The Hurry-Up: Volume 1
NORMAN — Wednesday marks an off day for the Oklahoma football team, but the Sooners have already completed five practices during fall camp. To see how camp is progressing, we spoke with running backs coach/special teams coordinator Jay Boulware, redshirt junior offensive lineman Bobby Evans, junior linebacker Caleb Kelly and redshirt junior defensive end Kenneth Mann for the first installment of "The Hurry-Up."
Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jay Boulware
You have the luxury of returning your best backs from last season, and you add redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks and freshman T.J. Pledger. What's your general assessment of the running backs through the first five practices?
"I really believe that having a guy like Rodney Anderson in our room raises the competition level across the board because he is such a hard worker, and all the other guys are kind of following him that way. I think the guys are working hard and getting better. I think there are some kids who played last year who are better players this year who might factor into what we're doing this season, even though they might not have factored in last season."
For people who haven't seen Kennedy and T.J. play, what kind of backs are they?
"Both of those kids are young. They're different runners. Kennedy's got great vision, T.J.'s got great cutting ability, the ability to make you miss in the hole because he's smaller and gets under some things that other guys can't. I'll be curious to see how they come along and see if they can get out there and help us out."
What's it like working with Shane Beamer, and what does he bring to the special teams meeting room?
"Shane and I went against each other in the SEC several times. We're very familiar with each other and very similar in the schemes that we run. It's been awesome. It's great having another voice in the room that knows what's going on; somebody that can coach a particular position on special teams that I'm in charge of just like I would coach it. That itself has been a tremendous asset this year, just having another special teams guy who understands all four phases and the importance of each one, and all the different techniques and fundamentals that come along with them."
What has Austin Seibert's worth been to the OU football program?
"It's like an offensive lineman; you don't really appreciate all that he does each and every game until he's gone. Last season he quietly led the nation in touchbacks. For most of the year he was leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage. He brings a lot to the table. We weren't very good on (special) teams last year with the other 10 members that were part of our coverage units, but because Austin was so good, you didn't know it. We were able to make it to the College Football Playoff and do some things, where, based on the way we were playing, we didn't have any business being there with the level of productivity of the other 10 members. But Austin saved us a lot of games and eliminated a lot of teams' returners. If Austin was on his A-game, those (opposing) guys were a non-factor."
Junior OL Bobby Evans
What does it mean to have a number of veteran guys returning on the offensive line and where can those guys improve?
“There are a lot of us coming back, and a lot of us have played a lot of ball. Everybody's getting better about reading defenses and stuff like that.”
How has offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh continued to help the line progress?
“Coach is Coach B. He's going to make sure we're on top of our game and we're going to make sure each other is on top of our game. He could coach any position out here, to be honest. I respect that a lot about him. He'll get on you when you're messing up but he's a great coach. He definitely is going to make sure you're a better player and you're at your best.”
Which newcomers on the offensive line have stood out to you throughout spring and the beginning of fall camp?
“You've got guys like Tyrese Robinson, Creed (Humphrey), Marquis Hayes, all of them. We have a bunch of new guys coming in, and we expect a lot out of them, too. You have to come out here and work. This is not a game, we have business to handle.”
A large amount of production also returns at the skill positions. How does that help the offense continue to build off prior success?
“We have a bunch of talented guys at running back, receiver, quarterback. It really doesn't matter, I know we're going to be an elite offense. It's going to be fun.”
Junior LB Caleb Kelly
You had a shoulder injury that held you out of spring ball. How difficult was it to miss the spring but hop in and be ready for fall camp?
“This spring I was paying attention in the film room a lot. I was out there at practice still, but didn't have to go lift, so that was good that I at least didn't miss much practice. Out here now, I do have to learn quickly but it's stuff I know. It's more about just putting your body through it. It's been good for me having last year, too, to come out here and know what to expect.”
How has the change from outside linebacker to Will linebacker been since last season ended?
“It's been good. Like I've said, I did a little bit of work there (at Will) last year and moving over and doing it this year more has been way different.”
What have been the biggest differences that have come with the move?
“Just the techniques and all the different moves you see. You have to get to different places and use different angles. The football parts of it.”
Where has the linebacker group improved after last season and how will it translate to the field come Sept. 1?
“As a whole group, we've gotten a lot closer as brothers. They really are my brothers. We hang out outside of football more than we used to. A lot of us live together, too, so just having a linebacker corps that is that close is going to help on the field. I can ask my guys and they're going to know my demeanor and everything. We're always going to have each other's back on the field when battles are going on. I think we've gotten a lot better as a whole group.”
Junior DE Kenneth Mann
How has the defensive line looked throughout spring and the beginning of fall camp?
“It's early but everything's been good so far. We're improving every day. We have some young guys coming along and some great leadership, so everything's looking pretty good right now.”
How hard is it going to be to try to replace the production of All-American Ogbonnia Okoronkwo on the field and also in terms of leadership?
“Replacing Ogbo is going to be a hard thing to do because he was such a great pass rusher. As far as leadership, we have good guys that can lead us and lead the younger guys and bring them along. Neville Gallimore and Marquise Overton have all been really good this offseason about bringing guys along.”
Third-year defensive ends coach Calvin Thibodeaux has made an impact since he returned to his alma mater. How easy is it to work with a coach who has played the position?
“It's very easy to work with Coach Thibodeaux and Coach Ruffin (McNeill). They both paint a clear picture and make things easy to understand for the young guys.”
What expectations do you have for the defense?
“Our ceiling is whatever we can take it to. We're definitely coming along. Everyone is improving in every area. We have good leadership on our defense as a whole and as a team. I think we can shock some people on defense.”