Aug. 3, 2007
NORMAN, Okla. - Head coach Bob Stoops as well as offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and defensive coordinator Brent Venables met with the media Friday morning during OU's annual Media Day. Below is a transcript of the coaches quotes.
Head Coach Bob Stoops
"Yesterday was really a great practice. I was really excited about how the guys practiced yesterday. I started thinking why that would be, and I thought back to last year with the breaking of the news of the two players being dismissed and maybe the uncertainty of the offensive line. In our practice yesterday, our guys were just so sure of themselves and much more confident on the field. They were much more mature because we have guys that were freshmen and sophomores last year who are know sophomores and juniors. The overall attitude, confidence and overall execution was just amazing for the first day. It really got the coaches excited how they touched it and ran; they just really looked good physically. We are excited about the opportunity. All three quarterbacks looked good and all threw the ball well. We are excited to get on the field with them again today."
On what problems this offense could present to opponents:
"We always feel we have been our best when we have had good balance. When we are able to run the football it has set up the passing game and big plays. If our receivers will step up and make those big plays, as well as the quarterback, then we have a chance to be awfully good. That is what we are pushing for, a lot of versatility. Being good at both the run and pass. That is hard to defend."
On highlights of testing day:
"Some guys that really ran well are Lewis Baker and Brandon Caleb. One of the players that I think has a chance to show up this year is Auston English. I think he could have a great year for us. He has been here and looks to be in great shape. He ran the best of anybody. He played for us as a true freshman which says a lot because we had a lot of other good guys. DeMarco Murray and Allen Patrick really flew around. Manuel Johnson was one that stood out, as did Reggie Smith like always."
On the chance of playing two quarterbacks:
"There is always that chance. Again, I am not saying we will. It is too early to say we wouldn't. I don't know strategy-wise where it would help because we are going to do the same thing with each of them. The reason would be if the race hasn't been decided or if we feel it is too close and we need to give them more opportunities."
On the importance of having a back-up quarterback ready to play:
"They understand you have to be prepared and one play you could be the guy. You could be the guy for the rest of the year because of some kind of injury. None of them want to have to go out there and look like a fool. They want to be prepared when you get your opportunity in front of everybody. Those guys are smart guys, and they will be ready for it."
On the development of Phil Loadholt:
"He is really athletic. I think he had the best time of all the offensive lineman. He can run and it is amazing to watch. He has great feet and great athleticism. He is a hard worker and has worked in a great way since he has been here."
On the quarterbacks being unproven:
"It is the same thing when I saw Josh Heupel come in. He hadn't played in any ball games here but I knew he threw really well. Same thing when I saw Jason White hit the field. I saw him in practice and knew what he was about and how he worked. I knew how hard his toughness was. I have seen Nate Hybl and Paul Thompson come in and do it. None of those guys when they came in and started had extensive playing time. None of those guys were picked as an All-Big 12 guy or a guy that everyone was talking about when they won their championships. We have always said the guy this year just has to do his job; he does not have to carry the team. We ask them just to do their part and deliver the ball. I have seen enough with these guys. Through the spring, I have seen them throw the football. They are further along throwing the football than Paul (Thompson) was a year ago."
"They are right where they need to be. They are as good as any of the guys we have had as far as throwing the football and making the throws that we want. They all can handle the offense and have good feet."
On the impact of the new kicking rule (kicking off from the 30):
"It is going to be big for both sides. The cover team has to be great, and fortunately we've been really good covering. You're just going to have opportunities for big plays and big hits. My only concern, and I hope it doesn't happen, is that we have more injuries with it overall because it's the highest impact part of the game."
On who will become the kick returner:
"Two guys right off the bat are Reggie Smith and DeMarco Murray. Those two for sure, after that we'll have to see. "
On the different running backs:
"They're all a little bit different to some degree, but I think that's good through the course of the game to be throwing at a different pace at the defense. I think what's going to be really good, I know it was last year when we used them both or three of them, you have the chance to keep guys fresh. You have a chance to have a fresh back in the fourth quarter coming at the defense, or when you're in the twelfth or thirteenth game of the year, I think it's an advantage. On their styles, again I don't know any of them have the physical presence of Adrian (Peterson) or the stamina. Therefore, it will be good to spread out their reps and take advantage of what they do best. They are quality guys. The three that played last year I don't need to talk about, you've seen them. DeMarco Murray, probably out of all of our offensive players, is the biggest play threat we have. Mossis Madu is a good player and we're going to get out in different places and take advantage of Mossis as well. Mossis does a lot of things well and shouldn't be discounted because he is going to be a factor, too.
On the improvements that need to be made to be better than a year ago:
"Everything needs to improve. I want to see us defensively be more disciplined. The plays that we give up most of the time are because of our alignments and our breakdowns as opposed to someone beating us. Receivers and tight ends are really quality guys and good, but we can't have drops. I thought at times we stalled drives with drops and foolish penalties. Offensively, foolish penalties, dropped balls and stalled drives are us opposed to whoever we are playing. I am talking procedure penalties, anything that is non-playing, are things we can get better at."
On what will be the ultimate factor in naming a starting quarterback:
"It will be the guy that is going to play the most consistent. The guy that can make the plays that are there and avoid the horrible, catastrophic plays that don't need to happen. They will have to count on the defense and not force the ball on certain plays. We need a guy that can take care of the football in the pocket and not be careless with it."
On playing difficult non-conference opponents such as Miami, Tennessee and Notre Dame in the future, and the lack of incentive to play those games because of the rankings:
"There isn't as much as incentive to play a hard non-conference schedule these days because in the polls there is more weight to being undefeated. If you haven't lost any games you are above guys that have lost one. You may play an incredible tough schedule and lose one game and someone who hasn't played anybody even ranked. To me, there is less incentive for poll reasons. The positives are for our fans and challenging our team. The exposure is great because everyone will be talking about it. Like our Miami game, it will have full national coverage. They are exciting. We feel if you are a top-10 team then you play top-10 opponents. Sometimes it is hard to schedule and find people willing to come here and play, or maybe the dates don't work out. It is a challenge and Joe (Castiglione) does a great job of talking with me on how I feel about it. We have got good schedules and exciting games coming."
Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables
"We had a terrific first day yesterday. We are really excited. Guys came back in great shape and a renewed focus and sense of purpose. We looked really fast, that is one of the things that really stood out in testing and the way they moved on the field. We really looked fast and athletic. The secondary, which is coming back intact, really did a great job as far as coming back and knowing what they are doing. We seem to be a lot further ahead than we were a year ago at this time.
On the development of the linebackers:
"With the linebackers, I have talked how we are not real deep, but I really like the group. When I say that, I am always talking about having Ryan Reynolds in there. I don't dislike the group, but he adds a lot of security at that position and I trust him a great deal. He has displayed the most maturity by a young player than any other player I have been around. That holds true to his ability to come in and play within our defense. Having a guy out on the field you have up-most trust in gives you a really secure feeling so you can focus on other areas. He hasn't even played much. That is how strongly I feel he gives us strength at that position. That speaks volumes for the way he has played in practice and meetings."
"We were able to keep Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker which is his natural position. He is a much more natural at that position and does some really good things. He and Ryan give us a lot of strength in the interior of our defense and run-defense. They are very explosive players. That allows us to have flexibility at the strong-side linebacker position with Lewis Baker and Demarrio Pleasant. Both of those guys have played a great deal over the past few years. It seems when Demarrio is on the field he makes really good things happen."
On the secondary
"With Darien Williams being limited right now, it has given some of the other guys an opportunity to find the field playing safety. I am talking about Nic Harris as much as anyone. He has played well since he has been here."
"At safety, D.J. Wolfe played well in the couple of weeks he played and then in the spring. It seemed very natural. At some positions such as a linebacker or safety, you can throw a guy out there and he starts to make plays without coaching. He has a natural feel for tackling and covering. We are excited for him and all of his experience. Keenan Clayton came back from summer and looks great. He will push D.J. through fall camp and we are counting on him to help us."
"At cornerback we feel really good about Reggie (Smith) and Marcus (Walker). Reggie is more of a natural corner and has tremendous skills, but those things need to be polished. Because he hasn't played the position very much, he will have to learn on the job. He is one of those guys that doesn't make the same mistake twice very often. Marcus played really well for us from the Oregon game on. He has a great deal of maturity and leadership ability, along with Reggie, which is what we need in the back unit."
On the defensive line:
"Up front, we think we will be more athletic than we have been. We put in two, big 300-pounders who can run and change direction. Add those guys to the group coming back and we have six guys who we can rotate in and keep fresh. We feel they can all play winning football for us, and some of them have played winning football for us. Gerald (McCoy) had a terrific spring, as did Adrian Taylor. DeMarcus Granger made huge strides this spring and played really well at the end of last year. We really feel good about those guys inside as well."
"Defensive ends and the linebackers are the biggest issues as far as who is going to be out on the field making plays and who you can trust. We have preached to Alonzo (Dotson) and John (Williams), our fifth-year seniors, along with all the other guys that it isn't an inherited position. They will have to earn it and fight like heck. Jeremy (Beal) and Auston (English) are going to be a factor, and Auston last camp was playing more consistently and making more plays than any of the defensive ends. He is about 265 pounds, had a fabulous summer and looks like a million bucks. He is a starter on paper right now."
"One of the biggest keys will be with the front seven and getting a push and not get knocked back off the line. We have to play gap-integrity football and doing the basics we have done since we have got here. We need to create pressure with our four-man rush like everyone aspires to do. We feel like we are more equipped than we have been in a couple years to do that. We have to have some guys grow up quickly."
On who the vocal leader is on defense:
"I don't think it would be any one guy. I think that Marcus (Walker), Reggie (Smith), D.J. Wolfe, the guys that have been around and played a lot. It is very natural for them to be very vocal, Lewis Baker is one as well. Those guys are guys that it comes very natural to."
On the development of juco transfer Mike Reed:
"I am trying to give Mike some room to transition. Yesterday, he got himself lined up 90% without me having to dot-the-dots for him. There is more coverage about him than any of our other JUCO guys ever. I am trying to be fair to him. Some other guys have a leg up on him, and we are not forced to have to have him be that guy. It is obvious he has worked and studied tape and that notebook of formations. I am pleased with him, he looks really good. We will find out when we put pads on what he can and can't do and what he needs to work on."
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson
"We are excited to get back here for the first couple of days going light. Looks like the guys have had a good summer. I felt some of the things we went through as a young team really helped us mature in a fast way. Some of the adversity and things going wrong made us stronger and made us grow up, maybe a little more quicker than we needed to be. We were thrown under the fire because of circumstances. It looks like we came through winter and spring in a very positive way. The stretch of two-a-days will determine how mature we have gotten. We are all excited about the group coming back, but there are only four seniors on the offensive side of the football total. That's Joe Jon Finley, Allen Patrick, Jacob Gutierrez and Sherrone Moore. Sherrone has been a back-up offensive lineman and Jacob has come in for some quality time and is a great special teams player. Allen Patrick did a nice job in his four of five games as a featured guy. There will be snaps this year where there isn't a senior on the field. It is still an exciting time for us. With the success those guys have had last year as young guys with something to prove. This year we are still young, but can we stay driven and focused and keep the edge on and not think we are better than we are. This is still a very talented and exciting group, but still a young group that has a lot of upside waiting to get to. That is exciting for us, we are looking forward to camp. Yesterday was a great start."
On if the offense will be opened up more because of the experience of the team:
"I think so, but the critical thing is everything evolves back to the quarterback. We feel comfortable about all of those guys. You play and get the experience and have to walk the walk and you are not going to know until you know. Last year, that line as young guys had to grow up and walk the walk, along with the receivers and tight ends. The running backs answered the call when Adrian (Peterson) was injured. Now DeMarco (Murray) and Mossis (Madu) are added to that group. We should be able to do a lot more than we could last year as a young group. The offense starts with what the quarterback can handle and what the line can handle. We have said that from the first day. We will do what this group can handle. Last year with our young offensive line, we had to hold some things back putting them in good positions. Now they are more mature and we can escalate their ability to do things for us, but it all hinges on what the quarterback can and can't do.
"We went out yesterday with all three quarterbacks calling plays and it didn't matter who was in. In the spring we held things back for Keith (Nichol) for his confidence level. Yesterday we just had plays and we ran them, and we ran them at a pretty high level. Yesterday in practice we were 19-24 throwing the football with all three guys throwing together. That is a pretty high clip for the first day of practice. Granted, that was with vanilla coverages and things will get more complicated. The ball wasn't going into the dirt so that was pleasing. We should have the ability to block with Jermaine Gresham being more mature and being able to do more things, and we also have DeMarco (Murray) who we can move around. We should be able to push the envelope and be more diverse, and a little bit more up-scaled, wide-open on offense."
On how his staff is evaluating the quarterback race:
"In previous years there has been some uncertainty. Last year, we felt with the youth of the team and knowing what Paul (Thompson) had done through time that we went with Paul. These guys came out of spring all three close enough. The foundation of this team is playing smart and playing tough and playing physical, and bottom line earning your job. Coach (Stoops) felt that no one has earned it yet, but no one had eliminated themselves either."
"Last year we had way too many negatives which is a sign of youth and immaturity. To be an upper division championship team and to contend for conference titles and Big 12 South titles and upper-level bowls, you have to be strong in turnover ratio. The best way for that to happen is not count on getting them, but making sure you respect the football. Last year, we turned the football over at way too high of a level. We were fortunate to be as good of a football team as were, which shows the talent and abilities. We are going to do that without becoming cautious and conservative. It is like a basketball team wanting to play up-tempo and fast break, at the same time not wanting to turn the ball over."
"They are all quality, really good players. I don't know if we have one guy that is a `runner.' I don't know if we have one guy that needs to throw on the run or one guy that is a true pocket passer. They all exhibit the skills to move the pocket. They all have the ability to scramble and avoid, which is huge. Even if you don't run the quarterback, the ability to move the pocket and have balance to throw is a huge deal. Whether you run or not, you still have to have the ability to move the pocket because you are not going to block them all. You have to move the passing spot. I don't know if we have a true runner, but they all can move. Bottom line is they are all inexperienced enough that I don't know if we will know until we know. I don't even know how you know, just have to go out there and play. The key will be the guy who plays within himself and allows the players around him to make plays will be the quarterback. As we have shown in the past, you better have more than one good quarterback in case there is an issue. As a coach, you have to have a plan. You have to believe in your plan and you better work the plan. You also have to plan for the unexpected. Last year we had some issues we dealt with and moved on in a pretty strong way. I am not as worried about who the quarterback is going to be as much as making sure we have more than one that gives us a chance to win the Big 12 South and the conference championship game."
On the idea of playing two quarterbacks:
"We have not discussed that, but I have thought to myself what if even if a guy is better as a young guy, would it be good for him to come over to the sidelines and take a deep breath and look? I have not ruled that out. I have not had any discussions with Coach (Josh) Heupel or Coach (Bob) Stoops in that regard. Even if we have a starter, maybe another guy should play a little bit. That is why Paul Thompson was taken out of red-shirt. What if there was a critical game on the road and we had an issue and he had to come in and play? We had to get his feet wet early. Even if we have a starter, maybe there is merit to maybe getting two guys play. But as far as having a split situation, I don't think or hope it is not the case. But if it is, it is. I don't think we will know until we know. And when we know, we still might not know. You are always adjusting and tweaking. Playing two quarterbacks could be a possibility and I have not ruled it out. I am not leaning to go that direction, so don't read anything into that. Even if we have a starter, to have two guys get reps maybe helps us down the road, when maybe a guy needs to be called on."
On if balancing the running and passing games are a key to winning:
"Balance is the ability to do both when you need to. It doesn't mean equal reps or equal yards. We need to score as many points as we can and not turn the ball over. We were okay last year in scoring. We have to score as fast as we can. I don't care about the yards. I care about points and not turning the football over. We play good enough defense here and put enough pressure on people where we get games going our way. When you don't score and the game gets close, then it becomes a different football game. Our concern is how can we get the ball in the end zone as much and as fast as we can.""
On the offensive line:
"They are all young. They will be good at the end of the year when they have been good every week. You can't be a good line unless they are an everyday and every week performer. It is a grind position. The potential of this group doesn't matter if they don't prepare on Tuesday and Wednesday to play at a high level on Saturdays. I thought last year, we were pretty good. We didn't finish with the physical presence in the Big 12 championship game, and we didn't play well in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State when we needed to. We didn't play well against Nebraska and we struggled early in our bowl game with the physical presence. I think we did a whole lot better in the spring having it.
"I also feel that line is complimented by maybe the best group on the football team. The tight-ends might be the best group. Brody Eldridge is hands down the best blocker on the football team. He is coming off an injury but practiced yesterday. He is back with us but we will not overdo him. That group is awfully good, the line is, too. The line will not be a great line until the end when you can close the chapter and look and see what they did on a weekly basis."
"Phil Loadholt has come in and his work ethic and demeanor has helped that group continue to grow. I feel there are seven or eight players in that group we can start and play any opponent, any week home or away, and win. That is a great sign."