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Oklahoma's David Ugwoegbu Hoping for a Breakout Season at Middle Linebacker

The Sooner senior fully dedicated himself to playing linebacker under Brent Venables and Co. this offseason.

Last year, David Ugwoegbu played with a lingering thought in the back of his head.

Recruited out of high school as a defensive end, the converted linebacker prepared each week wondering if one day he might slide back onto the defensive line.

As a result, Ugwoegbu kept some extra weight on, flying around the field as more of a hybrid body type.

But down the stretch last year, Ugwoegbu made a big decision that propelled him into this offseason.

“I saw myself as a (defensive end) but I was playing inside linebacker,” Ugwoegbu said on Tuesday at Oklahoma’s local media day. “But after really identifying as an inside ‘backer and making that decision to look in the mirror and like, if I want to excel, if I want to make it to the next level, if I’m gonna Abe the top guy in this position in this league and this aport, I’m gonna have to make some changes.”

Coming out of Bedlam, Ugwoegbu finally switched gears and dedicated himself to staying at linebacker.

“Right leading up to the Oregon game and then I figured once (Brent Venables) came and I saw what he does with linebackers I really made the decision that I gotta step it up,” he said. “I gotta take it to the next level.”

Ugwoegbu immediately got to work this offseason.

Not only did he do everything his could to soak up all of the coaching from Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof, the Katy, TX, product dedicated himself to changing his habits off the field.

“He is such a relentless worker,” Roof said on Tuesday. “He’s changed his body. He’s lost 20 pounds. He’s moving a lot better. You’re talking about a guy that spends a lot of time working in his craft. It’s paid off. I’m really proud of him and looking forward to watching him perform in craft.”

Throughout his career, Ugwoegbu has made 37 appearances for the Sooners including nine starts. He’s totaled 102 tackles, with 8.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks, as well as an incredibly athletic interception against Oklahoma State in 2020.

Under the guidance of Venables, Ugwoegbu is hoping to take his game to the next level.

David Ugwoegbu

David Ugwoegbu is relishing the chance to work under new head coach Brent Venables at Oklahoma 

“I think I’ve just improved my total knowledge of the game and the linebacker position,” he said. “And that came through Coach Roof and Coach Venables and the knowledge that they’ve instilled in me.”

The senior has another staff member in his corner as well helping him along the way.

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Curtis Lofton, a former First Team All-American linebacker, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and eight year NFL veteran, returned to his alma mater this offseason to serve on OU’s SOUL Mission.

Not only has Lofton been a resource off the field for Oklahoma’s roster, he’s been a supporter of Ugwoegbu as he dedicates himself to the position.

“Man, it’s huge. Curtis helped me so much during the sporing of just like putting little stuff in my ear about what he sees in my game,” Ugwoegbu said. “And when you have a vet like that tell you something, you better listen.

“I think Curtis has helped me a whole bunch on and off the field. He’s part of the SOUL Mission group and that whole group here has done wonders for this team.”

Still, Ugwoegbu will have to prove himself day-in and day-out as he battles for snaps with sophomore standout Danny Stutsman.

“If you look at David Ugwoegbu and Danny Stutsman, both of those guys have played a lot,” Roof said. “Danny is just a sophomore and David is a fourth-year guy. Both have been battle-tested. Both had a great spring.

“There is a lot competition there. But it’s a competition with a lot of respect. Those guys really care about one another. They appreciate what they bring to the table. It has made each other better.”

Though he’s fighting for snaps, Stutsman said he’s an admirer of Ugwoegbu, as the veteran was essential in helping Stutsman along through his first year on campus last season.

“He’s a key player,” Stutsman said. “I don’t think our defense would be the same without him. That’s the guy that can play on the field… He’s ready to go.

“He’s eager, he’s excited. That’s a great guy. And me and him, we’re back and forth, competitive, it’s awesome. We get the most out of each other.”

Ahead of the season, Ugwoegbu was named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, but he said he’s not focused on any of those lofty goals at this point.

For now, Ugwoegbu is just trying to focus in on fall camp and ensuring that he gets off on the right foot for not only himself but the entire linebacker room headed into the season.

“These next 30 days are probably the most important in the season because this is how we’re going to establish the identity for the season,” he said. “That doesn’t start Game 1. That starts today.”

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