NORMAN — With a full day of activity planned, the Oklahoma football team got going bright and early Saturday morning before 7 a.m. for their first practice in full pads.
Following practice, the Sooners took part in the annual Meet the Sooners Day. The free event gave OU fans a chance to interact with their favorite players and meet new head coach Lincoln Riley. Those in attendance ages 14 and younger were able to get autographs and pose for pictures.
At the conclusion of Meet the Sooners Day, coaches and players turned their attention to the media. They ran through a gauntlet of photo and video shoots before addressing reporters about the coming season. Watch and read the highlights below.
HEAD COACH LINCOLN RILEY
“Thank you for coming out today to our media day. Obviously, it's a very, very exciting time for us getting into fall camp. We're five days in now. The guys have really had a strong fall camp so far. I've been very, very pleased, as we've said many times, just with how both our players and our staff have handled this whole transition, and it's been even more apparent now that we've finally got down on the field to see the amount of work that we've got done. That competitiveness on all three sides of the ball has been great. It's been fun to see kind of the mix of our older guys, guys that have been in the program, that are starting to step up and really grow into being difference-making type of players, and there's also this talented newcomer class that we have finally. Having all these guys here, getting to see where they're at, I'm excited about the potential of that group as well.
“We've had a great first few days. The guys have been very intense. It's been very competitive. I would say that in our competition periods, it's been very back and forth between our offense and our defense—no one side really dominating over the other. If another side has a down period or a down few plays, they tend to respond, and I think that's a reflection of the leadership we have on both sides of the ball, which is just, to me, very apparent. I think it's much closer to where we were leadership-wise going into the 2015 season, if not even a little bit further ahead as far as the amount of leaders and it being evenly distributed on the different sides of the ball and in the different position meeting rooms.
“One announcement we do want to make: Nick Basquine, a couple days ago, suffered an Achilles injury, a non-contact injury, in practice. He'll miss the season. A terrible injury for Nick, and definitely one that will affect us as a team, there's no question about it. He was a great leader for us in that inside receiver room, a guy that was really clutch for us last year that we felt like was ready to go on to a bigger role. (It was) one of those injuries that you don't really see very often, so that was a tough one for us. Luckily, it's at a position where we do have some depth and some young guys that we feel like can step up and fill that void. We'll get Nick rehabbed and look forward to getting him back next year.”
On other options in the receiving corps:
“We've got some options. Mykel (Jones) will be option one there. He's had a really productive camp so far. He'll definitely get the first crack at it, if you will. Then, we've got some options. This just happened yesterday, so we're still looking at guys like Lee Morris, a guy that's a walk-on from Allen that's really done a great job here behind the scenes. Played in a few games for us and has played well, so Lee has had a really great camp. We think he can go out there and be one of those four or five guys in the inside receiver rotation. Charleston Rambo's another interesting guy. We're looking at him in a few different positions right now, trying to figure out where best to use him, but I think he's another potential option as well.”
On the potential of true freshmen getting playing time and his thinking on redshirting players:
“I think we'll have a number of true freshmen play. The position that's probably got the most depth where it would be toughest to see one is offensive line. But I would think at every other position, there's going to be some opportunities to play, and we've seen some flashes out of guys that if they continue to improve the way they have here the first few days with the natural ability that they have, that we'll want to have them out there.
“When it comes to redshirting or not redshirting, it's something we tend to be aggressive with. I think if guys can make plays and help us win games, then we're going to do it. We always ask two questions. One: are they ready? Most of them are ready physically. Maybe not to play at the elite level that they will later on in their career, but good enough to help us out now. The question is, are they mentally ready? Do they have the maturity to handle all of this? If they're ready, then the next question is, is there a need for them? If those two questions are yes, then they play.”
On if the transition from coordinator to head coach has been smooth:
“It has been. The people around me and the program handled it so well, and that's made it smooth on me. I've enjoyed kind of diving into the different parts of it. That's something I've said many times that interests me. I love Xs and Os and the coaching on the field, but I enjoy all the other parts of it, too. There's certainly more to keep track of. There's definitely more things running through your head. I've had to delegate more, as we've talked about, offensively, but so far, I think everybody's done a great job with it.”
On the competition for backup quarterback:
“It's going to be a great competition. Just after this first week, I can tell you those guys are really playing well. It's a new situation. We said the other day, last year it was pretty much set that Baker (Mayfield) was going to be the guy, and then with all the transfers, that Austin Kendall was going to be the next guy. There wasn't much doubt. This year, it's just a totally new situation. With Austin, with Kyler (Murray), with Tanner Schafer—three guys that have had a bunch of reps around here, that know what they're doing. It's been fun to see them compete at a high level. You can feel kind of the difference in their play and their sense of urgency right now versus last year at this time, which is a positive.
“We're looking for the guy that can be the most consistent, that can move the group, that when he walks in there, if you hadn't seen us play offensively, you would think he's the starter and he's the guy running the show. Obviously, they've got to execute and do their job, too. That sense of being over to take over, leading the group when it's their time, regardless of the situation, I think is a critical factor.”
On if he feels the expectations to win more as a head coach:
“Not yet, not that I'm not going to, but I don't right now. I feel the same amount that I did as the offensive coordinator. You feel that at this place. I've said it many times. It's not really anything that needs to be said. As a coach, I felt it the first day I walked in the door here. I felt it when I came to interview here. You know about the history. You know about the expectations. I'm more focused on the great opportunity we all have and what you can accomplish here when you do it the right way.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE STOOPS
“Overall I have been really pleased with the right attitude and the effort, the discipline and the accountability. Just a lot of things before you even worry about technique and assignments. That part I feel really good about. Our leadership as a group has probably been as good as it has ever been. What happened (last season), we are not here to dwell on. We know that we can play better. I think that part affected them (players), affected all of us. They care about how they play and if we want to win like we want to win, we have to play better defense. Just going back and re-evaluating the whole situation was critical to our ability to move forward and take ownership of what we did or did not do. Now we're ready to move forward.
“I think the players understand what their part of it is, the coaches understand what their part of it is. We are concentrating on what we can do and how we can play better. Players are taking it in day in and day out and there's been a lot better competition. We're starting to build depth across the board, and that helps us. And it helps other people stay involved. Overall, I could not be more pleased with where we are at. We have a long way to go but we are headed in the right direction and that to me is the most pleasing part of it. They're anxious to go to work and improve, and they understand where they need to get better. So that's a good place to be.
“But we've got another four weeks before we play. Just pleased with our young kids. I am not going to evaluate every young player here, but just as a group their ability to take coaching, their care levels seem to be extremely high. That to me is where it all starts. They like to compete. Summer workouts were not overwhelming to any of them. That bodes well for their success. Technique and skill level, there is a lot there that has to be refined but there are some talented players in the group as a whole.”
On the difference in getting young inside linebackers today with all the spread offenses, compared to 15 years ago:
“What is different about it is there are a lot more formations, it is not just the spread. In college you run maybe 10 different calls depending on where things are. And each position where that back is, where this is; it all changes for linebackers. Linebackers always have the most to deal with, whether it is mike or will. Sam is probably the easiest overall to learn and mike is the hardest just because so much is happening both ways. The will's a little bit easier. They hard just because the amount of defenses, the formations and the tempo that people play at. They get guys moving. The tempo of the game is what makes it hard. You have to be simple but you have to be complicated enough where you don't make it too simple for an offense.”
On measuring what a strong defense looks like:
“Each game it varies. We know when we play good defense and we know when we do not play very good defense. It's the way the world is and the way this league is. It's different than any other in football. But we still know what winning football is and what not winning football is. I will let you know if we played good enough. As a whole, we need to play better and our players know that.”
On head coach Lincoln Riley looking over the defense:
“It's great. He just gives an offensive perspective. We talk a lot about what's good and what it isn't, how this front works, how that front works. He's seen it all from an offensive perspective. He is a great play caller and is a great game manager, setting up a scheme. He knows the good things are and what isn't. We just talk about those things, and how they affect their offense. That's what's good about it. If it isn't going right he is going to let you know. But he has confidence in us and that to me is everything. He's never said one word, but he will if he sees something he doesn't like. That is how our communication is and has always been. I think there's a tremendous amount of trust and that says a lot about him. That is another way he is so much like Bob (Stoops); their trust levels are extremely high and they are going to let you do your job. You better do it right or those are consequences we all face.”
On the collaboration of the new coaches:
“We wanted to keep continuity in the way that we teach our players. Our players have been through enough, so we wanted to make sure we kept continuity in how we teach them. Calvin (Thibodeaux), with the language and terminology and how we taught our kids, was able to teach Coach McNeill how we call (things). ‘You may say it this way, but we say it this way in this drill.' So for our players, this isn't a whole other system. We're just adding another defensive line coach. They do a lot together, they watch tape together. It's benefited us already. The communication on the defensive line has been better as a whole. That where all of that comes together.”
SENIOR QB BAKER MAYFIELD
On the quarterback group:
“I'd say it's the best in the country. Kyler (Murray), Austin Kendall and even Connor McGinnis has continued to get better and better. They're all good at different things. I'd still say Kyler Murray is the fastest player on the team. He adds such a different element to our offense when he's in there, and Austin Kendall is just such a different player. It's exciting to see those guys battle it out. Kyler did the same thing that I did and played one year, sat out another and did plenty of stuff for the scout team, and now he's back and he's ready to go. I'm excited for him to get out and get some live experience.”
On how Lincoln Riley has changed since becoming head coach:
“He hasn't changed at all. Just for example, it took Jeff Mead riding him for three weeks before he finally got a new car. He's the same guy. He's a humble guy. He know exactly why he's here and how he got here. He works very, very hard. He paid attention to the people around him. He learned from (Mike) Leach, Ruffin (McNeil) at ECU and then Coach (Bob) Stoops. He watched all those guys, and he took notes and paid attention to all the details. So he hasn't changed at all. I think that the best thing about him is that no matter where he's at, he's always the same person. That's the thing I've always said to recruits or anybody else. The person you meet is the person you're going to get. That's the most special thing you can get because you can build a relationship with him and it will be there throughout all phases of life.”
On the running backs:
“They all add a different element to the game. I would say Abdul (Adams) has progressed the most out of all of them. He's very explosive and quick, but the one thing I will say about all those guys is that it takes more than just one guy to bring them down. I could say that about Trey Sermon, Rodney Anderson, Marcelias Sutton, and obviously Abdul. Then you bring in young guys like Kennedy (Brooks). They're all very, very talented. It's exciting to see the different things they do well. I think Rodney and Trey Sermon will bring in more of a pass game element from the running backs. I think Marcelias is so explosive. He can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.”
On what it's like having his position coach as the head coach:
“He's been good to us, although we're the little people now. It's a little different. We quarterbacks talked about it. We each just have to be a little more responsible because there were some things that Coach Riley normally would have to deal with as a QB coach and offensive coordinator, but now he can't spend quite the time working on us, so we need to take care of our business so he can work on either side of the ball and do his head coaching duties.”
SENIOR CB JORDAN THOMAS
On being a leader for the younger guys:
“I would say when I was coming in those guys (upperclassmen) were more of a tough love group, but now with our young guys, we're trying to really teach them, encourage them and let them know that they can compete no matter what year they are. Once you show them the right way and pave the way for them, they're going to start contributing and potentially get a starting job in some of their cases.”
On his mentality entering his final season:
“It's definitely a different mentality. I know for sure this is my last camp and know now that I couldn't come back even if I wanted to. It's something I've learned to appreciate. This fan base is great and we have another opportunity to go win a national championship, so we just have to play every game like it's our last.”
SENIOR WR JEFF BADET
On how he came to OU:
“It was just like, I'm older now, and some freshmen guys, they get caught up in the moment and just say, ‘Oh man, this school offered me this and that.' My second time around, I was really looking at a school that was more established and had the facts. OU was just a place that was already established and gave me the facts. The main thing I was figuring out was my next quarterback. These schools I was talking to were like, ‘Oh man, we don't know who will be quarterback.' ... It really just came down to West Virginia and Oklahoma because they've got Will Grier and Baker Mayfield. I kind of knew I was already coming here, being able to catch passes for (Mayfield).”
On the success of prior transfers affecting his decision to come to OU:
“That's something Coach (Cale) Gundy was really harping on during the process, saying, ‘We take transfer guys, and just look at the numbers and stuff of guys we've had.' So, that did play a part.”
On the conversations he had with Coach Gundy during the process:
“I think the one thing I really liked about Oklahoma when they were recruiting me was Coach Gundy calling and saying, ‘We're very interested, but we need to do a background check to make sure that you're good and all that stuff before we actually pursue you.' Two days later, Gundy called back and was telling me, ‘We really want you.' They went through all of that and said I was doing the right things, I didn't have any problems.”
JUNIOR OL ORLANDO BROWN
On his expectations for offensive line:
"I really just want to be as dominant as possible. I want us to go out here and have the best year that we can have as an offensive line, which will help us be the best offense in the country and also, hopefully, help us be the best team in the country. But expectations, above and beyond, obviously I think a lot of people in the media- we understand expectations from our coaches and our peers, people look at us as the number one offensive line in the country but at the end of the day, we're working and we've got huge expectations for ourselves."
On team's potential and attitude:
"I think this is the best OU team I've been a part of since I've been here at this university, and I think the biggest difference is really the physicality. In years past, we've been physical, don't get me wrong but I mean, it's different and now, you've got guys out here, they're telling us to stay up whether we're in pads or not. People are trying to take you to the ground, and it's never really been like that. The mentality is there; the mentality is all about finishing and being as dominant as possible."
SENIOR FB DIMITRI FLOWERS
On Baker Mayfield and Lincoln Riley's relationship:
“It's great to see that relationship. You know when you have the head coach and the quarterback. Baker being one of our leaders and the brothership that they have they can joke around and get serious with each other. It sets the tone for the team.”
On his first impression of Lincoln Riley:
“We had an offensive meeting before the first spring practice, and he had an entire sheet of notes. He sat up there and we went through everything one by one. He was talking about what he expects, what he wants and how he wants it done. He didn't come in seeing how we played in the past and just go with the flow. Instead, he established what we were going to do right there.”
On adapting to a new head coach:
“Anytime you bring in someone new (adapting) is just human nature. You're not automatically comfortable with that person. Overtime, that spring, Riley proved to be a great coach. Our record proved that he is a good coach. It's just one of those things where all the players were bought into him after he showed us what he was going to do.”
SOPHOMORE DT NEVILLE GALLIMORE
On the difference in Lincoln Riley between being an offensive coordinator and the head coach:
“I could just say, honestly, he's a great coach. I would see that transition with Coach Bob (Stoops) as a little bit of a shock just because he was a part of my recruiting process, but again, I wouldn't have it any other way. Coach Riley is a great coach. He loves his players, and we're definitely happy he's here and obviously taking that role. Us as a team, we're excited to take that step with him and see how far we can go this year.”
On Lincoln Riley spending time with the defense:
“He's definitely done his part, but it's always great having a great offensive coach, a guy whose job is to pick up our defenses. Going up against a guy like that every single day as a head coach does a lot. We're getting better and we're helping the offense get better. Really, it's a great thing because we've got a great coach on both sides of the ball, and having Coach Riley now, not necessarily showing more interest, but getting an opportunity to be the coach on the defensive side is a great thing. Guys are learning. Guys are playing faster. Guys are making more things happen.”
On how much he's looking forward to the season:
“I'm definitely looking forward to the season. So far, I've been healthy. I've been moving well. I'm definitely just doing my part to make an impact on the team. I'm not a freshman anymore. I've been here for a while. I understand expectations, and I feel like it's my job to have a big contribution and help us go all the way.”
SOPHOMORE LB CALEB KELLY
On if it was tough not getting playing time the first half of last season:
“Yeah, especially when in fall camp, I sprained my MCL, a real light sprain, and so I had to sit out three or four days, and then that moved me down in the depth chart. So I knew it was going to be really hard to get in that first game. Then the first game, I didn't get in, and it was my first time my entire life not playing in a football game. It was kind of hard for me because, like I said, it was my first time. Again, in Ohio State not playing, I was like, not in game three, about to go four. I don't know what I'm going to do. Am I in the right place? I was really in the Bible a lot and just really focusing on my spirituality, and I feel like that got me through because I didn't really have my mom here. I didn't have my family here supporting me. I had Coach Mike (Stoops) yelling at me to get better, to keep on pushing every day, so I feel like that helped me out a lot.”
On if he was discouraged:
“I'd say I got pretty discouraged. My mom could tell in how I stopped calling her. I stopped texting back or it was real short, and she knew something was up with me, and then she came and talked to me, and I think she talked to Coach Mike, too. He called me, and was like, ‘I need you to just keep pushing. I'm not yelling at you for you to get worse. I'm yelling at you for you to get better.' I feel like once I understood that, things got better.”
On if he can use his experience to help younger players:
“Yeah, for sure. A lot of the younger kids are actually getting a lot of chances right now, too. Like, Kenneth Murray's a big guy who's doing really well right now. They came mid-year, too, so they're ahead of where I was, and so I keep on telling them that no matter what, no matter if you have a bad practice, no matter what anybody is saying, just keep on pushing. If you need somebody to talk to, believe me, I've been through it. I was that five-star guy who went to nothing, so just helping them out. Those are my little bros. I feel like they could call me big bro. If you asked them, I bet they would say that. I've taken them under my wing for sure.”
SENIOR WR JEFFERY MEAD
On how different it's been having Lincoln Riley as head coach:
“He hasn't been much different. He does tell the defense ‘good job' now which is kind of something we don't like on the offensive side of the ball. He tells them ‘good job' when they make plays when he used to not say that and just be mad about it but it's understandable.”
On the transition for graduate transfer Jeff Badet:
“He's doing good, he's nice and smooth on the field and guys seem to like him. I think he'll be able to contribute, he's got good hands and he's short so he can be that guy to come in and make immediate plays but he can also go deep so that will be fun.”
SENIOR DE/LB OGBONNIA OKORONKWO
On his favorite attribute about head coach Lincoln Riley:
“He has an open door policy. He's there and ready to listen to you with any problem that you have, even if it's not a problem and just to talk. His door is always open.”
On Lincoln Riley's intensity during practice:
“Honestly, the way practices have been going, the way offense and defense have been getting after each other, he doesn't have to do much. Everyday we're trying to get after each other.”
SENIOR DB BACK STEVEN PARKER
On the defense:
“I'm just going to say we are some monsters out there. We're practicing great and running to the ball. I feel like this defense right here is a lot more together and a lot more willing to basically go and attack to get turnovers.”
On carrying any incentives this season:
“I feel like the Sugar Bowl was a great start. Last season I felt like we had a great defensive performance. We kind of started off slow but we ended really great as the season went on. I feel like now we are starting off on that great streak. We are starting off early instead of slow like we have in the past years. I feel like we are getting it done.”
JUNIOR OL DRU SAMIA
On freshman offensive lineman Creed Humphrey:
"The way that Creed came in, I think it was after the first week he started to stand out. It was obvious that he came to show up and work. We're really proud of him and he's getting better everyday. He's one to look out for."
On the offensive line under Lincoln Riley:
"Last year, I guess you could say that it was more intense with the older guys- this year, definitely like you said, he trusts us a lot more, when the young guys need help, he also trusts us to help coach along with him. Right now, it feels like he's really focused on getting these younger guys caught up to speed."
SENIOR DE D.J. WARD
On his expectations for his senior season:
“It's been a long time coming. Now it's just time to play ball and put everything else in the rear view. I've had time to really develop my game over the years, and sit back and watch how things should be done.”
On his impressions of switching defensive schemes:
“Well, I don't need to be 280 pounds like they used to want me to be at. I'm somewhere around 260 at this point and can move around a lot quicker, but we're still going to establish each game as a fight and a grind. We're still doing a little bit of both (schemes) though, so we'll see how the season plays out and what works.”