Offensive Media Session

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 12, 2014

Oklahoma Football
Head Coach Bob Stoops
March 11, 2014

On the first day in pads:
“It’s been great. I’m really excited about it. We’ve got a ton in already just in a few days, and the guys are working really well. I’m very pleased with it.”

On new sources of leadership:
“I watch them in the winter, as much as anything, who’s stepping up and who’s doing that. Daryl [Williams] has been awesome with the whole team and offense and has really taken hold of that in the weight room and in our workouts and here at practice.”

“The whole D-line looks awesome. All those guys—linebackers are more sure of themselves now in what they’re doing. [Quentin] Hayes and Julian Wilson in the secondary are doing great jobs. It’s been good.”

On where Ogbonnia Okoronkwo might line up:
“He’s an outside backer or defensive end. He can rush. He’s like Eric [Striker], he can be a jack, and he can be a down guy when we want him to rush. Same with Devante Bond. He’s been really explosive doing that.”

On his JUCO transfers Isaac Ijalana and Devante Bond:
“They’ve been good. They handled their workouts in a positive way through the winter, which is a big sign. Now, out there running around, they look good. They look like they belong.”

On Blake Bell’s transition so far to tight end:
“Really excited about it. Blake’s got soft hands, good hands. He’s running around really well. He’s a huge target. I believe that’s going to be really positive. We just had one day in pads so we’ll evaluate the tape. I’m sure [blocking] is something we’ll have to work hard on, but Blake’s athletic, Blake’s tough. He’s got size, he’s got strength—he’s got the things you need to do it.”

On who is working at nickel:
“A little bit of everybody. We’ve got Ahmad [Thomas] working some up there. We’ve got—even Striker works some out there. We’ve got guys that can play out there where Julian [Wilson] does.”

On any differences QB Trevor Knight’s approach this spring compared to last year:
“I don’t see much difference, in my eyes. He always came to practice serious and ready to work. He worked hard. Someone can say that, but I don’t notice it being much different because he always did what you wanted him to do.”

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel
March 11, 2014

On the performance of the quarterbacks:
“All four of those guys have done a good job. They’ve made some mistakes like you would expect in the early part of spring ball but they’re competing, they’re learning and they’re pushing each other. They’re doing a really good job.”

On QB Trevor Knight’s progress since the Sugar Bowl:
“Hopefully, he continues to progress. We think he has a great command of what we’re doing and he’s understanding defenses better. He should only get better at every practice with every rep.”

On the importance of spring football for the new quarterbacks:
“It’s huge for everybody. We’re extremely young at quarterback. Trevor’s the veteran guy and he’s just heading into his third year so there’s a lot of growth that our whole group needs to make. With all of our young players, you need those guys to grow, step it up and handle what we’re doing offensively.”

On the importance of teamwork versus individual work in the spring:
“Just like every spring, it’s important that you get a lot of individual work. At the end of the day, you have to be sound fundamentally. You have to learn how to play the game too; learn how to play within the tempo, react to things on the field when your coaches are off and not telling you what to do. So yeah, it’s important to get a lot of group work in, but the individual work is important, as well.”

On the use of tight ends in the offense:
“We played with two tight ends over half the time in 2011 when we had tight ends. We’ve lost three young tight ends in our program unexpectedly and late so we weren’t able to replace them on the recruiting front because of how late it happened. We played differently. We played a lot of one tight end, two tight end sets with Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski because of their hybrid/fullback-type bodies. We have some guys in our program that have started to step up. Taylor McNamara, hopefully, will continue to come on. He had a great bowl preparation, that’s why you saw him on the field at the Sugar Bowl. Blake Bell is a guy that’s moved to tight end. He’s handling things extremely well so far, we’ll see how he continues to progress. We want to use those types when we have the opportunity, when we have guys that are competing at a championship level.”

On working in Blake Bell as tight end:
“There’s not a lot that goes on. We’ve played it [tight end] a lot before. Ultimately, when you play with a tight end, it just puts an edge to your run game and schemes that we’ve run before.  Similar schemes to when you’re playing with a fullback in the end instead of a tight end. Your blocking schemes can suddenly change, so it’s a little different for your guys up front. We’ve played in it before and we’ll see how our personnel dictates what we’ll be able to do.”

On TE Isaac Ijalana’s progress so far:
“Isaac’s done a good job, competing hard. He’s got a big strong body and he had a great offseason. He’s a junior college kid that came in and each week you saw him in the weight room, getting bigger and stronger and adjusting to the workload. These 15 days are going to be critical for him.”

On the expectations for Blake Bell at tight end:
“Expectations? We expect him to be a guy that can handle everything, the run game and pass game; compete at a championship level and to be a guy that can help us win a championship. He’s a guy that wants to be in this program, loves the guys, loves the university, believes in the opportunity we have next year, wants to be here and compete and he’s done that the first three days of spring ball.”

On any difference in QB Trevor Knight’s demeanor this spring:
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a change in his demeanor. His ability to speak with a louder stick in the weight room and locker room, for him to out more of his personality and stamp on the offense and also for our football team he’s a great leader, a great kid on and off the field. He’s extremely competitive. He’s the same guy every day; in the meeting room or on the field, he doesn’t change. Hopefully that will transcend through entire football team.”

On the dynamic in the QB meeting room:
“Our meeting room last year was a great room to be in. They all pushed each other, wanted each other to do things well and they all ended up having great opportunity. I enjoy coming to work every day when I’m working with these guys because they push each other and they compete with each other, but they really are excited for each other then something happens and you can see that in the first three days of practice.”

On QB Baker Mayfield:
“Just like the other three guys in the meeting room, he’s energetic and competitive. He’s a guy that’s played football at a high level. He sees the game extremely well. Besides being able to give a lot of helpful hints to the guys, he adds competition to the group so it’s been a lot of fun.”

On the status of the offensive line:
“We’re missing a guy or two but we have some guys that have played a lot of football, we have some backups that haven’t played a ton but have seen some action and they’re going to get a bulk of the work in spring ball. It’s an opportunity for them to grow and mature and prove they belong on the football field.”

On FB Dimitri Flowers:
“He’s a hybrid player. He’s one of the most skilled, well-rounded guys that I’ve seen come into our program; His ability to play in line and in space as an h-back, motion guy. He does a great job of catching the football and he’s extremely bright for a young kid coming into your program.”

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell
March 11, 2014

On what he’s seen from the receivers:
”It’s been a good spring so far. We’ve had three days and it’s just a typical spring. There’s a lot of competition and trying to transfer what we’ve been doing in the weight room to the practice field. But it’s been really good so far.”

On the quarterbacks’ performance:
“I think it’s been really good. The young kids have gotten a few reps and really Trevor’s [Knight] still young too, but really good competition. I think Justice [Hansen] being here and Cody [Thomas] being involved in practice; those guys have all done a lot of good things. They’ve taken their understanding to a new level with spreading the ball around and I think that whole group feels comfortable, even Baker [Mayfield]’s in there doing some things. It’s a good, talented group; a very competitive group. We’re going to need more than one quarterback to play well for us to win games.”

On WR Jordan Smallwood’s progression:
“Jordan has done some good things so far. He’s a big strong kid that’s trying to learn how to play, like a lot of those guys. We’ve got a strong competitive group, about seven kids right now that are competing hard at receiver. We’re extremely competitive in the spring. We tell them what we want, we tell them where we want them to grade out at and really the whole group is graded on every snap. It’s really easy by the end of the spring to find out who the best guys are because the top two or three guys graded are the best players. They really competitive, obviously [Sterling] Shepard has been great so far, Durron Neal has been good and Derrick Woods has been good. We’ve got a bunch of young guys that have shown flashes, like Austin Bennett and Dannon Cavil; Jordan Smallwood and KJ Young. Those guys are all athletes that have shown that they can do things. Now it’s about building up a competitive callus and being able to go out there every day and compete and make plays. We’ll see who rises to the top as we go through spring.”

On his excitement for the new wide receivers:
“It’s always exciting. That’s the great thing about college football. You get to coach new players and it’s fun. That’s the exciting thing. There are very few incumbents and guys that have themselves established.  It’s fun to see kids grow. A guy like Derrick Woods gets better everyday he gets on the field. You can see the confidence grow with him. That’s why I’m here and that’s why I love coaching college football. It’s exciting to work with them every day. The spring is probably the purest time to coach because you’re doing everything; the fundamentals. It’s the most enjoyable time of year to coach because you’re truly teaching the game.”

On WR Durron Neal:
“He’s getting his opportunity and that’s what spring football is all about. He loves Oklahoma; he’s a great program kid. He’s getting his opportunity and that’s what spring football is about, opportunities for these guys to compete and show what they’re about. Durron is that way. Derrick Woods is the same way and then all these young freshmen that haven’t played; they’re all the same way. But Durron has really been patient, he really tries to do everything right. We’ve got a fabulous attitude with this group. There’s a reason that we played so well at the end of the year last year because we ha such a great attitude and character. That’s carried over to the offseason and the spring.”

On Blake Bell’s adjustment to tight end:
“It’s a brand new world for Blake. It’s fun to watch because he’s a good athlete and he’s got long arms. It’s a different workload for him and he’s beat up and sore. He’s got parts of his body that are bruised that have never been bruised before. But he loves it and the players love him and he loves Oklahoma. It’s really fun to watch him compete and make plays for us. I think he’s really going to help us as tight end.”

On Sterling Shepard’s new leadership role:
“He took the torch from Jalen [Saunders]. I’ve told Shep that his world his different now. He’s not the young guy. He’s played a lot of football around here and he knows what it takes to win big games. He’s got to make players around him better. That’s one thing, when you become a leader you have to make everyone else better. That’s what he has to do. Now he’s not competing against guys here. He’s competing against guys at Texas and everybody else in our league and people around the country. He’s got to raise his standard and his game and I’ve seen a lot of that in him but he’s got a long ways to go. We’re excited about him.

“I think it’s very comparable. You don’t have as many guys that have game playing time, but I think that’s a good thing. We’re going to have to find about five guys that we can depend on out of this group and we have to do it in a hurry. We’ve got some big athletes, some guys that can run and guys that can take the top off the coverage. It’s more about being consistent. That’s one of the things I was proud of about last year’s group. The most proud you can be is when someone watches film and sees your kids playing hard. That’s what we’re trying to instill in these kids right now.”

On the ‘light coming on’ for some of the players:
“You know, you see it in spurts. When you’re young, that’s the way it happens. You might have a lot of enthusiasm, but you come out one day and you have a tough day and take a step back. That’s when you realize that really good players have to do it every day. That’s the way you have to be in this league because you’re going to get everybody’s best shot when you’re at Oklahoma. People have this game circled on the schedule, so you better be prepared to play at your best everyday. That’s what players learn here, you have to be your very best every day. It happens over a lot of practices and a lot of postseason workouts and a lot of coaches chewing on their tail for them to figure that out.”

On the biggest area of improvement for Derrick Woods:
“Just his competitiveness. You know his confidence and he didn’t play a lot but he played an important role in that Alabama game. He came in on that big scene pass, which was as important of a play in that game. Now he just has to transport that into his play all the time. He’s been a big play threat on the field; he just has to do that consistently.”

Oklahoma Football
Quarterback Trevor Knight
March 11, 2014

On adjusting to new teammates:
“It’s been fun. A lot of guys were here, they just weren’t getting playing time—they know what it takes now. With last season, battling a lot of adversity, a lot of guys had to step up. They know what it takes to step up into that role and I felt like they’ve done a good job throughout the offseason of stepping up as leaders and competing for spots.”

On any changes in teammates since the Sugar Bowl win:
“There’s momentum coming from it, but I feel like I’ve been the same guy from the moment I’ve gotten here, so the guys are still around me in that way. But riding that momentum after the Sugar Bowl has been great. I feel like we’ve carried that into the offseason like we wanted to and hopefully we can carry that into next season.”

On his three backups:
“It’s weird because up until this spring I’ve been considered one of the youngest guys and one of the shortest guys. Now I feel like I’m one of the bigger guys and I’m the oldest guy on campus now. I think that helps me as far as stepping into that role as a leader and just being that older guy, and being the only guy with reps in that offense. It’s been easy for me to step into that role.”

On Blake Bell’s position change:
“Blake—he’s an awesome guy. We’ve grown so close over the past year competing with each other, and now—just for him to do that, it’s a testament to him being a team player. He needs to be on the field. He’s a great athlete, and he’s going to contribute there. He’s been running around doing a great job. I’m excited for him and I’m proud of him.”

On what he looks to improve on this spring:
“Just building on stuff. I feel like I’ve got the offense down now, so now it’s just fine-tuning everything. Fine-tuning the footwork, fine-tuning the reads, fine-tuning everything.”

On his impressions of the new running backs:
“I think they’re doing a really good job of competing. They come in every day working extremely hard. I’m really excited about them. I feel like everyone’s just got a little juice under them right now. It’s fun to work with guys like that.”

Oklahoma Football
Wide Receiver Durron Neal
March 11, 2014

On becoming a starter:
“I’ve been working hard this whole offseason to make myself better, and us as a whole wide receiving corps. We know we have a lot to prove. We know there are a lot of doubters out there, so we’re just coming together as brothers and making each other better every day.”

On being a leader with friend Sterling Shepard:
“Just seeing him out there, and me getting a little taste last year, just makes us hungrier. Getting the young guys who haven’t played as much this past season—they’re getting into the offense. We know we have a lot to prove and we’re ready for the challenge.”

On redshirted players getting their opportunity:
“Coach Jay [Norvell] talks about it all the time: the opportunity is here now. With all those guys leaving last year, these guys are ready to step up and us as a whole, we’re ready to prove the whole world wrong.”

On the excitement surrounding the program after the Sugar Bowl:
“The Sugar Bowl was a big part of it, and just being at Oklahoma—the name itself makes it exciting. A lot of recruits—we had a big recruiting class. I don’t just base it on the Sugar Bowl. I base it on the program as a whole—what they did in the past and it being a prestigious program. You come here, you win championships and you have fun.”

On the talent in this year’s receiving corps:
“The group is very talented. Us as a whole, we are very talented. Just like last year when a lot of people had [expectations] about our D-line—those guys came up and showed up big. Now it’s on our back. Now we’re just ready to step up to the challenge. We push each other every day. We get on each other every day. We always try to aim for perfection.”

“I’ve got a lot of fire built up in me. I have a lot to prove to myself, and I want my teammates to count on me. I’m just trying to get better every day.”

On Trevor Knight’s confidence:
“Trevor is very confident. You can see it in his dropbacks and his throws. His overall swagger out there is just—he knows he’s a leader now and he plays like it and he talks like it.”

On Blake Bell’s progress at tight end:
“Blake’s looked good. His routes, catching, everything. Blake is looking phenomenal out there, and his blocking ability—he looks like he’s been playing the position for awhile.”

Oklahoma Football
Running Back Keith Ford
March 11, 2014

On the talent of OU’s running backs:
“We’re all good backs. We all work hard each day. We all have each other’s backs, we’re all competing and we’re all a family, and that’s the most important. We work hard every day and we just grind. That’s all we can do, take it day by day.”

On the wide-open running back competition:
“Especially in pads, we’ve got to compete. Coach [Cale] Gundy says to know your assignments and take that initiative and help everybody out. We lead everybody in the running back stuff. We just work hard every day and take it day by day.”

On cutting down on the fumbles:
“It’s just one of those things adjusting to the college game style and the gameplay, and the speed and how everybody is bigger, faster and stronger than high school. It’s just one of those learning curves for me. I’ve just got to go from that and work on ball security, especially during the offseason. Getting stronger and working on ball security with the other running backs—just getting better each day, little by little.”

On leadership among the running backs:
“The most important thing—we did lose three seniors, but the one thing that really stands out is that we’re all a family. We all help each other and I feel like we’re all leaders in some way because we help each other out and always have each other’s backs when we compete.”

On Dimitri Flowers:
“He’s a great player. I just want him to block for me—everybody on the offensive line, they’re my brothers basically, because they block for me every down. There’s something special about everybody on the offensive line. Everybody has their own flaws and characteristics and everything. The thing is, he’s very generous, he’s very kind, funny—he’s a good person to be around. Besides playing, he’s just a good person.”

Oklahoma Football
Center Ty Darlington
March 11, 2014

On replacing Gabe Ikard:
“I’m excited for the opportunity. This is why I came here—to be able to step into a role. Gabe was great to me for two years. He really took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. He was a great friend on and off the field. Now he’s gone, and I’ve got to step up and fill that void as the center and also just in a leadership position. I’m excited for it.”

On spring practice so far:
“It’s going well so far. I think we’re definitely light-years ahead of where we were last year. We’re getting to get a lot of guys reps, which is awesome—a lot of guys that probably normally wouldn’t get reps are getting reps, and that’s good. I think we’re definitely making some progress.”

On the experience already on the line:
“We have so much depth and right now you don’t see it as much, but you’re definitely going to see it in the fall. We have a lot of guys who have gotten a lot of meaningful snaps in games. From [Dionte Savage] to Nila [Kasitati] to Daryl [Williams], Tyrus [Thompson]—even Tyler Evans, maybe. There are a lot of guys who are completely capable of stepping up.”

On being confident and knowing the offense:
“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been as far as just understanding the whole scheme of football. I learned so much in the past year with Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh. I’m continuing to learn a lot more. From fronts to coverages and blitzes, we’re learning so much as a group. I feel like I’m definitely better than I’ve ever been as far as the mental part of the game.”

On what has changed about Trevor Knight since his Sugar Bowl win:
“Nothing on his part. He’s been the same guy—the same goofy Trevor I’ve lived with for two years. He’s one of my best friends in the world. He’s a great dude. The way people treat him off the field is definitely a lot different. We can’t go anywhere without people stopping him for autographs and pictures and all that, but he hasn’t really changed at all.”

Oklahoma Football
Tight end Blake Bell
March 11, 2014

On the tight end transition so far:
“It’s been fun. Obviously today was the first day of full pads and it was kind of awakening, a little bit. Just getting in there and switching up. Obviously the mindset the last year or so, and the years I’ve been here is drop back and throw the ball and occasionally get out of the pocket and run. Now it’s here in the trenches—you’ve got to make a down block, and combo to this guy, and then maybe run a corner route full speed and then run back and go tempo. It’s just a different mindset, and it’ll take me a little bit to get used to, but it’s been fun.”

On stepping away from the quarterback role:
“It was a tough decision. Obviously playing quarterback was my dream, but another dream of mine was to play at OU, and I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to go anywhere, so that’s why I stayed around. I love these guys, love my teammates. I just wanted to get on the field somehow.

On the difference in physicality between quarterback and tight end:
“It’s kind of—some people think it’s kind of the same, and in some ways it is. Obviously running downhill and getting hit by those Texas guys, OSU guys, in the package. This is more of locking on guys and trying to make a block. Like I said, you’ve got to go run a route, you’ve got to sprint back, maybe go tempo, do this, get a down block. It’s a mentality. You’ve got to flip the switch from quarterback to tight end and I think that’s the main deal.”

On the new techniques he’ll have to learn:
“Obviously it’s helped me a lot to know the offense, and I know it pretty well. That’s helping me out a lot. Other than that, obviously technique and learning all the different steps and where to attack and where you’re aiming point is and stuff like that.”

On the encouragement from other tight ends:
“They’ve been really encouraging. A lot of guys ask me how different it’s been, but I see those guys on the field and I talked to them all the time when I was playing quarterback, so not much is different. One room over, the meeting room. But they’ve all been encouraging and we’ve been having fun.”



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