NORMAN, Okla. -- The Sooner football team held its annual Media Day Friday at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Following are quotes from Coach Stoops, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson, Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables and Sooner players Sam Bradford, Travis Lewis and Trent Williams.
For complete coverage of the Sooners throughout the month of August, visit 2009 Preseason Practice Central.
|Head Coach Bob Stoops|
"Welcome everyone. We're excited to start the 2009 season and I'm looking forward to it. I think everybody at this time of year, coaches in particular, get a little bored and they're anxious to get back on the field and work with your players. I know we are. I think yesterday's practice went well. I thought a year ago, we had a lot of experience on offense and some inexperience on defense as we needed to grow and get better, and that kind of happened. Defense through the year got better and better as we went through the year, and offense stayed consistent and really played great down the main stretch of the regular season. And this year it's maybe reversed. We've got a great defense and a number of guys back with a lot of experience. Offensively, we've got a lot of inexperience in the offensive line and receivers, so they need to improve quickly and come on through the year to help give us an opportunity to hopefully be a team to compete for the championship again."
On the defense being the difference maker this season:
"The way we played down the stretch in the two championship games at the end of the year defensively, we were really solid. We could have been a little better on a few plays on a few third downs; it could have made a difference. I think this year we have a chance to start that way, to hopefully be a special defense because of the experience back, the ability that's there. To me, your best defenses always start up front. I really love our front four guys and linebackers. (It's) not that I don't (love) the secondary, but I think, up front, is where it begins whether it's rushing the passer or stopping the run game. I think when you look at Auston English, Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander -- those are as good as defensive ends we've had as a group. And the inside with Gerald McCoy and Adrian Taylor, those guys really played well. So again, I'm hopeful that we have a really special defense. We have a chance to."
On the mental and physical condition of the team at the first practice:
"Well like always, I was pleased with practice. I thought we did a nice job, the guys' attitude and hustled around. We throw a lot at them right off the bat. But like always, there are some guys who do better in their conditioning tests than others. I don't detail that with everybody. I don't think it's fair to single out anyone in particular. Some guys will do extra work. In the old days when we used play, you'd be gone most of the summer and you'd do two-a-days that month to get back in shape to be ready to play. Now, they come in shape and you don't have to do as much conditioning, but others do. Some guys that aren't in condition will make it up now to get them to where they need to be to be ready to play."
Advantages and disadvantages of playing the season-opener against BYU:
"Well the advantage I guess is that it certainly has your players attention right away through the summer, and starting off in our practices, that we need to be on top our game right off the shoot because we're playing such a good opponent and tradition-rich program, a team that wants to come down here and beat us. The disadvantages is always that if you're not successful, then it hurts you right off the bat. But hey, Joe (Castiglione) and I's philosophy has always been to have a difficult schedule or if you're a top-10 team to have a difficult type of schedule. So, hopefully we can continue to manage it like we have in the past. We've handled it for the most part pretty well.
|Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson|
On the first day of practice:
"I think for the most part, everybody looks pretty good. Every year you're going to have some players that may be in a little better conditioning shape than others. With year-round training, you're not using two-a-days to get in shape. I think we have some guys that need to get up to speed, conditioning-wise, especially with the tempo we try to play with. One of the points we tried to make yesterday was that you're opening with a top-20 team (BYU) that makes a run at the BCS every year out of the Mountain West that is fighting every issue to be in the National Championship game against a proven team. Then you're backing up with Tulsa who is winning championships and playing conference title games. We talked yesterday about having a great sense of urgency. First day, no-pads, was really good. Unfortunately we have to wear pads here down the road, if we could play no-pads in games we would be pretty good."
On the differences between last year and this year:
"We lost some guys, and that is documented, but we got a lot of guys coming back. Bottom line, every year we try to do what we can do to be efficient and give ourselves a chance to win. That's our goal. We're not trying to pad stats, we're not trying to get passing yards or rushing yards, we just need to get as many points as we need to win. Everybody's concerned about our (offensive) line. I'm not at all. I have a great deal of confidence in those guys, we're going to complement them with some tremendous supporting characters with the tight end, fullback and running back positions. I think it's got a chance to be a phenomenal group. I don't know if it will be statistically better, and I don't want it to be, I want it to give us a chance to win. As good as we were last year, we had some hiccups when we needed to make some plays down some stretches."
On losing four offensive linemen:
"For example, yesterday we were playing Brody Eldridge at center, who is the best blocker on our football team hands down and who weighs more than Jon Cooper did the last four games of last year. So we had a fifth year guy at center, with a fifth year guard beside him in Brian Simmons, who has started games here. Then you have the best lineman that I have had since I have been here, and I do have two former players that were in the pro bowl and were first round picks. The best lineman I have ever coached is No. 71 (Trent Williams), and it's not close. Trent only ran a 4.70 and 4.73 this summer at 312 pounds, that's all. That's a fact you can back it up with Coach Schmidt. On the right side, I have a freshman and then I have a fourth-year tackle Cory Brandon.
"We have a lot of talent. That line is as talented as any in this league and the country. It needs competition, it needs experience, it needs to grow. It's not seasoned, but it's talented. I can't help that it's not seasoned but I love the ability with what we're working with."
On the offense competing against the talented defense daily in practice:
"The great thing is our defense is so multiple, there are a lot of variables happening. They're throwing a lot, we're throwing a lot. It's a lot of fast guys flying around out there. it was pretty fun, there's a lot out there. All I am doing is just watching and getting a comfort level of who I can trust and what we can do. It's a very talented group. "
On what made last year's offense successful:
"Last year, it wasn't the talent and it wasn't the points. Last year was successful because of execution. Last year, we had one lost fumble in 14 games. The second fumble was an on-side kick with 10 seconds left at Texas Tech. There were 13 sacks in 14 games. There were not a lot of glitches and penalties. It was very efficient. It wasn't the no-huddle, it wasn't the speed, it wasn't points, it was efficient. That's what we are trying to get for preseason"
On the keys to a successful 2009 offense:
"Sam (Bradford) helps because he is efficient and knows what to do. I think the real key will be the complementary players, the backs, fullbacks and tight ends. That is a very strong group of players. We have a chance to be a really special offense. I don't know if we will score any more points than last year. I'm not into that. We need one more every week, and I think we have a group that is going to give us a chance to do that."
|Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables|
On the difference the defense could make this year:
"Experience is everything, offense and defense. Defense is experienced across the board. You have not only two year-starters, but three year-starters. Experience is everything. I'd much rather have an experienced player with some limitations that can make plays as opposed to a hot-shot true freshman out of high school. I'd much rather put my eggs in a basket of experienced players in a heartbeat. So, having experience is a tremendous luxury.
" I think the middle of our defense has a chance to be awfully good. Again, addressing the depth and playmaking ability that we have at middle linebacker and our two defensive tackles, I don't think you'll find a better tandem with our two starting tackles in college football. They're accurate; they can run; they're explosive; they're disruptive. I think that gives us a chance to be really good. There are a lot of things that need to take place for that to happen.
"You look at our secondary and depth is a real concern. We have a chance to have four of our top eight players there as freshmen, but the freshmen are true freshmen. Obviously those are guys who have not played football for us except for yesterday. So there is concern there. (There is) concern with Quinton Carter staying healthy. He hasn't been healthy since he's been on campus for any consistent period of time. Obviously the transition and playmaking ability of what Sam (Proctor) can do somewhat remains to be seen, but those things again can come to fruition. And the players returning are not only what they were a year ago, but improved. I would expect that, but I assume nothing."
On finding depth with the linebackers:
"We've got Ryan Reynolds, Mike Balogun and Tom Wort mainly working at the front. Obviously, in this profession, you have to always look a step ahead if you're in a position to do so. I do think I feel like we, and Ryan and Mike being seniors, need to find an opportunity to get Tom on the field. Again, I think it's warranted, not because those guys are leaving, but he really had an excellent spring. He and Jaydan Bird did a terrific job in the spring. I didn't ever really feel like they were overwhelmed. Mentally and physically, they really fit in extremely well right away and it wasn't real difficult for them. It was easy for them, not seamless transition, but it was easier than a lot of freshman. So again, I love the attitude and the striking ability of Tom, he plays with a go-for-broke attitude.
On the defense developing its attitude:
"Well you want all your guys to be right on the edge, going completely berserk and ballistic; at the same time, holding composure. I think having experience does that. Sometimes you're not going to make a guy what he's not either. I think again, developing chemistry and that sense of pride in guys together is critical. We have a lot of guys who really like each other, they're close off the field and that's a very strong component of what Gerald (McCoy at Big 12 media day) was talking about. But we've got terrific playmakers at a variety of positions as well.
"Again, our guys have got to acquire the attitude that it's not okay to let somebody score in the last two minutes of the game regardless if you're up two, three, four scores. It's not okay; it never has been. Last year we did that four or five ball games. Regardless of winning, and winning is the number one goal we have on our defensive goal board, that's not good defense. Again, it's about having a sense of pride. But Gerald's on point and I think our guys have talked about it a lot since the end of last year. We grew tired for the course of a month in preparation for the national championship; that we were a joke. And I think a lot of guys took that to heart and took it into the offseason. We had really a pretty good spring and we loved the attitude of our guys out there yesterday -- a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of guys sure of themselves. You can have that energy, you can have all the intensity when you know what you're doing. You've been there; you've done that; you're sure of yourself; so you can kind of have turn it loose a little bit more."u."
|Junior QB Sam Bradford|
On the experience of the offense:
"I think that is a very comforting feeling looking out there and seeing guys who have not only been here a couple years but have been in games, big games with them. To have DeMarco (Murray), Chris (Brown), Jermaine (Gresham), Body (Eldridge) and the list goes on. Half the guys out there with me I know are great players and it makes my job a lot easier and it gives me a lot of comfort."
On having a different confidence level after winning the Heisman:
"Probably not so much because of that, but because of the experience I have had playing two years. I feel like I am fairly comfortable with our offense now as last year I was still trying to figure some stuff out as far as protections and the more complicated things that we didn't get to my freshman year. At this point I feel comfortable with everything we are doing and I think that comfortable level allows me to be more confident."
On areas of improvement:
"There are a lot of things I can improve on. I think leadership is something that I have tried to improve every year and I still feel that's something I can get better at. Especially with the young guys we are going to have playing this year, I think my demeanor and the way I carry myself in practice and in the game is going to improve and help these younger guys. Every day we see things in the film room that maybe I can be sharper at when recognizing defenses, recognizing blitzes quicker than I have been in the past."
On Mossis Madu move to the slot:
"I think Mossis has a chance to be a great player in the slot. I think everyone saw the type of football player he is towards the end of the year last year in the Big 12 Championship. I think we realized the more the ball is in his hands, the better the offense will be. This summer working in the slot he made some very good plays for us and he is going to continue to improve in practice. I think he has a chance to be a great receiver this year."
On the offensive line:
"Everyone wants to talk about having a lot of new starters, but at the same time we have had a lot of guys who have been here and a lot guys who have played. Like Coach Wilson said, maybe they haven't had a lot of game experience but Tuesday and Wednesday we go against the one's every single week. For them to play against our defense, who is a very good defense and probably one of the best in nation, that has to count for some experience. From what I have seen this spring they worked hard and they progressed a lot. Some of the mistakes we made day one and two, we weren't making at the end of spring. Yesterday I thought for not having the pads on, the level of intensity and the effort put out was very good."
|Sophomore LB Travis Lewis|
On Ryan Reynolds returning from injury:
"It brings a lot of confidence to this defense just to have another signal caller out there. I progressed a lot last year but just to have him with me makes me 10 times more the player I am and he makes the our whole defense better."
On the defense's attitude:
"We emphasized that yesterday in practice. We want to get to balls and rip it out, we want to be mean. We have the potential to have a great defense and we are just missing that one little thing to stop people in the fourth quarter, to make that play that counts. It's just to have that mentality that nobody is going to score on us."
On defense improving:
"We have a lot of people back. We gained a lot of experience from those losses and a lot of experience from the wins. We would like to think that we are just a better group in general. The chemistry is there, the attitude is there and we worked over the summer so just one more year of experience."
On facing spread offenses:
"I would like to think playing spread quarterbacks benefits us because of the speed of our defense. When you have guys like Gerald (McCoy), 300 pounds, running a 4.8, you want him to run down people. Our ends are some of the best in the league. I would like to think facing speed makes us a lot better."
On motivation from that the Big 12 is not known for defense:
"We have some great offenses in this league but you need defense to stop those offenses and if there is one team that did it pretty dang good I thought it was Oklahoma. Of course you don't like points being scored on you but when you have great players in this league you are going to give up something. You are going to have one mental lapse and I think that is where we have come along this year because we don't accept that. We don't accept that giving up seven or 14 is ok. That is not our mentality at all. We want to go shut people out regardless of the great players that are in this league."
On Gerald McCoy:
"He is one of the biggest leaders we have on this team. He leads by example. He goes out there a high energy guy and dominates every play. I would hate to line up against him. Everything you guys say about him is true. He is a great player and a great teammate."
|Senior OL Trent Williams|
On Coach Wilson's confidence in the offensive line:
"It makes us feel good as a whole. A lot of people have a question mark beside the o-line, but when Coach Wilson has so much confidence in us, it instills confidence in ourselves and helps us to go out there and do our job to the best of our ability."
On the team's approach:
"We have great coaches, the best offensive coordinator in the land and the best head coach in the land, so they instill it in us that we have to take every game one at a time. It takes a lot worries off our mind and a lot of weight off our shoulders by just following their leadership. We don't look down on any opponent no matter if it's Texas, Idaho State or Chattanooga. We know we have a long season ahead of us and we are just going to take it one game at a time."
On protecting Sam Bradford:
"It is real personal to me because Sam is a good friend to me, he is the leader of our team, he is the most humble person I have ever met in my life and being one of the most famous people in Oklahoma you couldn't tell if you were walking beside him. Protecting Sam is number one on our board for the o-line."
On Ben Habern and Steven Good:
"Ben and Steven have tons of potential. The sky is the limit for them. They both come in highly recruited and they both have a great work ethic. They are both very strong and are really talented. We are looking for great things out of them. I know they are young and it is kind of early, but we don't feel like we put too much on them that they can't handle. I have seen them for over a year now and I know what they can do and expect great things out them."
On going against the defensive line in practice:
"It is like having an extra coach going against them every day. You get to critique yourself in film but knowing you are going against probably one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 with Auston English, Frank (Alexander) and Jeremy Beal and the best interior defensive lineman in the nation with Gerald McCoy. They are going to make us who we are with BYU. We have to give a lot of credit to our defensive line."