Defensive Media Session

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 13, 2014

Oklahoma Football
Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops
March 13, 2014 

On the cornerback position:
“I think we’re getting better. I think there’s improvement with Cortez [Johnson] and certainly Stanvon [Taylor]. They’re competing at a higher level and that’s what we need, Dakota Austin as well. We’re all kind of finding our way and we need one or two of them to, hopefully, separate themselves and take control of that position. I don’t think anyone’s done that at this point but I think, overall, we’re better at that position with those three guys. But I’m not saying that they’re at the same level as Aaron [Colvin]. They’re heading in the right direction.”

On what the younger cornerbacks learned last season:
“I don’t know they’re all young players. They’re green in a lot of ways. Just getting them out there and getting them in that environment, I think they understand how much they need to improve to get out there and play confidently. I think that’s the lesson they learned; that they need to get a lot better. Those experiences, hopefully, will process to them that they need to be in a better position than they were a year ago.”

On Zack Sanchez’s transition to an upperclassmen:
“I think he went through a learning process a year ago and has become a better player. I think you learn from your experiences and that’s what playing does for you, it gives you a lot of experience to fall back on and I think that’s what he’ll do this year. He’ll be a much more complete player than he was a year ago. Hopefully he’ll be much bigger and stronger player, he needs to become that.”

On the scrimmage at practice this afternoon:
“There’s nothing—it was very generic, very vanilla. It was a 50-play scrimmage so there’s nothing there. We have a lot of guys just kind of nicked up and just kind of piecing some things together and trying to get some younger guys some experience. That’s all we really did today, get those backs to develop. It was just a learning day.”

On growth at the nickelback position:
“It’s coming along good. I think not having Julian [Wilson] there all spring really makes us rotate a lot of different guys through there. We’re just kind of feeling our way through there and seeing what options we have and experimenting with all those.”

On sophomore Ahmad Thomas at nickelback:
“Ahmad becomes our nickelback. He can do a lot of different things; [Eric] Striker can do a lot of different things. We’re trying to get our best eleven on the field always, no matter what the situation is. Obviously, long yardage creates a package, but we’re always trying to find our best eleven or 12 players, constantly.”

On the players taking over S Gabe Lynn’s spot:
“We have a little bit of a three-man rotation. We give Ahmad [Thomas] an opportunity to get play over there too and compete with him when we get back; we hadn’t up to this point. Ahmad can play, the rest of our safeties are interchangeable pieces. We’ll give Ahmad a chance to compete too. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. As a young player, you don’t want to throw too much at them, too fast. But I think Ahmad has a good feel for his position and we can start moving him around.”

On continuing to add to the defense this spring:
“Last year was interesting in the fact that we had to really mix and match with Julian [Wilson] in there and with Eric [Striker] in there. We were playing with a lot of speed and athleticism. We’re just tweaking our defense and again, it has to fit the people that are playing it. We learned a lot going through the self-scout of a year ago; what was different about it and what issues we have. There were some issues that arose and just having a year to see how people are going to block it. Not a lot of people play the 3-4, so you get into the game — the Oklahoma State game arched us and gave us a lot of different blocking schemes that we really hadn’t worked that I thought were really good and created some issues for us. Now that we see things we’ll be able to react, hopefully better and through to see how people want to block us. I think really gives you some information to fall back on.”

On the defense’s attitude following the success last year:
“I notice a really good group of players that come to work. It’s a really solid group of players. I think they understand how good they can be. Now, are they willing to work everyday to become that unit? That is where we’re at. For the most part, we look like we want to go to spring break today. But I remember when I was a junior in college, my mind was on things other than football on the last day before spring break, so I see where they’re coming from. This is a group, they’re very close; they work hard, they like each other and it seems like they like their coaches, too.”

On the swagger the group gets from the Sugar Bowl win:
“I just think, as a team, things started to come together. We get confidence from our offense. Scoring points give us confidence to be more aggressive on defense; it all works together. I thought our team came together in that last game. We really needed our offense and that let us play with more confidence and swagger in the second half. Even when things got tough, I thought our players were in control. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete team. If we can be more aggressive, that’s going to help our team play from ahead. That certainly helps.”

On the help that win gives younger players:
“Hopefully, when we’re in bigger games, they’ll know the feeling of being in and competing at a very high level against one of the best opponents in college football.  You want to be in those games and I think the younger players will gain confidence just from the whole experience.”

On the new additions to the defense:
“It just gives us depth. We’re trying to develop depth right now. We’re starting to gain quality players right now in our backup positions that can play a lot of different places. They’re trying to earn their way onto the field; that’s what I notice, a lot of players trying to play their way on the field. When they’re doing that, that creates good competition.”

Oklahoma Football
Linebacker Eric Striker
March 13, 2014

On practicing at the nickel position:
“It’s just something I have to get used to. I’m getting better at it as practice goes on. It’s something new to learn. It’s fun and I’m getting more comfortable. It will go well.”

On the competition at tight end:
“There’s a lot more competition. We trash talk with the tight ends, too. They’re coming at us and we’re coming at them. We usually practice doing pass rush and one-on-ones with them. So the linebackers and tight ends are always going at it.”

On young guys stepping up:
“They’ve been stepping up, especially Hatari [Byrd]. He’s stepping up and coming down and making plays. Ahmad [Thomas] has always been pretty good though, too.”

On pass rushing from both sides of the line:
“[Devonte] Bond is getting comfortable and is starting to do his thing. That’s what this defense is all about. You don’t know who’s coming. Either one of us could get there, so that’s a plus.”

Oklahoma Football
Defensive End Charles Tapper
March 13, 2014 

On coming off the Sugar Bowl win:
“It gave us a good boost coming into this season, but that was last year so we really aren’t going too much off that. This is a new year, a new season and a new beginning. We have to keep that same chip we had on our shoulder all last year and just keep getting better.”

On differences so far this season:
“I feel like we have a lot more experience. We have experience, but we have some young guys coming in that will play a big part. We understand the game more. The coaches can trust us more to learn more tendencies of the offensive line and adjust with what the offense is doing.”

On a lot of experience returning:
“It makes a big difference. We have a lot of experience and a lot of leadership on the field. Last year we lost a lot of guys that were key leaders, but this year we have everybody like that. We have nine starters coming back, so if one of us goes down somebody else will come in and be a leader. We have so many guys coming back, especially on the line.”

Oklahoma Football
Cornerback Stanvon Taylor
March 13, 2014

On how spring practice is going:
“It’s going really well. Everyone’s working really hard and pushing each other. We’re all a team and we push each other to work everyday. I just keep on working every day.”

On what he learned last year:
“It’s a lot faster game. You’ve got to be able to read a lot of stuff and know the offense and know formations – all the things that come with football. You’ve just got to be ready to go.”

On what Aaron Colvin taught him:
“Just play and stay positive. I used to get frustrated a lot and he would tell me to keep my head up and keep getting better. That’s what he taught me.”

Oklahoma Football
Cornerback Zack Sanchez
March 13, 2014

On the role he’s had to take with Aaron Colvin leaving:
“I had to take essentially the same role as him. Being the oldest guy or most experienced guy at corner, I had to take the leadership role through winter workouts and spring. I have to be more vocal to the younger guys and lead by example so they see that I’m doing it right and not just talking about it.”

On playing last season:
“I think I grew up really fast. I think I had to. Being young can’t be an excuse for that long or you’ll get pulled off the field. I learned from a lot of things and I feel really strong going into spring and I’m excited for what the future holds.”

On the competition for the other side:
“It’s huge. Stanvon [Taylor], Dakota [Austin] and Cortez [Johnson] are all doing a great job. They’re all making plays and it’s kind of up in the air right now. It’s going to be a tough decision for coach. All those guys are competing and all look really good.”

Oklahoma Football
Safety Ahmad Thomas
March 13, 2014 

On going through spring training last year:
“Getting to come and learn ahead of people, that’s going to get you a better opportunity for a starting job. But there were a lot of really good people ahead of me.”

On how the defense has been in spring practice:
“I feel like we’re going in a good direction. We’re all getting better. We’re starting off with a lot of confidence from that Alabama win.”

On how he’s improved this year:
“I don’t think at all. I just play. When I first got here I had a problem with my covering, but working one-on-ones all the time you get better at it. You watch film and see what you’re doing wrong and then you fix it the next day at practice.” 



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