2014 Spring Game Quotes

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
APRIL 12, 2014
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Head Coach Bob Stoops

 Stoops Press Conference Video

Opening statement:
“I thought overall the game was the solid. It was really exciting to see 43,000 of our fans here, so my thanks for the fans coming out on a great afternoon and making it an excellent day. Hopefully, everybody had fun. I thought our athletic department did a great job of getting it all together and hopefully it was exciting and fun for everybody to spend a couple of hours. Having it on TV is exciting and positive, as well.

“I thought overall the play was really pretty good. We had a lot of guys in there with 16 or so guys out. We have got quite a few guys that really haven’t played much at all in there but they did a good job overall. I thought the quarterbacks, for the most part, on a windy day threw it pretty solid. Our receivers, I thought they made some nice, competitive, catches. I was pleased in particular with the first group on defense and the way we covered. Just the way we played in general. We only played a couple of base structures, and not a lot of schemes to throw at them but also the defense still played fundamental and played solid for the most part. Without a bunch of guys it’s hard to figure out what it’s really going to look like. But it’s still looking good.

“We got lucky with Geneo (Grissom) has an injury, a sprained MCL, which will heal and he will be in a brace for six weeks. He should be able to start once we get back in June. No operation when that’s the case. Dimitri (Flowers) just had a hyperextension and didn’t show any ligament damage. Fortunately that’s the case. That’s always the downside or the part that can really bother you in the spring game is to lose somebody. Fortunately, we got away with it. Everybody should be set back to when we start our primary conditioning and strength and speed training in June. Outside of that I will just open it up for questions.”

On if he thinks his backup quarterbacks handled themselves well:
“For the most part, yeah. I thought they did a good job.”

On if any running back separated themselves from the pack today:

“No, not today. Again, it’s hard to in that we have so many linemen out right now. Bottom line, we are going to play two or three of them regardless. They’re all going to play, that’s just how we do it. For sure, two of them at our pace and the number of snaps we get to have to play. Anyway, those guys will keep progressing.”

On what kept QB Trevor Knight from being more productive:
“A little bit of the defense. It’s not easy throwing it on Zack Sanchez every day. Especially when he sees you every day, goes against you in pass skeleton every day, and in team. All of a sudden those receivers are squeezed and again, it isn’t one guy. If they’re not open, no one is going to look good. At the end of the day, the disadvantage for the offense is always the case that the defense is so familiar with them. They know by formation, what their routes are and it makes it harder. He needs all of his linemen out there for it to work different as well.”

On if whistles kept Knight from making big runs in the spring game that he would normally make in a real game:
“It’s always hard to tell with early whistles whether they have them or not. We don’t worry about that.”

On if he has any answers now that spring practice is over:
“I don’t know that you ever get anything answered in 15 practices. What I feel like is there has been improvement. Players that haven’t had a ton of experience have more now. We’ll build on it. There’s such a long time from now to September that they still have a lot of opportunity to improve and for growth here in the summer and two-a-days.”

On if K Michael Hunnicutt has a stronger leg:
“No doubt. That was great. He had a 53-yarder, of course it was wind-aided but then he had a 47 yarder into the same wind. Michael has been excellent all spring. He has been great and I think he is within an eyelash of being a First Team All-American a year ago. In fact I know he was because I was on the voting deal listening to it. Anyway, he is set to have a big year.”

On if he has kicked anything further than 53 yard this spring:
“We don’t try to. That’s one of those where if you have a wind like today and you have a situation like we did at Kansas State a few years ago and you want to go for a big one you do. We don’t need to practice that a bunch.”

On LB Jordan Evans:
“Yeah, Jordan Evans had an excellent day again today. He has been making that kind of improvement all spring. He’s a really good player. He has gotten a lot bigger.”

On how he felt seeing QB Baker Mayfield play the way he did today:
“I’m disappointed for him that the rules don’t allow him to play (in 2014), but in the end he has been a great teammate to these guys and the staff. We all love him. He has fit in wonderfully here. It’s fun to see that quarterback group pull for each other so hard. Coach (Josh) Heupel develops a great culture in that room of those guys supporting one another. It’s evidenced by last year when we needed a couple of guys to go in there and win. They will all just keep developing, but Baker looked good again here today.”

On TE Taylor McNamara:
“Yeah, Taylor is getting better and better. He caught a pass in the Sugar Bowl and like a lot of young guys, gets stronger and more mature in what we’re asking them to do. His technique is improving. It was good to see him make a few big plays when we needed him to. Isaac (Ijalana) as well. Blake (Bell) is going to be really strong in that position. He has really taken to it. That position, especially like you saw it today too, in the red zone can be harder to defend when you have some size mismatches and you can throw the ball away from people.”

On WR Jordan Smallwood:
“Jordan has been doing that kind of thing. He did it in bowl practices and he has done it in some of our workouts we had and has definitely done well through the winter and spring. Definitely Jordan is a guy that is going to be fighting for a starting job next year and will surely be playing a lot.”

On Frank Shannon’s status:
“Frank right now is working through some personal issues so we will wait and see on that.”

On if there is a heightened energy around and within the program:
“Sure there is probably more excitement. You can naturally hear about that and feel it. I thought our athletic department, give them all the credit for putting this all together and making it a fun day. I obviously agreed to go along with it and it worked out really well. It doesn’t change anything we are doing. We are pretty meticulous with the way that we do things throughout the year. I can say that through the winter, probably the positive energy that carried over according to Coach (Jerry) Schmidt, we had our best winter that we can remember as far as fewest misses and the energy and the way the players pushed each other. Whether it’s because of that or whether we have one of those teams that is really high character and likes to work. Then, you continue to build on it.”

On managing expectations for this team:
“If you can get everyone to print that we don’t have a prayer next year, we are going to lose 10 games and we are going to lose by double digits, if you could get that done I would not have to worry about that. That is not going to happen, so, it is always part of visiting with your players to have the right mindset, no matter if they say good things or bad things. It is what are we doing about it to be our best. That is what we always try to focus on.”

On FB Dimitri Flowers’ game today:
“It is what we have seen from him all spring. He is a natural player out there and he fits in right away right out of high school. He is only going to get stronger and bigger, which will help him. Has a natural feel for the game and is a very bright young man, picking up on schemes and everything. As you can see, a player very similar to Trey (Millard) in how versatile he is.”

On how the safeties played today:
“I thought they were all good. Ahmad Thomas made some great open-field tackles, Hatari Byrd has been solid all spring and of course Quentin Hayes has already played and has been great all spring, so those three guys are definitely in a great position. We have got to have some other guys come in and fill some roles. Julian Wilson will be back in the fall and can play either corner or safety. Julian has the speed to play either one, and he has the size to do either one. Cortez Johnson will be back, I guess he is not in the safety spot, but he just had an injury and he thought he would be able to go but he will be fine next week.”

On managing quarterback reps today:
“I said we will see what Coach (Josh) Heupel wants to do. In the end, he is the one that wants to manage it, and he does manage it and he manages it well, evidence by all the good quarterback play that we have had for the most part for so many years.”

On whether his excitement toward the defense has changed over the spring:
“No. I feel great about it.  I feel we are just scratching the surface, and again with the entire summer here to get stronger and even build more power, I know that we will be bigger and will be more physical. I am really excited about it and I know that we are more versatile than what we were able to do. We hardly did anything today. I love the structure over all and how they played. When we start adding schemes and different blitzes and first down blitzes, it has the chance to be really good. I believe we have got some really strong young players coming in to add to it.”

On QBs Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen:
“I thought they did a nice job, watching them. They threw nice balls and they didn’t throw any awful passes where they threw it right to a guy. I thought they did a nice job of letting the game come to them for the most part.”

On LB Jordan Evans:
“He has played great. Jordan has really improved and is much more sound and disciplined in schemes and where he needs to be. He looks skinny and is 220, so he is a guy that maybe next year will play at 225 or 230. He has got great range and great athleticism. He is playing well.”

On if Daniel Brooks is starting to come back to form after an injury:
“Definitely. Daniel has been a great worker for us and had a nice game out there today. You definitely see his cuts coming back and his speed.”

On LB Eric Striker becoming more versatile:
“He is just a natural athlete when we have him out in space. He does a great job disrupting receivers, and he does a great job, obviously, when we bring him off the edge blitzing and attacking people. We just have him in a position where we think he can affect the game more. When we want to on third downs we just have him put his hand down and let him do one of the things he does the best.

“Part of our structure is trying to be balanced in that we want to create indecision on which edge we are coming from. It does balance us up more but also Eric is very effective out there in coverage. We loved what we saw of him out there when he is not coming, so we are really excited for it.”

On if there are any concerns with the defense:
“Not really, but depth is always an issue, we need more players. We are really thin in the secondary. These players coming in next year, we are going to have them ready to play just like we did this year and just like these young safeties played some last year, these guys coming in will have to help us this year. We feel that they have the talent to do that. There are some depth issues but the group that will be out there first, I believe will be excellent.” 

Co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel

 Heupel Press Conference Video

On the quarterbacks:
“You’ve got a lot off young quarterbacks out there, so it’s a learning experience for all those guys. They made some plays, made some bad plays or didn’t operate well in the game sometimes. There are a lot of little details that young quarterbacks will miss and they’ve got to learn from it. Ultimately, those guys need experience.”

On Baker Mayfield:
“He’s a guy that’s performing extremely well for the 14th day. In our meeting room, he’s the most experienced guy. Obviously some of that wasn’t here but he performed in a great way. The guys in our program love him and we look forward to him being eligible whenever that is.”

On Trevor Knight’s performance:

“It was a combination of everything. Not seeing the coverage or recognizing it. Today was not his best performance. He’s continued to make strides since the Sugar Bowl. It’s not like he played perfect in the Sugar Bowl, no quarterback is going too. He’s really good but there are things he missed in that game, too. It’s a constant process of continuing to get better and understanding defenses. He’s by no means a finished product. The great thing about him is he’s going to come to work tomorrow and keep pushing himself to get better.”

On what he’s looking for in a quarterback:
“You want a guy who can manage the football game. Every little detail shows up during the course of a football game. Being able to communicate and get to the line of scrimmage, be decisive with the football, get to the right spot, those are all things that you have to do to make it look easy. I love the way all those guys competed and bounced back when they made a bad play, but we obviously have a long ways to go. We’re a long ways away from where we want to be in September.”

On Keith Ford and Alex Ross:
“I feel like both of those guys have progressed a long way this spring. They’re both capable of getting into the open field and going the distance. They’re both strong, physical runners. They’ve both caught the ball extremely well. They’ve made some strides during spring ball.”

On the hype surrounding the team after the Sugar Bowl:
“Hopefully our kids understand that they’re only going to be as good as their next performance. I do think that the energy is a positive thing for this program. Our kids understand that we’re not that far away from being where we want to be. They’re pushing for it every day. “

Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops

 M. Stoops Press Conference Video

On the defensive play:

“I thought it was good. I thought we did a lot of good things. We didn’t show much. We used our base defense 90 percent of the time and blitzed maybe five to 10 percent of the time. I thought it was a good day overall. I thought we kept the ball out of the end zone. I’m unsure of the (No.) 1s, I don’t think they got in. Overall it was a good day. It’s hard competing against your own team competitively and seeing guys get hurt, but it’s just the nature of the game. Overall I thought it was a pretty good day by the 1s. Our 2s and 3s are a little rough to watch at times, but we’ve just got to get better and we have a lot of good players right now. The big thing for us is to go back and see what we did personnel wise, and with some of our players back I think it’s going to give us some flexibility that we didn’t have.”

On the safety position:
“The free safety position -- we have to continue to develop the playmaking abilities of Hatari (Byrd) or Ahmad (Thomas), whoever that is. We rotated Ahmad between strong and free and we have a three-way rotation with the 1s. Q (Quentin Hayes) has solidified himself as our strong safety. We’re giving Ahmad and Hatari a chance to compete, and certainly we’ll look at Stevie Parker and give those other guys one when they get here. We have to continue to make that position a playmaking position. Right now we just have to get better at it so they can be more productive. The free safety is something we have to get better at, and they’ll get better at it as they get more comfortable with it. Both players have only been in the system for a year. They’re getting where they can react quicker and make plays with it.”

On the defense being complete:
“I think this is the most complete defense we’ve had since we’ve been here. When we get our players back and get our freshmen in here, I think we can be a very deep football team, deeper than we were in the past couple of years, for sure. It doesn’t look that way today because we’re thin in a couple of positions and kept a lot of our 1s out, and the 2s were a big part of the second half. When we get the group back healthy in camp, hopefully we can get everyone here ready to go for camp and get everyone healthy.”

On Eric Striker:
“Eric (Striker) is very disruptive. You don’t want to over-coach him. He has a scheme that he’s trying to execute, but there’s stuff that you can’t coach. Great football players you shouldn’t have to coach every inch on the football field. Eric has great instincts. He’s not only a great player, he has a great feel for the game, and that’s what great players do. They feel the game. He knows when to take his shots. We don’t want to limit his energy and his ability to make big plays.”

On Jordan Evans and Dominique Alexander learning last season:
“We feel they gained a lot of experience a year ago, and I think as a young player you get in the battles, you survive and advance a little, and now you understand what you need to get better at. I think those players that play here understand their physical capabilities are and they need to expand upon those. I think both players have done that. “

On the defense making it hard on the offense today:
“I don’t really remember. You get so familiar with plays. Our players react to plays and have seen them all spring. It gives you an advantage for the 1s; the 2s didn’t work that way. They’re not as smart as the 1s. You get to see a lot of that, the pressures. It’s hard for people to sit back there and throw. Our ability to rush the pass is better than it’s ever been and we try to make them as uncomfortable as we can. This is a good group of defensive players.”

On depth at linebacker:
“The linebacker position is a big position for us right now, and we’re just going to have to make adjustments. What they are, I can’t really tell you at this point. Frank’s (Shannon) status, I’m not at liberty to discuss that. Our linebacker position is something that we need to gain some depth there.”

 Players Press Conference Video

Linebacker Jordan Evans

On his performance:
“I felt really good. I feel like I made some plays that gave me some confidence for the rest of the scrimmage. I’m really proud about my individual play and the defense as a whole.”

On his hit that caused an interception:
“It always feels good to get a big hit. That’s my boy K.J. (Young) though and I didn’t want to mess him up. He already said something to me in the locker room, but that’s just football. It’s all fun and games.”

On being ready for opportunities:
“Opportunities always come and you always have to be ready. They come and you either have to take advantage of them or not.”

On growing into the defense:
“I feel like I finally grew into the system. I had to get with the program and that’s not the defense growing around me, that’s me growing into the defense. The coaches are on my tail everyday. It comes down to maturity more than anything.”

Tight End Taylor McNamara

On the tight end group:
“It’s kind of a combination of the guys we’ve got in. With Blake (Bell), Dimitri (Flowers), Rip (Aaron Ripkowski) and a bunch of guys -- Connor (Knight). We’ve got a bunch of guys who can make plays.”

On what’s different this year:
“It feels a lot different in just the stuff we’re running. It’s good.”

On if he feels better:
“I think so. I think it is from being older and maturing. I feel more confident.”

Quarterback Trevor Knight

On his play today:
“Today, like you said, had some good plays, had some bad plays, but it’s fun to get out and play in front of 43,500 fans, which is just awesome to have that support. We had a chance for a lot of young guys to come in and do some work. I’m excited to see how they’re working, and that holds true to the whole spring. Due to injuries and the competitive nature of the young guys, they were able to come in and work hard, and I’m excited about how they’re working.”

On knowing defensive/offensive tendencies today:
“After 14 practices you kind of get a feel for what the other side of the ball is doing. The name of the game is execution. You can tell them what you’re doing, but you still have to execute. We have to be sharper on those kinds of things, but I feel like we did a decent job in some areas.”

On the tight end group:
“I think it’s a testament to the way they’ve been working. If they’re working as hard as they can, which they have been, we need to get them on the field because that’s what is working for us. They’re producing right now.”

On stepping into being the oldest quarterback:
“I expect to be more of a leader. Last year I was the youngest quarterback in our meeting room. Cody (Thomas) was redshirting, but I was the youngest guy who was eligible. I have to step into that leadership role, not just in our meeting room but as a whole team, just getting the guys rallied around me and carrying that momentum from last year and working it into this season.”

On assessing his play compared to the end of last season:
“I’m just stepping into that leadership role and I’m a more confident leader. I’m not looking over my shoulder as much. I’m stepping into that role and getting reps with the A-team guys, and we’re building chemistry.”

On the difference between this spring and last spring:
“It’s going to be a lot easier vocally, just knowing that I’m the vocal leader now, and I need to step into that role a little more. I just want to be the same guy every day, just working as hard as I can and being that guy that’s not messing up in the weight room, and then going into practice working hard.”

Linebacker Eric Striker

On his performance:
“I feel like I did good; just running around and having fun, that’s all.”

On his transformation into a complete linebacker:
“I used to only do pass rushing, but now I’m taking steps, reading tackles and guards. I would say I got a little more complete this spring.”

On changing the perception of defense at OU:
“There’s a lot of confidence around here in the linebacker group and the d-line group. That’s what they were trying to do two years ago; they just came up short. But now we’re bringing it back. There’s a lot of confidence; we know what we have to do to get there.”

On LB Jordan Evans’ performance:
“Jordan [Evans] did good today. He knows what he has to do, and he’s really hard on himself. But I thought he played pretty well today. I have confidence in Jordan. When he came in for Texas Tech, he had a lot of pop to him, so I always had confidence in him.”

Fullback Dimitri Flowers

On his performance in spring practice:
“I’ve come a long way, just working with Coach [Jay] Boulware, Coach [Josh] Heupel and even Coach [Bob] Stoops. With some work in the film room, I’ve come a long way.”

On graduating high school early:
“I always had intentions of graduating early, no matter where I was going to go. Once I started talking to OU, they told me that would be a big part in helping me get on the field early, so that’s what I did. So far it’s going pretty well.”

On the impact he wants to have:
“I just want to come in here with my versatility and do as much as I can. Whatever needs to be done, I’ll step in and do it.”

Wide Receiver Jordan Smallwood

On his improvement in the spring:
“I’ve gotten a lot better. A lot of things happened last season, but I’ve gotten a lot better and overcome a lot of things and I’m ready for this year.”

On his injury last season:
“It was pretty tough. I worked so hard to come out there and play and to get hurt like that was a setback. But I had a lot of people supporting me and getting me better and here I am now.”

On bowl prep:
It was huge for me. I didn’t know what to expect after missing a whole season, and I didn’t know how defense was or the tempo of the game. It took some time, but here I am now.”

On getting back to normal after the injury:
“After the bowl prep I started feeling myself again and started feeling like I could improve. I’m working on that right now. I’m never settling for where I am right now. I just always want to improve.”

Cornerback Zach Sanchez

On how it felt to play:
“It just felt good, you know, just to go out there and compete in front of the fans. Your adrenaline is flowing; it’s not just like a scrimmage. It felt good to get out in front of a crowd again.”

On his development:
“I’ve made big strides in the spring and winter, but I still have some things I have to improve on. I look forward to being that guy for them in the fall.”

On the defense’s progression in the spring:
“I think we’ve gotten a lot better, you know, getting the young guys in and getting them reps against the first team. Guys got a lot better and more consistent. We had a really good spring.”

Quarterback Baker Mayfield

On how the game went:
“It went pretty well. It was good to get back out there and get a game time experience. There was a great crowd and I think it went well for everybody.”

On Trevor Knight:
“The way he conducts himself as a leader, people respond. He steps into a room and the energy level goes up. That’s the kind of leadership we have to have at the quarterback spot here to win a national championship.”

On having the most game time experience:
“I have had the most game time experience and that helps. I’m trying to help out Justice (Hansen) because he still should be in high school and he’s got to get his game time speed up and his reactions. He’s doing a great job for where he is and how young he is. I’m just trying to give tips and pointers, but they’re doing a great job helping me since I’m learning a new offense.”

On why he chose OU:
“I had the plan to come here because I wanted to win a national championship, whether it’s driving the defense on scout team or doing whatever. I grew up an OU fan, so I’m just trying to help out however I can.”

On growing up an OU fan:
“I grew up in Austin, so it’s kind of an odd thing. My dad had some friends who used to coach here and we used to come up here for games. I was born into it.”

On having to wait to play:
“I was trying to make it like a game time experience for myself so that I’ll have that thought and mentality for the next time I have that experience. It’s just trying to compare it and use it for the next one. I felt I did well, but there’s definitely stuff I need to work on. I’m patient enough. I think I’ll be okay. It’ll be rough, but I’ll get through it.”



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