Captains of the Sooner Ship
Head coach Bob Stoops announced captains for this season, as voted on by the team.
Offense: OL Gabe Ikard & FB Trey Millard
Defense: CB Aaron Colvin & LB Corey Nelson
Special Teams: OL Austin Woods & K Michael Hunnicutt
There were certainly no surprises in that group, as both Ikard and Millard served in those roles a year ago, while fellow seniors Colvin and Nelson have also embraced even more of a leadership role in 2013. Without question, Woods earned the respect of his teammates a year ago while beating cancer, while Hunnicutt is the lone junior among the group.
While Stoops sang the praises of all his captains, he was particularly pleased to expound on the many virtues that Millard brings to the squad.
“Trey is just so mature and a great leader,” Stoops commented. “He’s an incredibly bright guy. With his skill set he can do everything. Here’s a guy that’s 6’3”, 255 who can be your running back, can be your fullback, can be your H-back. You can move him around. He’s got great hands. He just does everything, and he does it really naturally. He’s the best special teams guy we have going on three years, so he just is an unusual athlete in that he can do so many things.
“When you watch him run the ball it’s so natural for a big guy, and it almost helps you sometimes. Some of the holes, the spacing opens up late and he isn’t quite as quick as Roy [Finch] or Damien [Williams], and sometimes it’s helpful because he just pauses and he has this natural gate that he finds things.”
Scout Team Snaps Helped Knight
While Stoops announced his starter for the season opener against ULM last Thursday, one recurring theme that emerged today was how impressive Trevor Knight was last year as OU’s scout team signal caller. Those were qualities that became apparent on the practice field in 2012 long before there were any discussions of a quarterback competition in 2013.
“I saw it every day at practice when he was running the scout team,” Stoops said. “You see it early in the year and then mid-year it just didn’t change. It’s every day. He’s on the mark and he throws a great ball. He runs and takes off with it. We knew. All of us knew watching practice a year ago and would just shake our heads and think, ‘Wow, did you see what he just did?’ He would throw it into a little space, and he was making plays like that in practice quite often.”
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Corey Nelson admitted it was tough facing Knight in practice last season.
“Trevor is a mobile quarterback,” stated the senior from Skyline High School in Dallas. “He can do it all. Just going against him and watching the player he’s become, it’s just magnificent.”
Nelson went on to say that last season, there were times the defense would discuss the potential of Knight.
“Our defense, we will get together sometimes after practice and we would just talk about, ‘man, Trevor was tearing it out there on scout team,” he continued. “He’s going to be the next big thing coming. We’ve got to look out for him.’”
Stoops continued to enforce that while Knight has been named starter for the first game, Blake Bell has continued to work hard, compete and take some reps during practice. Stoops also indicated that the successful “Belldozer” package could be implemented again this season.
“Blake isn’t far off, and it’s been a tight competition,” Stoops said. “We just really didn’t feel right determining it until when we did, but we still are very excited about Blake, as well, and his development and about his opportunities as far as a guy that we feel we can win with. With the way he’s prepared we feel that he’s a guy that can win for us, as well.”
Of course, Mike Stoops playfully slapped himself on the back for helping Knight emerge into OU’s opening day starter this season.
“I’ll take a little credit for helping develop him, too,” the Sooners’ defensive coordinator mused. “After all, I was his (scout team) coach last year.”
ULM Scouting Report
A few things to know on the Warhawks – they prefer to go by ULM, not Louisiana-Monroe. They upset No. 8 Arkansas to start last season and took both Auburn and Baylor to the brink. In other words, a patsy this opening day opponent is not.
“With all these starters back they’re a team that is very used to coming into stadiums and places like this and playing well,” Stoops said. “They’re used to winning. They won eight games last year. Todd Berry and his staff have done a great, great job building that team over the last four years.”
CB Aaron Colvin put it more succinctly after practice.
“We respect them,” he said. “They beat a lot of good teams last year.”
The Warhawks won eight games and earned their first ever bowl berth last season, thanks in large part to an explosive offense that averaged 432.8 yards per game.
That offense is led by QB Kolton Browning, who enters his fourth season as ULM’s starter, and registered 29 touchdowns to 10 interceptions last season.
“Kolton Browning, their quarterback is probably – I haven’t seen their entire league over there – but I understand is probably the best offensive player in that league and from what I’ve watched on tape, I concur,” Stoops continued. “I think he’s a great player, and he has a lot of experience around him. He has a lot of returning receivers and four or five offensive linemen back; some running backs that got banged up a year ago are back.”
Getting Back That Defensive Swagger
While it may not be a stat that can be measured in yards, minutes or other means, Aaron Colvin listed an important goal for the Sooners’ defense this season.
“I just want to see us get back to that championship swagger,” he said. “I have talked to a lot of the older guys that have been successful here, and they all have told me to just stay focused and that there are no excuses. You have to go out there, and you have got to make plays and perform well. That is what those guys did, and that is what we have got to do here.”
The head coach mentioned Colvin and fellow captain LB Corey Nelson as players who can make an impact on defense. Others individuals mentioned by Stoops as potential playmakers included Quentin Hayes, Gabe Lynn, Charles Tapper, Jordan Phillips, Eric Striker, Quincy Russell, Geneo Grissom, Frank Shannon, Julian Wilson, Zack Sanchez, Cortez Johnson, Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd, L.J. Moore and Stanvon Taylor.
If you’re seeing a number of new faces on that list, don’t be alarmed. While defensive coordinator Mike Stoops admits that he’s always nervous until he sees his squad line up against live competition, he has faith in leaders like Colvin and Nelson.
“We have got a lot of young players on the two deep but the nucleus of our team and the bulk of our leaders are certainly seniors and upperclassmen,” he said.
Like many OU fans, the Sooners’ defensive play caller is also anxious to get DT Quincy Russell on the field to see what he can do.
“He is a big, strong, physical guy who can run,” the defensive coordinator said of Russell. “He has a great motor. For us up front he is a big body that can move exceptionally well for a guy that big and that strong. I think he is just kind of growing into the position and understanding what we are doing. I think it is going to take a while.
“I’m hopeful that we can get him 20 to 30 snaps possibly Saturday night. This team (ULM) averages 98 snaps a game. We are going to need multiple players to try to keep everybody fresh. It is going to be a hot night. We are going to need to quality depth.”
A solid start against a talented offense like ULM would be a good start towards regaining some defensive “swagger” in Norman.
On Friday, the Office of Academic Integrity Programs, in partnership with the OU Athletic Department, hosted its first-ever Football 101 event intended to provide international students with the opportunity to learn a little about the American sport.
The group, which included students from China, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Italy, toured the Switzer Center and the new state-of-the-art Headington Hall. The group also partook in a class where they learned the rules of the game to prepare them for opening weekend.
OU football players Josiah St. John, Ty Darlington, Sam Grant, Cody Thomas, Mike Onuoha, Rashad Favors, Dionte Savage and Charles Walker all took time to visit with the students and joined the group in some photos.
Reminder – Stadium Policy Updates and I-35 Construction
Fans – have your game plan ready for Saturday. As a reminder, please plan for alternate routes to the game due to construction on the Interstate 35 corridor. A major reconstruction project is currently underway on the I-35 corridor in Norman that will have a major impact on game day traffic flow. The I-35/Main Street Bridge interchange is being completely replaced, meaning there is no egress to or from I-35 to Main Street. Fans are strongly encouraged to plan alternate routes to their parking destination in advance. Extra time should be allowed for both arrival to and departure from the stadium.
And remember, new stadium security policies go into effect on Saturday. Here’s a quick recap:
Allowable Personal Items – Revised For 2013
· Women’s purses (smaller than 10”x10”)
· EMPTY, clear personal water bottle (for drinking water)
Other Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
· Approved medical devices
· Approved family care items (diapers, formula, etc. in bag 10”x10” or smaller)
Non-Allowable Items – Revised For 2013
· Any and all types of bags and backpacks (conventional or string-type cinch bags)
· Seat cushions and chair backs
· Merchandise bags
Fans not bringing a women’s purse or another allowable item into the stadium are strongly encouraged to utilize Express Lanes. Chair back seats are available at Sooner Seat Customer Service booths.
Express Lane Locations Sooner Seat Customer Service Locations
Gates 1-7, 9-12 Gates 1, 5, 7, 11-12 and Upper West Concourse
· The radio broadcast for this week’s opener can be found on Sirius 135 and XM 195.
· Coach Stoops indicated that QB Kendal Thompson (foot fracture) was ready to start jogging in the rehab pool at the Switzer Center.Mike Stoops indicated that freshman Matt Dimon should see action in the defensive tackle rotation on Saturday and that SS Quentin Hayes is “really kind of coming into his own as a player. His cover skills, his speed to cover the field have really been exceptional this camp.”