Tramel's ScissorTales: Billy Bowman not ready to attempt the two-way path of Deion Sanders

·18 min read

OU’s Billy Bowman would like to play both offense and defense. Some day. Not now.

The path of Deion Sanders and Roy Green in the National Football League, and R.W. McQuarters and Steve Zabel in college, is not easy. Not then. Not now.

It can be done. In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens’ Patrick Ricard played 342 snaps at fullback and 140 at linebacker. In 2017, Joel Lanning was Iowa State’s middle linebacker but also the Cyclones’ short-yardage quarterback, the latter with great success against both OSU and OU.

But playing both ways has gone out of style. And for good reason. Football is more complicated than ever before.

“I think there’s more intricacies,” said Brent Venables. “Really thinking it through, offenses are much different than they were then, obviously, whether it’s just the no-huddle or all the moving parts.

“I think it’s probably a little more difficult for a young person to know both of those systems, both sides of the ball.”

Tramel: BYU's ascension to the Big 12 started with the revered LaVell Edwards

Billy Bowman played cornerback and nickel back last season, but he's changing positions again this spring for OU.
Billy Bowman played cornerback and nickel back last season, but he's changing positions again this spring for OU.

The previous OU coaching staff recruited Bowman out of Denton Ryan in north Texas, and Bowman was billed as a potential two-way player. Defensive back and wide receiver. Plus a kick returner of some note.

But Bowman soon settled in on defense and even started several games at safety, including the season opener. But Bowman was moved to cornerback, struggled there and played little down the stretch. He had no kick returns and didn’t play offense.

Venables has a clear plan for Bowman. Get good at one position, then worry about another.

“We’re just trying to help a guy like Billy become dominant at one position, get him to that point,” Venables said. “To me, when you’ve seen people do that, whether it’s Chris Canty (who played at Kansas State when Venables coached there in the 1990s) or McQuarters (OSU, 1995-97), they established themselves on one side of the ball first, then you found ways to continue to help the team.

“We’ll always be open to that. Whether it’s one side of the ball, playing multiple positions, or again, having a guy that really has a unique skill set, really special skill set, to play both sides of the ball. We’ll always be open to that.”

But it’s not easy. Bowman shows that it’s not easy to master one position, let alone two or three.

“On the college level, it’s not just knowing your job, it’s knowing what the other 10 guys on the field are doing,” Bowman said. “I didn’t really pick up on that until starting this spring, knowing what everyone else is doing and how important and easier it makes my job. It’s a tough thing to do, but as you get older, it comes with experience.”

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Venables also said football culture has changed. More and more players are staying on only one side of the ball in high school.

“Back in the day, the best player stayed on the field, they didn’t leave the field,” Venables said. “So probably less exposure on the front end coming in. Probably coaches just getting lazy, not taking advantage. I don’t know. You got special players. That’s a great thing to have.”

Of course, in defense of high school coaches, the games are longer than ever. More plays. You can’t blame coaches for spotting even great players on one side of the ball.

Most agree that Bowman is a special talent. In high school, Bowman switched his commitment from Texas to OU, saying he preferred offense to defense and believed in Lincoln Riley’s offensive genius. Bowman said he would play defense if it got him on the field more quickly, and that’s exactly what happened.

“I feel like, at some point in my career, I do want to play both sides of the ball,” Bowman said. “Right now, I’m focused on defense. I can put my hands on the ball on defense too. I can make that happen and show what I can do.”

Right now, defense is Bowman’s best option. Playing both ways is down the road. Modern football is too demanding for a young player, and maybe for an older player, too.

More: Utah travelblog: BYU athletic facilities are mostly Big 12-ready

Berry Tramel in Park City.
Berry Tramel in Park City.

Utah travelblog: Ski resorts, a dead sea & a capitol tour

About 15 miles west of Salt Lake City is the Great Salt Lake. About 30 miles east of Salt Lake City is Park City.

Two iconic Utah locales. One popular, one not. One natural, one manmade. We hit them both on back-to-back days over the weekend. Park City and the Great Salt Lake. As well as a cool event on the Brigham Young campus and a great meeting with a Utah senator at the gorgeous state capitol.

It was a fun Saturday and Sunday in Utah. Here’s what we saw.

Polar-opposite ski resorts

Our Saturday began with a trip to Park City, which included a stop at the Sundance Resort.

Sundance sits about 13 miles northeast of Provo, a couple of miles up the mountain off Highway 189.

Sundance is a rustic ski resort, with more than 5,000 acres on Mount Timpanogos. People have been skiing at Sundance since 1944. Robert Redford bought Sundance in 1968 and put in a year-round resort. The Sundance Film Festival and the non-profit Sundance Institute, which helps independent artists, ensued. The film festival long ago outgrew Sundance, so Redford kept the name and moved it to Park City.

The ski season ended a week ago, and Sundance was deserted. Downright eerie, to be honest. The resort seemed almost like an Old West movie set, with no movie being filmed. Small, sort of rundown, to be honest. Desolate. Maybe it’s a place for hard-core skiers who want to be free of glitz? I don’t know.

A variety of nice mountain homes sit above the resort, but about 15 months ago, Redford sold Sundance Resort.

The difference between Sundance and Park City is stark. While Sundance was virtually hidden in the Wasatch Mountains, Park City is bustling and sparkling.

Park City was a mining town that was dying out in the 1950s. But it reinvented itself as a tourist destination in the 1980s, and with the skiing explosion, Park City catapulted into a boom. Today, Park City’s population is more than 8,000, and most days, there are more tourists than that.

In 2002, when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics, Park City and nearby Deer Valley Resort were the prime locations for the alpine events.

Now the city is a tourist hot spot, including the Sundance Film Festival. In 2015, Park City Ski Resort and Canyons Village at Park City merged, creating the largest ski resort in America, with 17 slopes, 300 trails and 22 miles of lifts.

Outdoors companies backcountry.com, Rossignol USA and Skullcandy have made Park City their national headquarters.

Park City’s historic downtown is several blocks long and brimming with people and commerce, even on Saturday, when we were long past peak season. A major outlet mall has been built. A combination residential/commercial development called Redstone, basically one of those 21st-century downtown models with limited room for vehicles, sits on the north end of town.

Trish the Dish never has snow-skied – neither have I – but she’s long wanted to experience a ski resort. She got a small sampling Saturday.

Canyons Village has a cool plaza at the base of the slopes, surrounded by a variety of shops, restaurants and hotels.

We had lunch at DBB Burger Bar, within view of the slopes. It offers high-priced burgers, but I have to say, they were outstanding. I had what I would call a Mexican cheeseburger, which included a chile relleno, queso and salsa ON THE BURGER. It was $18 and dang near worth it. Plus the Dish had her view of the slopes, so she was quite content.

The weather was chilly – 40s – and we shot pictures and strolled around and enjoyed the atmosphere. But I never once got the itch to ski. I did get the itch to sit in front of the outdoor fire pit.

The Dish shopped for awhile, then we headed back towards Provo. The drive through the Wascatch Mountains is quite scenic. The mountains aren’t as majestic as, say, Colorado’s. But they offered great waterfalls, a beautiful reservoir and magnificent great sunlight bouncing off the face of the peaks. All within 45 minutes of Provo.

Tramel: BYU's ascension to the Big 12 started with the revered LaVell Edwards

BYU Broadway

On Saturday night, we attended a BYU fine arts production, Broadway Revue. We had Saturday night free, so the Dish looked around the BYU website and found the production by the university’s Music Dance Theater program.

It was a fun show, produced and directed by BYU students. It was an interesting concept; a variety of skits with Broadway characters and songs not necessarily linked originally on Broadway. For example, some kid played the Elephant Man and broke out into the great “Who I’d Be” from Shrek the Musical. It was outstanding. “I guess I’d be a hero, with sword and armor clashing, looking semi-dashing, a shield within my grip...”

I’m here to talk football and athletics, but no reason not to check out the entire campus experience. We very much enjoyed it.

After the show, we had some nachos at Joe Vera’s Mexican. A fun day in Utah.

The Great Salt Lake

The Dish and I like to take boat tours. We’ve found it a great way to see new sights and learn about different places. Let’s see. We’ve been on Lake Michigan in Chicago, Puget Sound in Seattle, the Venetian Lagoon in Venice, San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge, the Gulf of Mexico off Key West, Wolf Bay in Orange Beach, San Diego Bay, the Mississippi River in New Orleans, the Niagara River in Ontario, the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale, the Hudson River in New York, the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

But the Great Salt Lake boat tour was unique.

The Great Salt Lake is 75 miles long and 28 miles wide, but its true size varies. In the 1980s, the Great Salt Lake reached a record 3,300 square miles. But drought has come to Utah, and today the lake is about 950 square miles.

Some call the lake “America’s Dead Sea,” because of the salt, which is many more times prevalent than in ocean water. Three rivers flow into the Great Salt Lake, but there are no outlets. Which means water exits only by evaporation, leaving the minerals behind. Which is how the salt takes over.

It’s almost impossible to drown in the Great Salt Lake. You float automatically because the salinity makes the water so buoyant. No fish live in the Great Salt Lake. Tiny brine shrimp are the most dominant of the bacteria and organisms that survive in the lake.

The Great Salt Lake is not the least bit recreational. Few boats go out. In the summer, when the weather is nice, the shoreline is afflicted with flying bugs and the rotten-egg smell. Those are gone once you get out on the lake, but it’s not a pleasant trip to get there.

On this massive lake, the only marina is on the south side, west of Salt Lake City. And even the hearty, who might like to sail on the lake, are discouraged, because the low water is threatening the marina, where sailboats recently were removed by crane.

But while the Great Salt Lake serves as no great tourist destination, it CREATES tourist destinations for Utah. The presence of the lake, with its unique makeup, and set in a valley, creates storm effects that produce much of the snow in the Utah mountains. So those ski resorts thrive, courtesy of the Great Salt Lake.

Just before reaching the Great Salt Lake marina on Interstate 80, I saw the most remarkable highway sign. It listed the mileage for upcoming destinations. Wendover and some other town I can’t remember, then Reno, Nevada. The number beside Reno was startling: 511. Most mileage I’ve ever seen on a highway sign. The American West is wiiiiiiiiiiide open.

America's Dead Sea

After the lake, we drove into Salt Lake City to meet state Sen. Kirk Cullimore, who is an OU Law School graduate. Norman district judge Thad Balkman set me up with Cullimore, who lived with his family in Norman for seven years, even opened his own law practice after graduating, before returning to Utah to take over his father’s firm.

Cullimore, 44, is a BYU graduate and long-time Cougar fan (and now Sooner fan, too). He and his family met us at the gorgeous state capitol, for an interview and a tour.

The capitol was hopping with people. Visitors to the building. People posing for pictures outside with the cherry blossom trees. A really festive atmosphere. Is Oklahoma’s capitol open on Sundays? Do Oklahomans go? We should.

The Utah capitol is quite ornate, with huge murals depicting state history, a fabulous dome and a big statue of Brigham Young, Utah Territory’s first governor.

Cullimore and his wife, Heather, gave us a tour of the senate and house chambers. I always get a charge out of touring state capitols. Makes me feel more American.

We sat down in the Senate Lounge and talked BYU. I’ll publish my BYU-to-the-Big-12 project later, and Cullimore’s perspective helped me gain even more insight into the Cougars.

Later in the afternoon, the Dish and I headed back south to Provo, following the Masters on my phone – thanks Augusta, for making streaming quite easy – and eventually met up with her cousin and his wife for dinner.

Barry and Sandra King have lived most of their adult lives in Grand Junction, Colorado – he was a doctor, she a teacher – but are back in Sandra’s hometown of Provo. It was great connecting with them.

Then it was back to the hotel for some writing and that ghastly Thunder game. The Thunder season mercifully is over. Our Utah trip soon will be, too.

Tramel's ScissorTales: How Kansas Jayhawks & Big 12 basketball could make NCAA Tournament history

Kansas barnstorming tour

In the dusty days of baseball, players would spend the winters months barnstorming. Traveling around, playing exhibition games. Sometimes overseas, sometimes south of the border, anywhere a market existed for baseball. Any way to make an extra buck.

Welcome to the new way to barnstorm. Name, image and likeness among collegiate athletes.

Kansas won the NCAA championship a week ago, and now the Jayhawks are going on tour. The KU "Barnstorming Tour" will begin on April 23 at East High School in Wichita, Kansas.

The Jayhawks will travel around, staging events in which fans can get autographs, partake in a question-and-answer session, join a skills training session and attend a VIP dinner.

Tickets range from $30 to $125. Autographs come with every tickets, but pictures cost an extra fee.

Front Office Sports reports that players will get 70 percent of the tour revenue, plus 100 percent of the revenue from auctioned items.

Christian Braun, David McCormback, Ochai Agbaji, DaJuan Harris Jr. And Jalen Wilson are among the players committed to barnstorm.

The tour is a natural result of NIL.

Kansas basketball is like OU football. If the Sooners were to win a national title, can you imagine the turnout for a barnstorming tour around Oklahoma?

Of course, it’s much easier to coordinate a basketball tour, with its limited number of players. An OU football tour likely would have to be divided.

Basketball is perfect for such a barnstorm. Intense connection with the players, who have much better recognition branding with the public than do football players. Fewer players. And time of year, since KU classes, I’m sure, are nearing their end, although I’m probably a Dilbert for suggesting that academics matter.

More: OKC Thunder owns the No. 4 spot in the 2022 NBA Draft lottery. Here's what you need to know.

The List: Russell Westbrook’s 2022-23 team

Russell Westbrook’s tumultuous 2022-23 season and the Lakers’ fall to a 33-49 record has created much speculation about his future. With another year left on his contract, at a salary of $47 million, Westbrook’s trade value is not high. Bookies.com came up with the following odds on Westbrook’s 2022-23 team:

1. Lakers 5-2: LA will do everything it can, including seeking a contractual buyout, to keep Westbrook off the squad.

2. Thunder 4-1: I sense no desire from the Thunder for a Westbrook return. None.

3. Rockets 11-2: The only trade that makes much sense is if Houston sends its own bloated contract, John Wall’s, to LA. Wall has one year left on his deal, also at $47 million. But Wall has played just 113 games the past FIVE seasons, including missing all of 2019-20 (injury) and 2021-22 (disinterest on Houston’s part). Houston would have to receive some incentives to make the deal.

3. Charlotte 11-2: Some say that Michael Jordan’s Hornets could look favorably upon Westbrook, as a potential mentor/backup for LaMelo Ball. I don’t see it.

5. Miami 6-1: You can sort of make sense of the Heat’s interest in Westbrook. Miami has a strong culture, led by coach Erik Spoelstra, and a strong leader in Jimmy Butler, which could serve as a counter to Westbrook’s strong will.

5. Orlando 6-1: If the Magic need to sell tickets, Westbrook might help. And his skills have eroded so much that Westbrook isn’t likely to hurt Orlando in the lottery-ball game.

Tramel's ScissorTales: Why Brian Bosworth thinks Brent Venables can put 'signature stamp back on' OU football

Former OU linebacker Brian Bosworth has been a staple of the college football season with his Dr Pepper commercials.
Former OU linebacker Brian Bosworth has been a staple of the college football season with his Dr Pepper commercials.

Mailbag: Firing OU coaches

My Brian Bosworth piece, on Bosworth’s support for the Brent Venables hiring after not always supporting Bob Stoops, drew an interesting response:

Hump: “As a lifelong Crimson-and-Cream-bleeding-since-I-arrived-on-the-planet-in-1954-fan, I assert the Boz was and is correct. I would have fired Stoops after the 2005 Orange Bowl debacle. The 2004 Sugar Bowl loss to LSU was bad enough, but everyone in the stadium knew we were gonna throw the quick screen on first down at our own 20. Damn, that pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Was the difference in the game. Both the WVU Fiesta Bowl shaming as well as the dignity-stealing Fiesta Bowl whipping by Boise State should have caused Stoops to become unemployed. Hook and ladder and Statue of Liberty for the win. And everyone but the Sooners coaching staff forecast the Tebow jump pass for the win, if I recall correctly. Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming except our defensive coordinator.

“One of the absolute best OU defensive games ever played was the 25-10 Orange Bowl win against Penn State (Barry Switzer). Equal to that was the defensive effort in the Orange Bowl 13-2 win over FSU (Bob Stoops). I admit Venables was torched a couple times as solo DC. However, Mike Stoops’ defenses absent Venables’ assistance, were more porous than cheese cloth.

“I believe Lincoln Riley, although he did well for us, realized that joining the SEC or not, under his leadership our Sooners would never be better than the No. 5 team in the country. He also was not looking forward to playing in the SEC, very likely the West, absent a bone-crushing defense. Think he feared (Alex) Grinch was not up to the task of crafting an SEC quality defense. Lincoln also foresaw annual losses to Bama, LSU, UGA, as well as likely losses to UF, Tennessee and perhaps Texas A&M. Hence, he wisely heeded the writing on the wall and leaped just in time to a much larger paycheck to coach in a much-easier-to-win conference. Oh, and temps are much warmer in LA vs. Norman, and SoCal has much nicer beaches. SoCal also has Rodeo Drive for his Mrs.

“Brian Bosworth has only the pride, dignity and reputation of my Sooners at heart. A Sooner defense reminiscent of Bryan, Casillas, Murphy, Reed, Bosworth, Migliazzo, Cumby, Jones, Rayburn, Dixon, Harris, Lehman, Calmus, etc.”

Tramel: For fans of this mentality, the SEC adventure is not going to go well. Not going to go well at all.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: Billy Bowman not ready for two-way path of Deion Sanders