he signed weighing 265. He’s steadily put on weight each year thanks to a strict eating program and a crushing weightlifting regimen.
“I’m really working hard right now,” Brandon said.
Then again, so is Jarvis Jones, who transferred in from LSU prior to last season and sat out 2008 as a redshirt. Jones was a regular backup on LSU’s national championship team in 2007, and at 6-7 and 295 pounds, he has the frame, natural strength and intensity it takes to play tackle.
“A lot of talent. And a very competitive kid,“ offensive line coach James Patton says of Jones. “(The ongoing competition at right tackle) will be fun.”
Brandon has the edge over Jones because he’s been a Sooner for four years and he knows the system inside and out. Brandon started and ended the spring as the No. 1 right tackle, with Jones breathing down his shoulder pads. But Brandon also has embraced the opportunity to play.
“Honestly, Trent Williams and I were talking about this the other day, and we’re really impressed with how well Cory Brandon has come along,” left guard Brian Simmons said at the end of spring practice. “I’m not saying he wasn’t doing what he needed to do earlier, but it’s like he’s morphed into this guy that’s ready to shine. His footwork has been right, his technique, his confidence, everything — it’s been positive.
“I think he just found his home at right tackle.”
(Editor''s Note: This story appears in Sooner Spectator's 2009 Football Preview issue, which is due in stores June 12: To subscribe, call 1-877-841-8877 or check out our online store)