Football Luncheon Media Session Quotes

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
SEPTEMBER 01, 2014

Head Coach Bob Stoops
Tulsa Press Conference

Opening statement:
“Reviewing the Louisiana Tech game, I was really pleased overall with really every part of our game and the way we played. Offensively I thought our young running backs were all really, really good. Every one of them were 100 percent assignment correct. They protected the quarterback when they had to. They knew where they were going in routes. They caught the ball exceptionally well and of course ran the ball in a very physical way. They made some great cuts and took care of the football. That’s another big issue and they were all great that way.

“Some other bright young spots, offensively, K.J. Young a receiver, came up with some big plays. I was excited to see some of the deep balls for Sterling Shepard. I thought the offensive line blocked really well. Darryl Williams was cited as having the best game up there and other players of the game were Keith Ford. He did really well with a couple of great cuts.

“Defensively our players of the game were our number one defensive unit. They together were really good. They had a bunch of three-and-outs, created great pressure on the quarterback, eliminated the run game and really had no mental problems. All of them together were really sharp. I’m pleased with that group. The young safeties that came in all looked really good. Ahmad Thomas, Steven Parker and Hatari Byrd all played really well. Julian (Wilson) was really solid at corner. Caleb Gastelum stepped up in a great way in backing up Jordan Evans after his targeting call and then Dominique Alexander was strong in there again. We looked really strong there.

“Kicking game was great. We had a couple of nice punt returns and a long kickoff return in Alex Ross. Sterling with the punt returns and Michael Hunnicutt was perfect on the day. Jed (Barnett) averaged over 40 yards. We didn’t have many opportunities punting the ball but had a couple of kickoff covers inside the 20 and the 25, so that was all really positive.

“After the first game as coaches there are a lot of things we have to continue to get better at and we believe we will. Hopefully this week that will be our main concentration going to play Tulsa this week. Coach (Bill) Blankenship and his staff do an outstanding job. I’m a big fan of Bill and all he does and the way he conducts his program and the way they play. They always play sound and disciplined. Going there this week, our main focus is not just on Tulsa, but on us trying to improve on the part of the game that we’re able to. The big difference with Tulsa this year, (Dane) Evans, their quarterback had a great game the other night making some great throws and a lot of big plays in their passing game and he really performed well. It’s exciting to see that win in overtime like that. Congrats to Coach Blankenship and their staff. That’s a great start to the season. We’ll be focused on getting better in our areas this week for Tulsa.”

On whether QB Cody Thomas will be available this week and the status of the backup quarterback:
“We’re supposed to this week so we’ll see, but we have other healthy ones. Blake Bell is healthy and can always go. He took some reps last week and is still throwing the ball great. The kids were teasing him that he’s still got it. The projection is that Cody (Thomas) will be ready to go this week.”

On LB Jordan Evans’ targeting call and whether he’s available this week:
“If that happened in the second half he would have to sit the first half of the coming game.”

On the Big 12’s statement on the targeting call:
“I haven’t yet. I’ve got a request into the officials’ office. I’m sure by this afternoon sometime I’ll have some kind of clarification on it and even an explanation. I want to know what I can tell the player. It’s a pretty tight situation. Walt Anderson and all our crew at the Big 12, they do a great job so he’ll have a good explanation one way or another and we just want to learn from it.”

On what would happen if Cody Thomas didn’t play well:
“I can’t play the what-if game. I don’t want to get in the middle of you two’s argument. I’m sure that’s too entertaining for everybody.”

On whether the offensive line played well:
“They did. They played really well. I thought Ty (Darlington) directed traffic up there and did an excellent job. Our protection was great. Run blocking, we had bodies on bodies and it can still improve. That’s exciting to see. I know we can improve from it, but they did a really good job.”

On the play of the receivers:
“I thought they were good. I thought all those guys really played well. Sterling (Shepard), I already talked about K.J. (Young). Durron (Neal) has had a great summer. I believe as we go forward Durron will make a lot of big plays for us. All of our younger guys are getting better.”

On DT Jordan Phillips’ first game back:
“He played great. He had a great game up there. He was in the backfield a bunch. He was disruptive and felt great after the game. He feels a lot better than he did a year ago at this time, so that’s all positive.”

On determining who will return kickoffs and punts:
“It’s tough in some ways because you aren’t full go (in practice). But we do quite a bit of drills in our camp leading up to the season full speed going down and getting to a certain spot and getting to a bag. Much like a running back or receiver, some guys have a shape to them and feel for it than others. We try to weed those guys out. Some guys whether it be stiff in the hips or don’t quite change direction to make someone miss them enough, it’s harder for them. We try to keep those guys off cover teams or in particular kickoff cover. It’s the shifty guys who can make somebody miss them and not latch onto them and have the speed to get down there.”

On what makes Alex Ross special on special teams:
“All those running backs can make people miss them. They’ve got speed, power and they make people miss them and they’re tough. We’ll be smart on how much he gets of it, but Alex (Ross) is one of our better special teams guys. Again, we’ll be aware of that in how many snaps he’s getting and some games we may have to pull him in some cases. Coach (Jay) Boulware does a great job of monitoring that through the game and having quality backups in those spots in case you have to pull him off there.”

On WR Jeffery Mead:
“The closer we got to game week the more Jeffery (Mead) just showed up with his size and his hands. He’s smooth for his size and the quarterbacks like him for the target that he is so we felt like he’s a guy that’s going to keep getting better and better and will make a difference for us.” 

On what is special about playing Tulsa:
“I don’t know about benefitting the program as much as it’s great for the state for our people, for Tulsa hopefully and you have a game that’s close so the travel expenses for both teams wherever you’re playing. It just works. It’s close for fans in this area and again. I know we’re always rooting for them, I know I do whenever they’re playing somebody else and I want to see them do well. I think there’s a lot of respect that goes both ways with these two teams.”

On TE Blake Bell’s physicality as a blocker:
“Not surprised about it. I’ve been watching him go against some good Jack backers and D ends all summer. They get theirs, he gets his, and that’s going to happen when you get against someone good lined up. It’s hard to be 100 percent, but he does his job and he does it well.”

On if Bell proved himself on Saturday:
“I didn’t have any doubt. Are you tough enough to want to do it? And I knew that. I knew he had the toughness so now it just comes down to do you have the ability, and he has the size and the ability to do it, so I didn’t have a concern about it. I saw it this spring. I saw it all summer. I don’t need to see it in a game to prove it to me. I’ve seen it going against good people every day.” 

On the play of LBs Geneo Grissom and Eric Striker:
“Loved what they were doing. They were both disruptive and active. They played well. Geneo (Grissom) had a lot of good plays and so did Eric (Striker). Eric, even though he didn’t get credited with the sack, he’s the one that caused three of them or chased them into people’s arms, so he was disruptive like he always is.” 

On if the defense is what Stoops and his staff envisioned a year ago when they moved to the 50 front:
“Yes, but a year ago there was just different pieces. It was still the same scheme-wise, but it was different people. It’s another year into it and we have groomed it to where we feel the players being active in what they can do and we’re putting them into the best spot they can do it, we feel. That may be tinkered with as we go through the year, but that’s what we meant by we’re so much further ahead and that’s why with the first group there aren’t any mental mistakes. We have more that we can do with them and they understand. The players understand going against different offensive plays where they need to be in them and it’s just smoother that way.” 

On the ability to LB Geneo Grissom to play in coverage:
“He’s a big presence.  He’s hard to get the ball over out there and I saw that through camp. In a lot of instances he defends out there and he’s covers a lot of ground. He can jump, he has great arm length and he’s not easy to get the ball over.” 

On concussion treatment and prevention:
“I don’t know how much it’s changed. I really think everybody is much more advanced in it as we’re able to be in that they have tests they’re giving the players ahead of the season and how they’re answering questions and how the brain is operating and they can go back and answer those questions after an episode to try and see how long it takes a player to react or to get answers. I know they’re doing all they can. I know our people are and I’m sure they are at Texas and everywhere else. Our medical teams are really special around the country in our resources and the medical teams we have. I know our people work hard at it, so probably everybody is more diligent about taking more time with people getting back and doing all the testing that they’re able to do to determine how safe it is for a guy to go back.” 

On the extra red padding for helmets at practice:
“That’s something that’s been around a little while. It’s just some people who in the job requirement run into people more often. Sometimes the tight ends, the H backs, the fullbacks, it adds a little more padding on top of their head. I know South Carolina has used them in the past, and talking to Coach (Steve) Spurrier, he thought it helped. Our people have known about them and wanted to try them and it seems to be working pretty well. We’re just trying to eliminate the day to day bumps that you just get during practice.” 

On the play of cornerback Julian Wilson:
“Julian looked really good. He was where he needed to be. I have been more than pleased with that through the summer.” 

On the young corners, particularly CB Jordan Thomas:
They played well. I talked about the safeties already. I was really pleased with what they did. Jordan Thomas played well. He had a few tackles. I was his first taste of it out there, but again, we have loved what he has done against our guys all summer. He will only get better. He has great size, he has track speed and he’s a great player.” 

On LBs Devante Bond and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo:
“They are similar to Eric Striker in pass rushing. They have a great knack for it. Obo almost had a sack when he was right on the quarterback one time. Devante has great power and great ability to rush. Devante just missed a couple weeks being a little banged up. He is a little behind, but the longer he is out the more he will continue to get in there and believe he will make a difference.” 

On the targeting call against LB Jordan Evans:
“I’m not questioning the call. He had become a runner and I didn’t believe that he was down yet. I didn’t think he was falling down yet or that his knee had hit the ground. If a guy just ducks late, he has changed the target. I guess that is what I am saying. If he makes a move to change position or to change where he is at then what is a defender to do? That is what I want to know what to teach. The fact that he had already been out of the pocket running with the football, he is runner now. I didn’t believe, from my angle, that he was sliding backwards or falling away from it at all. That is why I was wondering.” 

On the perception of the Big 12 after Week 1:
That should be obvious to everybody. The strength of the league and the depth of the league. Both of those teams coming into the year—we know they are much better than what maybe people had thought of them or ranked them. These scores and he way they played did not surprise me at all. Unfortunately I am not allowed to go anywhere and bet on them. I would like to have. Again, those guys are great coaches and they have good players. Oklahoma State and West Virginia, with the way they played, did not surprise me at all.” 

On why OU was able to start so fast as compared to FSU or Alabama:
“Well we weren’t playing Alabama or Florida State. It’s a simple answer. No offense against Louisiana Tech. They do a great job. Coach (Skip) Holtz and his staff have only been there for two years so they will continue to get better. The opponent always has something to do with it.” 

On his team’s execution:
I was pleased with the things that we could control. We didn’t have procedure and line of scrimmage penalties on either side of the ball. We didn’t commit foolish penalties. We didn’t’ fumble the ball. We didn’t have mental mistake on defense. A couple of the twos and threes and he guys we intermixed could have done some things differently. They will learn from that. I thought we played very clean. We didn’t have busted assignments or missed blocks on offense. That part of it was very good. It was only one game but our guys have been very diligent ab out their assignments. That is the type of personality that they have had.” 

On going for it on fourth down:
“It was mostly situational and confidence in what we were doing. Most all of them where in an area that you would go for it. I apologized to Michael Hunnicutt for one of them. I told him I should have kicked that one just to get him a long 51-yard field goal. I said told him that I should have gotten him a long one early in the year. DeMarco Murray texted me the day before the game and told me, ‘Coach don’t be kicking too many field goals this year, keep my record intact’. He went on to say, ‘They are meant to be broken and I hope Michael breaks it. Tell him good luck’. I should have kicked one of them long just give him the work. I did have confidence in how we were blocking and the strength of our running backs.” 

On the versatility of the running backs:
“These guys all have great hands. They all catch the ball like receivers. That was evident in watching them out there. Some of them were out there on their fingertips where you could see how a running back might drop it. They have great hands. We want to get them ball like that out in space. As you can see, when they get it they are effective and strong running with it.” 

On getting Trevor Knight to slide more:
“That is something that he knows needs to happen. We don’t want him getting banged around. He will get out of bounds and get down when he can to avoid those. I thought he did a really good job of it.” 

On if winning the line of scrimmage was the highlight of the game:
“It was one of them. We did really good with technique, assignments and then he pressure.” 

On the character of QB Trevor Knight:
“Trevor is a fabulous leader in every way. He is a great young man and he guys can’t help but respect him. He works so hard. In our conditioning and weight room he is there with the running backs and every one. He can keep up with all of them.  Guys see that and it is a positive. All those guys are that way. It is fun to watch—even a year ago in the competitions, Blake (Bell) he respect each other and support one another and be for the team. Whoever has to do it is ready to do it. All of these quarterbacks in the room now are that way.” 

On the play of the young safeties:
“They didn’t have mental mistakes. They were in position to tackle people. They made some open field tackles. Again, that position has more to think about than some others and they handles it really well.” 

On the status of CB Cortez Johnson:
“We will see. He didn’t like his position on the depth chart last week so we will see what he wants to do. He will have to find out by today or then I will make a decision.” 

On Tulsa’s wide receivers:
They have good size on (Keyarris) Garrett. Great quickness with he other guy (Keevan) Lucas. You can tell they try to get him the ball even in the backfield by tossing it to him. He is really quick. You can tell they are trying to get him a lot of touches. They are really great players.” 

On Tulsa’s safeties:
“They are really productive. You can tell they are good tacklers and good covering. They are really good.” 

On neutral-site games:
“You know we only have six games here as it is. I would hate for the community and or the great stadium we play in—I am not real anxious to take one away from here. Even for the community with what it brings to the local stores and vendors, restaurants and hotels. Even for what it does on our campus. I don’ see us taking one of ours away. If somebody we are going to play in the future wants to give up one of theirs, then I would be more apt for that for sure.” 

On the 2009 BYU game being played at a neutral site:
That didn’t work out real well. That could have happened here, but the percentages when we play here and the percentages when you don’t are pretty different for us.” 

On former player Calvin Thibodeaux, who is on the Tulsa coaching staff:
“Calvin, love him. He is a great young man and a very productive excellent player for us. He is he kind of guy you wish you had 100 of. He always has a smile on his face. His always positive and works hard. I am sure he is that way as a coach. He has done a great job there as a coach. Their guys play hard and play with great technique. He is young guy and he will have a great career in coach I am sure. I always knew Calvin had that kind of make-up.” 

On the non-conference schedule:
“Tennessee and Tulsa are both great football teams. I see the personnel hey have. If you are talking about Tennessee with coach Jones and another year in their system with what they are doing. Hey look really good.” 

On Trevor Knight’s pass deflections:
“In a couple of those instances he needs to find a better window. It is that simple. He needs to find a better window to distribute the ball where it needs to be.” 

On getting the running backs the same number of touches:
“It just depends on the day. It is too early to determine that. If someone gets ho they will have more opportunities.

Big 12 Teleconference

On the state of the Big 12:
“All these teams are probably, I believe, better than people gave them credit for. It doesn’t surprise me. I’m very aware that both those teams (OSU, West Virginia), and many others in this league are good football teams, with a lot of good football players.”

On the performance of the young running backs:
“I thought they were excellent. We were very pleased with them. In all accounts they were assignment correct all night. They took care of the football. They ran physical, ran hard, and made some big plays. All of them really complimented each other really well.”

On whether the running game is being geared towards a power attack:
We’ve always done a lot of power running. I think you’re overlooking just because, say for instance, when Sam Bradford was here. Everyone thinks he’s the Heisman Trophy winner, we were just throwing it. We had two 1,000-yard rushers when Sam was here. This isn’t anything different or new. We had tight ends on the field. We’ve done this in the past as well. I don’t see it being any different.” 

Quarterback Trevor Knight

On if it’s harder to get the ball to Sterling Shepard now that he has moved outside
“I don’t think it’s any harder. I think he has done an excellent job making that transition. I think it is a lot harder than people think moving from the inside to the outside. It’s a completely different game and different releases and you’re matched with corners instead of backers and things like that. He has done a great job and continues to build that chemistry. Hopefully, it continues to get better.”

On sliding more to avoid contact and if he slid in high school
“I never slid in high school. I maybe slid one time when I played in high school. That’s just transitioning from being a playmaker to a distributor. I think I took two hits all night on Saturday. That’s what we want. I don’t want to take a whole bunch of hits and (want to) get the ball into our running back’s hands and get it out on the edge. I thought our receivers did a great job of blocking on the bubbles, we would pick up 10 or 11 yards.”

On what to expect from Tulsa’s defense
“They are a solid defense. They don’t do a whole lot conceptually but they do what they do and they do it well. I’m ready to go up there. I didn’t get to play against them last year. I was sick and banged up a little bit but I’m excited to get my first game against Tulsa and go up to their place and hopefully have a good game.”

On if the running backs performance in the passing game surprised him
“It didn’t. We work on that a lot. We do a drill during the summer where we will work out with our receivers and hold our running backs after and throw some routes with them. They have been working on it and that’s a testament to those guys being great athletes and all-around guys. You see Keith Ford out there lining up at receiver and catching that ball down the seam. It’s just guys who are versatile, they can run between the tackles, get out on the edge and catch the football.”” 

Cornerback Zack Sanchez

On if he is putting more emphasis on the targeting rule after Jordan’s ejection:
“Yeah, I mean, it’s tough. You never know when the quarterback is going to slide. Going full speed, it’s hard to adjust. That’s one thing that Coach Stoops stresses. I think we watch a video every week on targeting and things like that. He will learn from it, obviously, and be more cautious. As defenders we have to be more cautious. We just have to be careful in the way we attack.”

On Tulsa’s wide receivers, (Keevan) Lucas and (Keyarris) Garrett:
“Oh, they’re athletic. I watched some of the Tulane game and saw that they can go deep down the field. They had a whole lot of explosive plays in that game and their quarterback can throw it. I think it’s the same guy as last year. He can definitely throw it and they have the receivers that can take it downfield.

On his blocked field goal being OU’s first in years and whether there has been emphasis on it:
“It just kind of happened. That was my first field goal block ever. It was the first time in my life. I came off of the edge free and was able to get my hands on it. I think if I hadn’t gotten it, D.J. (Ward) would have gotten it. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on it before D.J.”

On if the defensive line play gives them confidence
“Yeah, a lot. It makes our job a lot easier as defensive backs. The quarterback has to get rid of the ball. We are only covering for about three or four seconds. Those guys do a tremendous job. I think we have probably the best front seven in the country if you ask me. The pressure that they put on guys, it makes it a lot easier in the back game.”

Linebacker Eric Striker

On how the team played:
“I think we did great. We came out fast, stopped the run, which is we wanted to do, and everyone was ready to go. We just, overall, played well in the front seven.”

On stopping running backs:
“I was like ‘Let’s go’. I had been repping it every day in practice. So going out to the game, the only real difference is there are 85,000 people watching. There wasn’t any nerves at all.”

On whom he prefers to tackle:
“Would I rather be rushing the quarterback? Well that’s in my blood. I mean I am doing what is best for the team right now, but yeah it’s in my blood.”

On Jordan Evans and Caleb Gastelum:
“Jordan is a great player, I saw it a long time ago; the whole team saw it. He has very powerful arms and when he is out there he is just out there having fun. When Caleb got out there, he dropped a pick and was making plays; it’s just about how you prepare. Caleb comes in and does his reps and paying attention in meetings; that’s how we prepare for games. Just because a two comes in, doesn’t mean anything.”

On if Tulsa’s shorter offensive plays change their scheme:
“Nothing at all, we will continue to do what we do and give pressure. It’s is going to be a fast game, but it wouldn’t change anything about how we play.”

On being aware of targeting:
“I mean it is something that all defenses have to worry about, which is unfortunate. When you’re going that fast, sometimes the offensive player drops low and your head connects with their head. No one intentionally does it; it’s just an unfortunate situation. We practice that, we watch video and Coach always gives us tackling techniques so we don’t do that.”

Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard

On being the new punt returner:
It was great. The guys got some really good blocks. It’s exciting being back there again. High school was the last time I got to do punt returns, so it was exciting getting back there. I kind of got some of the first game jitters out. Now I’m ready to roll with it.”

On the TD catch that was ruled incomplete:
“I ran it back a couple of times yesterday. I thought I dragged my foot. I thought I had possession of the ball, but I guess the ref saw otherwise. We will just go with that and move on from it, but I thought I caught it.”

On the running back emphasis in the passing game:
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. We have some running backs that have great hands and they’re going to get open. People don’t pay attention to the running back going down the field like that. Trevor (Knight) threw some great shots to them, and they made some great plays out there.”

On blocking in the passing game:
I’d definitely say we are physical, even the young guys. Coach Jay (Norvell) makes an emphasis on that every week, to block out on the perimeter. We take pride in that. We have a day that is just strictly blocking. We just like to take pride in our blocking out there on the perimeter, and try to get those guys down and spring some big runs for our running backs. When they get the ball in their hands there’s no telling what they’re going to do.”

On his transition from the slot to the outside:
I had to adjust to it. Over the offseason I was working outside strictly because I felt I had a pretty good understanding of the inside. I just tried to focus on the outside and I’m loving it now. I get to be put on an island instead of having to run through all that trash. I get to be on an island all the time and be one-on-one with the corners so I’m loving it.”

Linebacker Dominique Alexander

On playing in Tulsa for the first time:
“Its going to be fun, first time I’ll be playing there in Tulsa as a collegiate athlete. It is going to be great to play in front of my family especially for the people who don’t get to see me play down here in Norman. I am going to have a big fan section there.”

On making sure targeting calls do not happen again:
“It makes us cautious but we just have to go out there and play fast and physical as a defense. We just have to be cautious.”

On feeling more comfortable on the field:
“I believe we did. I went and talked to my coach and he said I had one of the best games of my career. As far as mistakes went, I didn’t have very many and I think that comes from experience.”

On the defense as a whole:
“With eight returning starters coming back the chemistry is there. Playing with each other so much, and at such a high level, made us go out and play hard and fast football. We all jell together, and it showed out there on the field.”

On being the best defensive front seven in the country:
“I believe so, yes. We take that to practice everyday and nobody should be able to run the ball on us. If we stop the run game, it makes the offense only able to throw the ball. We believe we do have the best line in the country.”

On playing his brother, Derrick, and if he was recruited by Tulsa:
“It is going to be fun, bragging rights in the house. We are going to come out and win, though.

“I thought about going to play with my brother and stay at home but in the end (Oklahoma) is the best place for me.” 



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