Football: Offense improves with fullback Clapp
Zach Butler, The Oklahoma Daily
If not for his long hair, fans might never notice junior fullback Matt Clapp.
He isn’t a statistical juggernaut. Over the course of the 2008 season Clapp has rushed seven times for 21 yards and caught five passes for two touchdowns.
But Clapp is a favorite of the coaching staff, thanks to his ability to run, catch and block equally well.
Clapp’s versatility makes him an attractive choice for any formation.
“He’s definitely a big part in what we do with the run game and protecting,” offensive line coach James Patton said. “He’s a physical player, he’s a big one-back that can carry the ball but he can also put his facemask on and light someone up.”
Clapp has been improving his blocking skills by learning from junior tight end Brody Eldridge, another of the Sooners’ less-glamorous leaders.
Coaches have repeatedly referred to Eldridge as one of the best blockers on the team, and several players said they watch film of Eldridge to improve their blocking technique.
“In film, coach says every day that if you want to block good you have to watch Brody,” Clapp said. “You know, we all do that; me, Jermaine [Gresham] and Eric [Mensik] all do it. I think since spring my blocking has definitely improved.”
Clapp’s skills as a complete player have impressed the coaches, who have rewarded him with increased playing time.
Zach Butler, The Oklahoma Daily
“He has been fabulous,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “Matt has been such big part of our team at that unheralded position, the fullback position. But if you look at him he’s a great athlete for a fullback -- he’s got size, he’s got range, he’s fast, strong, he can run with the football, catches well out of the backfield and he’s on virtually every one of our special teams.
“He does so many things for us that aren’t necessarily TV shots, but he makes so many things go and work.”
Clapp said the key to blocking well on every play is to be focused on the job, but also calm and in control to make the right decisions.
“You have to really be calm in a way because you really could get over-hyped in a way,” Clapp said. “Then you’re just going to be out of control, and lose mentally what your job is.”
Patton said both Eldridge and Clapp have the mental edge necessary for becoming a strong and consistent blocker.
“They’re great, they have a great mentality [for blocking],” Patton said. “You have to have a physical presence, you have to be able to tell someone you’re going to put your face on them and you have to have that physical attitude.”
Patton said Clapp and Eldridge are able to come into games and block in any situation.
He added that having two great blockers is a privilege.
“Well when you have the best blockers on the field with Eldridge and Clapp, you find ways to put them in different sets,” Patton said. “And that helped us get the edge on some plays.”
Clapp said he just wants to help the team in any way possible, whether blocking, catching or running.
“When my time comes, getting open for a pass or making a run” Clapp said. “I just try to make the best of it.”