Freshman LB growing in OU defense

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- One of the biggest surprises in Oklahoma's early practices has been freshman linebacker Tom Wort, who has emerged as an immediate contributor for the Sooners defense.

Wort has one of the most interesting backgrounds of any incoming Big 12 player. He grew up in England before moving to America and moving to Rhode Island when he was in the eighth grade.

His family eventually settled in New Braunfels, Texas -- about 30 miles north of San Antonio.

His progression is particularly notable because he's only been playing American football for six years. Recruiters were captivated by his 4.4 speed in the 40 and his raw athleticism. The Sooners beat out LSU, USC and Florida for the commitment of the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder.

But he's quickly turning heads in his short time with the Sooners.

"He's probably the best freshman linebacker I've seen since I've been here," senior middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds said.

Wort's instincts have melded quickly into the Sooners' defensive philosophy.

"He's picking up the defense quickly and he's not afraid to hit," Reynolds said. "Some guys come in here intimidated by the big offensive line compared to high school. But not Wort. He just goes at it full-speed every day."

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said that Wort has benefitted from playing with veteran players like Reynolds and Travis Lewis who have provided him with quality role models in his growth in Oklahoma's defense.

"Tom is going to be all right, he's a real good player," McCoy said. "As far as being an athlete and a linebacker, he's got it. He just needs some more experience."

Like all of the Oklahoma incoming freshmen, Wort has been unavailable for interviews. But I look for him to make an immediate contribution once the season begins on special teams and in situational packages.

I'm also interested to see how pronounced -- if any -- his English accent will be.

Who would have ever imagined a Cockney dialect in the Big 12?