Offensive Media Session

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
DECEMBER 17, 2013

Oklahoma Football
Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel
Dec. 17, 2013

On Alabama’s defense:
“They’re really good. They’re big and physical up front, and they make you earn it. The front seven is really talented, and they’re going to pressure you on the outside and make you make some plays. We’ve got to be able to win and make some shots.

“Their front is really good. They’ll eat up two guys especially in their four-man front. They’ll let their backers make some plays. We’ve got to be really good in who we’re targeting in combinations. They’re in and out of three and four-man fronts. There’s a lot on our plate.”

“They’ll mix up their coverages based on some of their pressure that they’re going to give you to. They’ll play some man-to-man. They’ll play some match quarters and some bracket games, too.”

On mixing up the offense:
“We used a little bit of everything the last ball game. We’re finding who gives us the best chance in the style of offense we’re in and gives us the best chance to have success.”

On being consistent through the ups and downs:
“First of all, when you win, there is always better spirits. There’s no doubt about that. But at the same time, our consistency during Coach Stoops’ tenure and being able to bounce back from the ups and the downs, it all really comes from him. He’s consistent. We’re consistent in our approach and the preparation and the process we go through to give ourselves a chance to win the football game.”

On Auburn’s attack against Alabama:
“It was a mixture of things they did. It wasn’t just zone read. That was a part of what they did. They did a good job of executing the front five guys up front and did a good job of getting some movement on the down guys. They’ve got some guys who can make some plays and their cornerback is a fast, explosive player. Everyone knows he’s as good as they come. They have some players who can just make some plays.”

On Texas A&M’s attack against Alabama:
“They have a little bit different style than Auburn. People here have seen (Johnny) Manziel, and he is obviously able to create a lot of things and extend plays on the zone. They made some plays on them. The Evans kid did a great job on one-on-one situations coming down with the football.”

On being prepared:
“We did a good enough job two Saturdays ago to give ourselves a chance to win. They’ll get better with the preparation that they have and the amount of time heading into the Sugar Bowl, but we’re going to need all of those guys to play at a high level.”

On WR Jalen Saunders:
“It’s hard to compare one guy to another a few years apart, but he has an ability to make plays in space for us as an offense. You saw the triple option play on fourth down against Oklahoma State. Obviously the punt returns the past couple of weeks have been huge too, so he’s played a major role in our success down the stretch.”

On the Alabama secondary:
“They’ll mix some of that (press coverage) in depending on down and distance. “

On mixing up the quarterbacks and approach in recent weeks:
“Well, we mixed and matched. Some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t. You’ve got a couple of different injuries that happened the last two or three weeks of the season and you try to put those guys in the position to look successful. We’ll have a mixture of a little bit of everything at the Sugar Bowl to give ourselves a chance to win the ball game.”

Oklahoma Football
Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Jay Norvell
Dec. 17, 2013

On finding out about WR Jalen Saunders:
“A buddy of mine was a head coach at New Mexico State, Dewayne Walker, who I coached with at UCLA, he played against Fresno and he said, ‘This kid’s thinking about transferring, he’s a great player and you need to watch him.’ So we got wind of him and we were really fortunate to get him and then getting him eligible last year was about four or five months of hard work for everybody in the whole administration. That’s been pretty neat. Last year in the spring, we got him and Lacoltan [Bester], and in August we got Justin Brown; so those are pretty big players that we got from oddball recruiting.”

On the biggest improvement in WR K.J. Young:
“Just maturity. It’s hard when kids are away from home their freshman year. He’s made some mistakes but I think, of late, he can kind of see the light. He’s away from home but he’s gotten a chance the last few days in practice to make some plays and he’s really stepping up. We’re really excited about him next year. He, Jordan Smallwood and Austin Bennett are guys that are very competitive and those two inside guys, K.J and Austin, do a lot of things like Jalen [Saunders] and Shep [Sterling Shepard] do. Smallwood gives us a different body type than we’ve ever had. He’s just so big, so physical and so strong for a young guy and he really creates matchup problems. So we’re really excited about the progress of those guys. We were fortunate enough to redshirt K.J. and Austin so they’ll have four years of eligibility and Austin [Brown] has three years left. I was out there looking at Derrick Woods and he hasn’t had a ton of snaps at receiver this year, but he’s a redshirt freshman with three years left. We have a lot of guys out there that have a lot of football left and a lot of college career and they have very good leads, so we’re excited to get those guys in the mix. They’ll have to step up quick in time for spring practice.”

On the importance of the last few weeks for WR Jordan Smallwood:
“He just got cleared, so he’s been out there running around and anxious to make plays. We wanted to use these first three days of practice to really give our young guys a look, and it’s been great. As coaches, it gives us a chance to see what next year’s team is going to look like and it’s given them a chance to get coached hard and get a feel for the competition while the older guys are watching. It’s been a spirited couple of days and fun to watch the young guys compete, and they did some good things. It gives us a good picture and those kids a chance to compete and give you a look at the spring.”

On the recruiting importance of the Sugar Bowl:
“It’s just great exposure. Everyone will be watching; it’ll be the only game on. Oklahoma and Alabama playing, two of the storied programs, so it’ll be great. And we’ll be in New Orleans, playing in the south so we’ll get some exposure to some of those regions down there where we’re trying to get more players from, so I just think that anytime you can play an opponent like Alabama, it’s great exposure. There’s no question that we sell that. More than anybody in our conference, we play great non-conference opponents; whether it’s in bowl games or regular season. That’s the special part about being at Oklahoma, is playing those types of teams. There’s no question that that’s part of the great tradition here and the opportunity to play here is to play those types of games. What, it’s been nine BCS bowl games since Coach Stoops has had in 15 years? That’s impressive and we sell that to our recruits.”

Oklahoma Football
Wide Receiver Jalen Saunders
Dec. 17, 2013

On playing Alabama:
“We are very excited to play in the Sugar Bowl and to play against Alabama. They have been No. 1 the past couple of years so we are excited to play against them.”

On comparisons to former Sooner and current Detroit Lion Ryan Broyles:
“Ryan is a great player and to be compared to him is a great thing. He is in the NFL and he is doing well there despite his injuries.”

On the influence of his uncle, former Cleveland Browns WR, Webster Slaughter:
“A lot. I have watched pretty much all of his tape from college to the NFL. I watched him a lot. In high school when I was playing just receiver he helped me and we focused mainly on wideout. I really appreciate him and what he has done for me. I appreciate my dad as well. They both helped me improve my receiver play. I look up to both of them.”

On having a chance to play in the NFL:
“Given the chance I will certainly try to get the same opportunity. If I’m given the opportunity I will give everything I have to make the most out of the opportunity that I am given and make the most out of it.”

On how Oklahoma has helped his chance of making it to the NFL:
“Oklahoma has a great legacy behind its name and there have been a lot of greats come through here. Adrian Peterson, Ryan Broyles and Sam Bradford, the list goes on and on. So this is just a great program to come out of.”

On having a chance to play in the Senior Bowl:
“I am excited about that. I’m not really looking forward to that until after the season. Right now my first focus is Alabama. I’m very happy to have a chance to play in the Senior Bowl, but right now I am just focused on Alabama.”

Oklahoma Football
Offensive Lineman Derek Farniok
Dec. 17, 2013

On playing Alabama:
“Alabama is great team. They have proven it through the years. We are just getting ready and looking forward to the opportunity to play such a great team.”

On replacing Tyrus Thompson at left tackle:
“I was ready; I was prepared.  I’ve been in all the meetings and paid attention to them; that’s the most important thing. You just have to have the confidence once you get out there.”

On how he has improved in his time at Oklahoma:
“It took some time. I had to improve my flexibility. That’s the main thing at my height, playing low. If you play too high then even the shortest guy can stop you right at the line. It’s important. You have to play lower than the defensive guy.”

On playing against his brother in the Iowa State game:
“We have always tried to outdo each other no matter what we are doing. When it all comes down to it though we are brothers no matter what. When it’s over it is history and we are just happy to be able to talk to each other a little bit. With him at Iowa State and me down here we don’t get as much time as we did in high school to talk to each other. It mainly just us catching up and seeing how things are going.”

On his play against Oklahoma State:
“I feel like I did well. We didn’t really do a grade sheet. We reviewed the game and there are always one or two mistakes that you need to work on. We pointed them out and we just have to keep working on them.”

Oklahoma Football
Offensive Lineman Bronson Irwin
Dec. 17, 2013

On playing Alabama:
“That’s kind of what you live for as a player, going against this kind of team. They’re great against the run and really good in every area. The challenge is something I know I’m, personally, very excited for and I know that the guys as a group are very excited as well.”

On being “afraid” of Alabama:
“This is top-level football. If you’re scared of anyone, you’re already beaten in my mind. A lot of this game is mental and a lot of the games are won before you start. If you ask any guy that question, you’ll get a sour response from anyone. If you say yes to that question, you’re probably in the wrong sport.”

On what they have to do well against Alabama’s defense:
“I think you have to do everything well there. If you look at their stats, they have great guys at every level. I don’t think you can really put all your emphasis in one area because they’re so talented across the board.”

On younger guys that will be leaders next year:
“I think Ty Darlington will be important, Nila [Kasitati], Derek’s [Farniok] done a good job for us in Stillwater. Like I said, there are just a lot of young guys getting reps and experience.”

Oklahoma Football
Running Back Brennan Clay
Dec. 17, 2013

On his impressions of Blake Bell during the last touchdown drive at Bedlam:
“I was extremely impressed [with QB Blake Bell]. I knew that Blake had it in him, he’s a clutch performer and I had full faith in him. He and I, we gave each other a nod when we went out there on that last drive and I honestly believed with all my heart that we were going to win the game. I had full confidence in him and I’m proud to see his success on the field.”

On using the underdog title as motivation:
“I saw some SportsNation poll that said 89 percent of America voted for 'Bama to win and the only state to vote for us was the Okies. So we play for the state and we’re going to go out with a bang.”

On the domino effect this game has on next season:
“I think the last game of the season, any bowl game, has an effect. Coming off a win propels you through workouts. It motivates the team and keeps you going for the next year.”

On accepting an invitation to the East-West Shrine game:
“People look at it as the Senior Bowl, then the Shrine game; those are top two games. To be able to get a bid is a great honor and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Oklahoma Football
Quarterback Trevor Knight
Dec. 17, 2013

On his health:
“My shoulder feels great. I’m getting back out there and practicing and I’m really excited to be back out there.”

On when he expects to be ready to play:
“It’s just based on the individual. They didn’t really give me a timetable.”

On how his shoulder feels:
“It’s feeling good. No problem practicing right now.”

On having his twin brother, Connor, on the team:
“It’s a dream come true. Just having him there for me through the ups and downs has been great and watching him play a little bit on special teams, it’s the best part of the game. Knowing you have somebody, when you get to the sidelines and he’s right there to encourage you no matter what; and outside of football, always having that backbone and somebody to turn to because a lot of these guys don’t have family out here. Of course, we are a family as a team, but just to have that person you’ve known forever next to you is nice.”

On playing physically against Alabama:
“Going into a game, especially the last game of the year, you have to give it everything you got and leave it all on the field.”

On Alabama’s defense:
“They’re a great team; they’ve won the last two national championships. They’re a very physical team,; they’ve set the standard really high, but we’re excited for the opportunity.”

On using the option against Alabama:
“With our coaching staff, I feel like we’re going to develop a really good plan that will give us a good shot. If we go out there and execute the way we can, I think we’ll be okay.”

On the tricks Alabama will use:
“They’re great ball players. They know what they’re doing, obviously, and they can be a challenge for us. They’ve played great all year and we’re going to have to come out and recognize our stuff. We’re going to really get into it starting tomorrow and hit it hard and try to figure everything out.”

On what he heard from coaches after he was injured:
“They told me I need to protect myself. You have to protect your body and that was totally self-enforced on my part, just trying to make a play. That’s football, things are going to happen. I just have to try to protect myself a little bit more.”

On protecting himself from Alabama’s linebackers:
“I don’t think I’ll have to be more mindful than in any other game. You have to protect your body. Everybody can make hits and things are going to happen. You have to get down when you can and when you get all you can get, you have to get down or get out of bounds.”

On taking big hits:
“I’ve kind of noticed that at the beginning of the year you’re not as used to it because it’s been a while since you’ve been hit. But as the season goes on, you figure everything out and when you get older, you figure out how guys play and how to protect yourself a little better.”

On the improvements that some freshmen have made:
“They’re all doing a good job. Cody [Thomas], for one, is doing a great job and throwing the ball around really well. I’m excited for him to get a bunch of reps because this is an exciting time for him. I remember when I was there last year and I can’t believe it’s only been a year, it seems like it was forever ago. But it’s just the starting spot to becoming a really good player.”

On what he remembers from his first bowl game practices:
“It’s a big opportunity. You just have to take that and build on it from there and get better every single day.”

On his thoughts on QB Blake Bell’s performance against OSU:
“We’ve talked about it since then and that’s maybe one of the best two-minute drives we’ve seen around this place. To go out there and win against a sixth-ranked opponent, that’s huge. I’m really proud of him.”

On the vibe with the team now versus after the Baylor loss:
“We’ve kept the same attitude all year long. We’ve battled injuries, we’ve battled adversity, but we’ve always found people to step up and perform and continue making plays. People got down on us at times during the year, but here we are, a 10-win team going to the Sugar Bowl against a great Alabama team. In our locker room, we’ve had that attitude all year long that the next guy has to step up and make plays.”

On his relationship with QB Blake Bell:
“I feel like there’s two ways to go with that: you can turn against each other, or you can make each other better. I feel like Blake and I have gotten a lot closer through this experience and we continue to push each other in practice. It’s been good for both of us.”



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