Oklahoma Football
Head Coach Bob Stoops
Spring Football Press Conference
March 6, 2014

Opening Comment:
“Welcome everybody. It’s a quick turnaround. It’s odd that we’re already here in the spring practice. I know everybody is looking forward to it. I want to say congratulations to Coach Kruger and our basketball team. They’ve been playing and it’s exciting all the energy they’ve created and how their season is going, and Coach Coale, hopefully they finish well.

“Our guys here in the last couple of months since the Sugar Bowl, maybe just talking to Jerry Schmidt, our strength coach, and all of our coaches who have been working and developing our guys out of season really believe that it’s been our best or one of our best years that we’ve had in the out of season just with the players and the gains they’re making and the overall speed, the attitude, the work ethic, all of that it’s just really been positive. We had a chance as coaches we do stations with our guys a couple of times a week in the past few weeks and we’re really excited about the overall attitude and preparation and the way our guys are working. Really have done an excellent job. We’re in great shape coming into spring ball. We’re going to start here on the weekend to take advantage of non-school days, so we’re going to start Saturday and Sunday for our first two practices, this Saturday. I feel like we’re in great position with the momentum from the Sugar Bowl going forward.

“Rather than go by position, I’ll just address the quarterback situation. Obviously, Trevor Knight with the way he performed in the Sugar Bowl and really what we’ve seen, not just in that game, but in the last year and a half, we’re excited about the fact that he’s only a sophomore and the develop will just continue. Cody Thomas, Coach Heupel has done an excellent job managing Cody with baseball. He’s still getting his opportunity to be prepared, and Cody has done it really well. We’re really pleased about merging those two or allowing those two to happen. He’s really a big strong athlete. Justice Hansen is here working already, so we’ll go, he’s a true freshman that’s strong and moves well. We’ll just go forward with those three guys.

“Blake (Bell) has made a great transition to tight end. He’s done a great job continuing to build his strength and size. He’s up to about 257 and is moving well. He won his first tug-o-war individual battle yesterday. We usually don’t have our quarterbacks in any of those competitions, but Blake one-on-one beat one of the d-linemen so we’re fired up about that.

“Some positions that won’t be involved, Tyrus Thompson and Adam Shead. We won’t have them in spring ball, but they’re guys who have played a ton of football. Also, Jordan Phillips won’t participate. Julian Wilson also had a shoulder operation and won’t participate. All these guys have played a ton of football and they’re expected to be healed up to begin the summer work will be important to have them ready for two a days. We’re excited to get back on the field with the guys and do what we do. No change in coaches obviously. Everything is consistent there.”

On Blake Bell transitioning to tight end:
“Sure. He’s the tough, competitive athlete that I believe will handle that well.”

On if Bell will have to change his mindset playing a new position:
“I don’t believe there is when you’re in the middle of competition. When you’re in the game whether you’re quarterback or anybody you’re playing aggressive. Obviously there will be more physical contact and you’re at tight end on the line of scrimmage every down there will be more contact than in the back field. Sure, there’s a big difference.”

On whether he’s concerned that Bell will add too much weight:
“No. It’s not like he has to hold it down. He’s right where he naturally is. I think a year ago to stay a little looser he kept some off, but now he can gain five or six pounds and he doesn’t need much. I think he’s where he needs to be now.”

On Bell taking snaps at tight end two years ago:
“I recall it a little, but it wasn’t enough to really know.”

On the tight end position:
“Taylor McNamara is a guy that caught a ball in the Sugar Bowl and has really come on. We’re excited about Isaac Ijalana, the junior college guy, is another guy that’s talented who is coming in. Aaron Ripkowski played tight end a year ago, if you watch his games in the second half of the year, he was outstanding in that positions blocking and at the point of attack.”

On whether the Belldozer package has gone away:
“No. That’s something we could still use with Blake (Bell) out there, sure.”

On whether having a set quarterback changes anything in the spring:
“It doesn’t change anything. You ask our players, we go out practice and it doesn’t mean anything to us. Everybody likes to talk about it, but what we do every day it doesn’t change a thing.”

On the competition at the safety position:
“Quentin Hayes started the year as back and we’re excited about Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd. Julian (Wilson) could play that position as well, but he won’t be there in the spring. Those other guys are really good football players and we’re excited to see them get more snaps this year. Ahmad had the most a year ago, and when he was in he played well. He’s a really strong, powerful guy, as is Hatari. We feel good that they’ll be able to come in and make a difference.”

On the nickel position with Julian Wilson out in the spring:
“Unsure. Ahmad has moved up once in a while. We could use Stanvon Taylor. Mike (Stoops) and Coach Wright will figure out who they want to work in and out of that position.”

On whether anyone as an edge to replace CB Aaron Colvin:
“They’re all good players and have gotten better. They had excellent bowl work. We just have to build on it. It’s like every year. Guys graduate and other guys have to be ready to take over and I believe all of those guys are good football players and it will be good competition, and we’ll see who is the most consistent and making the most plays.”

On CB Dakota Austin:
“Everything. He’s competitive and smart in the way he plays. He understands what we’re doing and has a great feel for it. He had great bowl preparation, as well.”

On the running back group:
“They’re good players. I just want to see consistency, guys taking care of the football, understanding what they’re asked to do, protect routes, are they doing the right things, are they where they are supposed to be. And, who can make big plays? Who makes something when there isn’t much there. To be honest with you a big part of it is taking care of the ball. You can make a big play all you want, but if that ball is on the ground every ten times you touch the ball it’s going to be hard for them to stay on the field.

On if RB Keith Ford is improving on ball security:
“So far. He didn’t fumble it in the bowl game; he’s taking care of it. Keith (Ford) is an excellent player. Really talented guy, but as are all of them. All of those guys – Alex Ross – on and on. So, we’ll see. Those guys will have their opportunities and a lot of them here through the spring.”

On if RB Alex Ross is prepared to take a step forward:
“Yeah, I believe he is. He’s had a really good winter; he’s had good bowl practices also. So, I believe he is ready for that to happen.”

On whether he’ll work Daryl Williams at left tackle who else will take snaps at center:
“Nila (Kasitati) always works in at center also. Nila, I believe, just between him and Ty (Darlington) will work in there. Daryl (Williams) we’ll leave at right tackle just knowing that Tyrus (Thompson) will be back and get those other guys a lot of reps. Another guy – Josiah St. John – has had a really good winter and believe he’s got a chance now to really step in and help at the tackle position with Derek Farniok as well.”

On Tyler Evans coming back from injury:
“He’s doing great. He won’t go through spring ball but his rehab is really going will. I saw him running when we were doing our stations the other day so he’s now running again. He’s making a good comeback.”

On if they were doing strategic preparation in case the 10-second rule passed:
“No. I never believed it would pass so we haven’t had any discussions on how we would modify anything if it did.”

On how pleased he is that it the rule didn’t pass:
“I just think it’s the right thing to do. We put out an article here that one of our (senior associate) athletic directors, Kenny Mossman, as you guys all know, put out that it dates back over 100 years. Bennie Owen and Coach Yost were doing it and Bud Wilkinson beat Maryland in the Orange Bowl back when, when he went to it after halftime of the game.

“There just isn’t any logic to it, there’s just no statistical evidence that says that. And then to me, the biggest ‘why it should be passed’, if anything can be done in the last two minutes of the half, why can’t you do it the rest of the game? I mean, they don’t allow targeting the last two minutes of a half so if you can do it then, you can do it anytime and again, if you’ve got teams that are down two scores or three scores and you’re in the middle of the fourth quarter or if you only have half a quarter to get a chance to come back, you better start snapping the ball and being efficient that way so defenses just need to be more efficient in how they deal with it – that’s just the adjustments they have to make or stay on the field and don’t let them have the ball.”

On if he would be in favor of shortening football games in other ways:
“If they want to shorten the game, make it like the NFL clock. That’s what the NFL does to manage plays and to fit their game into a window that fits TV but I don’t see them changing the pace of play in regard to how they play it – that’s just part of football and always has been. So, I don’t see why that would ever change.”

On if he expects the fight over pace of play to be ongoing:
“I don’t know if there will or not. It’s pretty strong vote of the coaches who are opposed to it than the coaches who are in favor of it.”

On how he feels the Big 12 adding an eighth referee has worked out:
“I didn’t notice the eighth official whatsoever so that must mean that it was good. In my mind, I thought our games were officiated really well, over all. So I think it was probably a good idea or it seemed to be, to me, that it was positive – the eighth official.”

On if the Sugar Bowl win’s positive influence on recruiting has continued and if he expects it to continue in the spring:
“I mean, there’s a positive momentum from it, sure. Again, I believe it isn’t just that, but I believe it’s the work of our assistant coaches in recruiting, and myself.  There’s the positive way we finish, and recruiting has something to do with that as well. It’s hard to determine which is because of the game, which is due to hard work, and the consistent success we’ve had, as well. It’s been positive, though.”

On not letting players solely rely on success from last year:
“It’s obvious to me that they’re not, in that, according to Coach (Jerry) Schmidt, we’ve had probably the best winter we’ve ever had. So, they’re not sitting back thinking about that and not doing what they need to do to move forward. I think more than anything, it’s made them hungrier to build on and to keep improving.”

On Blake Bell’s mindset moving to TE and if he’s embraced it:
“Sure he’s embraced it. He’s excited about it. Genuinely talking to him, he’s really excited to have the opportunity and excited because he believes it’s going to be really good for him, and we do as well.”

On DL Charles Walker and other players that were impressive in bowl practices:
“Charles (Walker) has really been impressive. He had a great fall, he’s a guy that’s up to about 300 pounds now, light on his feet, ran really well when we timed. I want to say he ran in the 4.7’s, so he really has a bright future - works hard. Charles is going to be a big factor in that defensive line to go with the rest of them.

“Some other guys – Jordan Smallwood was really impressive, they finally turned him loose to practice in the bowl practices – really was impressive. I already talked about the young safeties. Also, Michael Onuoha really is a guy ready to make a big move in that defensive line. D.J. Ward, also. Devonte Bond has really looked impressive in our workouts and weights, moving around and strength.”

On WR K.J. Young:
“K.J.’s done a good job – had a good winter. Definitely that receiver group – Dannon Cavil, Austin Bennett. Derrick Woods made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl, has really come on. Durron Neal played a lot last year. Some guys don’t have a ton of experience, but I believe there’s a lot of really good ability there.”

On if he is anxious to see what DE D.J. Ward can do after essentially two years of not playing:
“It’s kind of like riding a bike – he hasn’t totally forgotten about it. D.J. is going to do well. He’s really had an excellent winter, lifting, running, with strength and all that. We threw him out there in the spring game after not practicing the whole spring – he looked pretty good coming off the football. I believe he’s going to do really well.”

On DL Michael Onuoha and D.J. Ward’s position:
“Right now, four techniques. But, we experiment with all of those guys – who can stand up a little bit and who can’t. So, we’ll look at them. You know, Ward will stand over at tight end.” 

On LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo:
“Yeah, he’s another guy that’s up to 245 pounds now and more powerful.”

On the receiver position for the spring after losing seniors Jalen Saunders & Lacoltan Bester:
“Yeah, those guys were big-play guys. But, in the end, it’s like last year, we didn’t have any d-lineman, but we did. We didn’t have any receivers, well, we do. These guys have not been developing, training, ready to take over. Like I said, Derrick Woods made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl when we had to have it on a third-and-twelve or whatever it was – a competitive play.

“Sterling (Shepard) had one of the best games, after us evaluating, had as good of a receiver game as we’ve ever had. I mean, he had a monster game and not just the big plays, even some of the smaller, tighter, competitive, tough plays. Sterling will be a guy that obviously we’re going to go to more and more.

“Durron Neal made some plays a year ago – those guys are just going to have to be more consistent, stay on the field. And then some of the younger guys. Some of the bigger guys like Jordan Smallwood and Dannon Cavil I believe are really ready now to make some plays and K.J.’s in that mix too so it’s a good group, they just haven’t had a ton of time on the field.”

On how he believes QB Trevor Knight will handle his “celebrity status”:
“I haven’t talked with him [about handling celebrity status]. He’s a very spiritual kid that does a lot of church activities and that’ll be up to him, to a degree. What we have always done is try to manage how much– whether it be media, what the time commitments are. Because of school, because of meetings, what he has to do and still enjoy being here. That’s a part of it. I think through the years, Coach Heupel and Chuck Long before him have done a really good job of managing that. I trust those guys that are with him in the meetings, that they understand that a lot better because they’ve been in that position. So between Josh and I, we’ll do our best to advise him and manage it so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Trevor’s a bright, sharp guy that will manage it the right way.”

On the importance of the backup quarterbacks getting work in the spring:
“It’ll be a big part our team’s success, is those guys coming around and getting a really good and consistent feel of what we want them to do at the quarterback position. It’ll really important that we do a good job with them and make sure they work hard in the spring.”

On the work that freshman QB Justice Hansen will get:
“Probably [the most work he’ll get] because of Kendal [Thompson] being gone and Blake [Bell] moving to tight end; it’s opened that window of opportunity for him to get those reps and I’m sure it will be the most a guy like that’s been able to get. But watching Justice work out, he fits the part of being here and belonging so we’ll be excited to get him those snaps and seeing how he does.”

On QB Cody Thomas splitting time between baseball and football:
“I don’t see it being a problem; I see it being something that we’ll all have to manage. Coach Pete [Hughes] and Josh [Heupel], they’ve already communicated really well through the winter here and we want him to have success at both and I know they want him to have it too. So we’ll do the best we can to manage it. So far, it hasn’t been a problem.”

On what his primary focus is for the spring:
“There’s never one thing. It’s just the whole overall team, in every aspect to improve. This part, what we’ve done in the past eight weeks; is to be more powerful, be faster, be stronger and be a more powerful team. Now it’ll be the fundamentals of things at each position and to make improvements. You know, if we make improvements at every position, we’re building ourselves a stronger team—competition and improvement in every area. It’s really exciting; probably my most exciting time of the year because you get to see the young guys that we’ve seen in practice now in a more competitive setting and fighting for jobs and making plays. Not everybody in the outside world gets to see it, but you, as a coach, get to see it in scrimmages or when we go good against good, we start to see them make those kind of plays. It’s exciting when guys start to really figure it out and get ready to play.”

On players being ready to make a name for themselves when they get an opportunity:
“It’s always that way. Guys who have played a little bit or haven’t played at all are really chomping at the bit to show they’re ready for it and that it’s their time now. That’s why it’s always so exciting.”

On Sam Grant changing spots from tight end to offensive tackle:
“I think Sam’s the only – Sam [Grant] really has that frame. He’s such a strong blocker and it just fits his personality, as well. He’s up to almost 280 and he moves really well, being a former tight end, and he’s got the length. He’s really looked good in the weight room, doing our drills and those kind of things. He’s s tough, competitive guy, he’s one of the toughest kids that we have. The other guy that we had ready to go, because of injuries, is Rashad Favors once in a while at fullback. We had him all set, we didn’t get to him at the Sugar Bowl, but he practiced in certain sets at the goal line or in short yardage situations. At the fullback position, he’s probably the strongest guy on the team. It fit him well and he looked good doing it. That’s probably one something that he’ll do at times, but he’ll still be in the d-line too.”

On Daniel Brooks staying a running back:
“I believe that he’ll stay there. He does an awesome job and worked hard for us on scout teams a year ago so we’re excited to see what he’s able to do here.”

On Cortez Johnson getting more playing time:
“It gets down to performing. If you’re ever asking, whether it’s Cortez or any other position, why they’re not playing as much, it gets down to somebody else performing at a more consistent level. There’s no other reason. It’s the same with corner, it’s the same with linebacker, it’s the same at safety, running back, on and on. That means that you make plays that you have opportunities to make, that means you don’t give up plays that you should have made or that the defense is designed to take away, that means you don’t bust assignments, if you get the opportunity to tackle someone, you tackle them, on and on. Who does that the most consistently gets the snaps.”

On his motivation for 2014:
“2014. Every year is different. I don’t think of it like that. All I care about is this year. When this year is done, we’ll put it away and move to the next one. All of us coaches are pretty much the same, we’re wired that way. You take it week to week, month to month, as far as what you’ve done. In the end, I’m just excited to build this team to be the best it can here this year.”

On having his coaching staff intact:
“Well, the consistency and the continuity is there and I thought these guys really, through last year, worked together in a great, great way in the way that they’re teaching their techniques at their positions and the way that they’re communicating separately, offense and defense. We do a great job with all of these guys of communicating across too, offense and defense of what we’ll be seeing this week and how we can help each other. [Telling each other that] defense needs to see this, offense needs to see that, how can we fit it into practice and individual drills. Jerry [Montgomery] and Bill [Bedenbaugh] are going against each other, how do we want to work it today. There’s a lot of that, that’s really been positive and strong and I think, too, that it’s helped us overall, recruiting wise.”

On if the offensive and defensive staff communicating is unique:
“No, I don’t think it is, not where I’ve been. I’ve always promoted that. There’s a lot of dialogue there each day, making sure that they’re helping each other improve.”

On recruiting long snapper Wesley Horky:
“He is really good. We are fired up about him and it something that we really need, with Austin (Woods) being gone. A positive with Wesley is that he can really cover too, which we had with the rifleman James Winchester that we missed last year. While Austin was great at snapping the ball, getting down field and covering people was not a big part of his game. I am elated about (Horkly), honestly.”

On former Sooners Brian Bosworth and Randy Hughes being on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame:
“I didn’t see that, but I am excited about it if that is the case. They are guys that are definitely deserving and that we are proud of here. Randy, of course, a great safety here and then the career he had with the Cowboys and I don’t know of anywhere else. Then Brian, I don’t know what else needs to be said, the only two-time Butkus winner. That is enough said right there. It is pretty amazing and well deserved for both of them.”

On the kicking situation:
“Michael (Hunnicut) is an All-American type guy. I believe this year that will happen for him. He has been right on the cusp of it and he may have been on some teams, I don’t know overall, but I know that the one I was voting on he was within an eyelash of being a first team All-American and probably would have been had he been a senior. He has been awesome. The kick he made in the Sugar Bowl was right down the middle when we had to have it, it was fairly long. (He has been) consistent all year and when your own teammates make you a captain that tells you something too, just what he brings to the team.”

On the different ways, as a coach, to approach the spring game:
“At the end of the day, there is a lot of reasons why you can or don’t. Everyone says, ‘well I would love to have a draft and have my guys go one each side of the ball,” we don’t have enough players to do that. We don’t have enough linemen who are healthy. So you would have a guy taking five minutes to change jerseys every possession. But you can’t, you don’t have the personnel. Sometimes you have so many injuries or you may be thin that you can’t afford to have a spring game and get somebody hurt.

“There are legitimate reasons why, that I believe as a coach, and I have been on the cusp of that sometimes. Some other years when we are a little bit down I don’t want to take a chance on it. It is all great until someone gets hurt and blows a knee out, and then it is, ‘why did I do that?’ So, Coaches have legitimate reasons because of their personnel usually or what they feel is best leading into the year. I think only one time here I had enough guys across the board that we had a draft, and that was fine and good. But other times it didn’t work and it doesn’t work for us this year, so we will have to go offense and defense and do the best we can to simulate a game. In the end you have got to have the players to do it, or enough depth and numbers.  I’m not complaining, but sometimes too, because of gender equity, we are only allowed so many players on the, even walk-ons. Our roster size cannot go above 115. We don’t have all of those freshman in yet, so in the spring you have a reduced roster and it isn’t that easy to manage all of the time.”

On whether there has been an increase in the number of quality walk-ons:
“We have. We have a really exciting increase and more interest in walk-on guys that we believe have legitimate chances to earn scholarships or can really help us. That is positive. Because anyone that has followed us, just like Aaron Ripkowski has been put on scholarship, I have had guys down through the years, if you end up a major contributor and a starter, you are going to earn a scholarship. We have had more of that here this year as well and it is exciting.  We have some guys coming here this fall as well and they will get the same shot that everybody else gets.”

On his impressions of walk-on QB Baker Mayfield:
“Baker introduced himself when I got back from recruiting. He came up, right up here, and I was like, ‘who is this guy coming after me?’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m Baker Mayfield’ and I said ‘I heard about you’. So I am excited about him. He is a neat guy and the players really enjoy him. He has been working in there with the other quarterbacks and I should have mentioned him in there, but I just had my scholarship guys on my list right here, but Baker, obviously as thin as we are in that position, we are elated that he decided to do this. He will have his opportunities as well. We don’t discriminate in any fashion here so he will have the opportunities like everyone else does. But looking at him running around as an athlete out there he looks really good. Again, with his attitude and work ethic he fits right in. I noticed the other quarterbacks helping him out. Anyway, we will see where that goes. At the time, Baker will tell you, he didn’t tell anybody. He had his mind made up about what he wanted to do and didn’t contact me about it. I guess he didn’t want my opinion what he ought to do.”

On why Baker Mayfield wanted to come play at OU:
“No. I haven’t asked him about it yet. From what I understand he always grew up an OU fan of the program and the school.”

On how players are assigned or request to change their jersey numbers:
“They request , and sometimes it is part of the recruiting process and you might have to say ‘yeah.’ But, sometimes it is requested and then it is run through Brad Camp, our head of equipment, who will come up and check with me on it, or the position coach. I have a problem with double numbers, too, so if there is any chance that they will be on the same special teams unit at the same time, then they can’t have the same number. If a guy already has it, then the younger guy has to wait for it and I show them their other options until that one becomes available.”

On what happens if two players who come in at the same time want the same number:
“A lot of times what I will do if that happens is wait to see which one of them is going to play. I won’t allow a guy, unless no one else wants it, to hold a number if they aren’t playing. It is a work in progress all the time, massaging those numbers. When you have 85 scholarship guys who all want a single digit, it is kind of hard. Heck, even (Charles Tapper) and Jordan Phillips came up requesting a single digit and I said that wasn’t going to work.”

On having two players wear No. 28 in Adrian Peterson and Antonio Perkins:
“It was where whatever number you want. Generally the younger guys understand, that I also won’t let some younger guys come in and take your number after you have been playing for two to three years. If there is an issue there where two guys are going to be on the field at the same time, the younger guy has to wait for it if the other guy is playing. If he isn’t playing, than that is another issue too.”

On being set at the group at linebacker:
“Yeah, but are still thin and still recruiting linebackers. Those guys are good players. Frank Shannon and Dominique Alexander had great years. Obviously the outside linebacker, Eric Striker, was sensational. The young guys, Jordan Evans gets in there and goes the entire Texas Tech game and played great. The two true freshman led the team in tackles. They are all doing good and I am excited about them, Jordan and Aaron Franklin also. We also have some guys coming in that are going to be good too.”

On Devante Bond:
“Devante is really an outsider backer. He is more of a Sam or Jack and a rusher. In long yardage he will put his hand down and let him go or stand him up and let him go. Devante is a guy that can matchup with tight ends too. He is 250 pounds and runs really well. He is just a little more powerful in that position.”