Venables, McCoy, Beal, Harris, Homes and Franks meet with media.
MIAMI -- Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables joined DT Gerald McCoy, DE Jeremy Beal, SS Nic Harris, FS Lendy Holmes and CB Dominique Franks in a session with the press at the media hotel in Fort Lauderdale this morning. Below is a transcript of the press conference provided by the Orange Bowl.
COACH VENABLES: Well, as much as anything we're trying to adjust to difficult conditions down here in south Florida. The weather is really stressing us out (laughing).
No, actually it's been a while since we sweated like that at practice. Our guys are locked in, focused in, having a good time. As much as anything preparations are going really, really well. We've got a beautiful practice facility, and our guys are just obviously anxious, having practiced now and prepared for three weeks, we're obviously anxious to get to the game here and see how we match up against University of Florida. A great challenge sitting in front of us. Our guys recognize the ability, the skill level, the explosiveness of University of Florida's offense, led by a great, great player in Tim Tebow, and really, again, looking forward to the match up, kind of see where we stand.
Q. Tim Tebow has been described as a guy who has a frame of a linebacker and legs of a running back. Based on what you have seen on film of him, what challenges will he pose to your defense?
GERALD McCOY: Tim Tebow is a great player, big guy, strong guy, and he knows his offense. He knows what he's facing. He always does a great job going against any defense he faces. There's a lot of different things that their offense poses. You kind of never really know where the ball is going, and you've just got to read your keys and react. It's nothing we haven't seen before. I think we'll be ready for the challenge.
NIC HARRIS: With him I feel essentially that it's a supporting cast. He's a run first type of guy, but at the end of the day he can get the ball out to those speed guys on the outside. We've got to focus on making sure we tackle in space and continue to prepare the way we've been preparing for three weeks.
Q. If I could follow, Nic, he does that jump ball type thing sometimes, too, comes to the line and just jumps it over, tosses it. Is that something that you have seen before by other quarterbacks?
NIC HARRIS: Not necessarily. You know, he's a lot of run first fakes and he'll step back and pass the ball. We really haven't seen that playing Big 12 ball, guys playing in the shotgun and stuff like that. At the end of the day we have time for prepare for it, and we should be extremely well come January the 8th.
Q. Brent, you alluded to it's a little difficult getting used to the south Florida weather. Have any of you been to south Florida? Been to South Beach? Been around this atmosphere? What's it like this week, because I know there are a lot of outside things you guys could be doing?
NIC HARRIS: I guess I'll answer that question. It's great. You know, to come down here or whatever and to leave the weather that we were in. But at the end of the day, as long as you stay focused and know why you're here, you can't get sucked into the perils of south Florida. A lot of guys have been here or whatever, spring break, family trips and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we're here to win that championship game.
Q. Nick, they're going to have Percy Harvin back for this game. What do you have to do as a defensive back to watch where he is on the field? Do you do anything different because he's back in the game?
NIC HARRIS: Not necessarily. We've never tried to as a defense, an Oklahoma defense, we've never tried to focus on one primary player. They have a lot of great players on their team. We understand he's going to be back, but he also has to understand that Oklahoma is here to play ball, as well.
Q. Brent, with their switch in coordinators, are you anticipating anything different? Mullen is still going to call plays, but is that just something else you're thinking about at all?
COACH VENABLES: I don't think so. I think you'd be naïve to believe otherwise. They've got a great system and a staff of tremendous assistant coaches and obviously led by Coach Meyer. Coach Mullen is professional enough, as we all are, to understand, again, how you balance a variety of things, whether it's personal or professional, and like I said, when you have a player of Tim's caliber and how well he knows that system, he's like a coach out on the field. I know that they as a staff, starting with Coach Mullen, will approach this game no other way other than, again, in a very professional, workmanlike attitude and effort, and they'll be ready to play and put their best foot forward, just like we will.
Q. Obviously you get to practice against one of the best offenses in the country. I know it's not the same as Florida's, but is there anything you can take away that's going to help you with the speed and the quickness of this team?
COACH VENABLES: I think our offense is very dynamic just like Florida's. There's playmakers at the skill level, a very, very high level. Obviously we feel our offensive line is as good and brings as much of a physical presence as any offensive line in the country. Obviously when you have a quarterback with Sam's ability, his precision, his decision making, his presence, again, that's hard to beat. Florida will present a very similar type of challenge that stresses you both mentally and physically.
Again, it's a new system, though, too. We haven't seen that kind of a system in the Big 12. But like everything, every week is a little bit different. Again, you've got to cut the head off the snake. Each and every week we've seen a bunch of tremendous, tremendous quarterbacks with the ability to execute, and decision making is probably in the conference from top to bottom, the best collection of quarterbacks as anywhere in the country.
I think they've proven that not just this year, if you look at last year, as well. So that being said, obviously we see a great challenge every day, and again, we'll have our hands full here on Thursday night but something that we're really looking forward to.
Q. Could I have Gerald and Nic talk about how it's been staying focused during the holidays and the break that you guys have had since your last game?
GERALD McCOY: Well, being on a break like that, you have to stay focused. It's easy to get lost in sleep when you're not doing nothing. You've got to keep your head in it. You can't look at how far away the game is. That's why as soon as we found out who we were playing, we went to preparing immediately, because if you don't, you'll start realizing the game is so far away, so I don't need to get focused right now. Playing in a game like this you need to be focused the entire time, whether it's a month, two months, whatever. You're playing a great team, has a lot of great players, has a former Heisman Trophy winner. So we had to stay focused, we had to get focused immediately, and it's been that way as soon as we found out who we were playing.
NIC HARRIS: I think our coaches made sure that we don't become overconsumed with it, as well. Sometimes you can super saturated with things , and at the end of the day he's provided adequate breaks for us to go home, see our families, stuff like that.
Q. Florida talks a lot about the Ole Miss loss, how that kind of changed their season. They saw it as a blessing in disguise. Since the Texas game you guys have been pretty much rolling on all sides. Do you see that loss as a blessing, or is it still just execution, you just changed something after that game?
NIC HARRIS: Never a blessing, especially on the Oklahoma defensive side of the ball. We never want to lose a game, and that was one that ultimately got away from us. If we could go back and play that game again, I'm pretty sure that we would.
GERALD McCOY: Losing to Texas was big for us. I think it kind of opened our eyes to a lot of different things. But we've grown since then, and I think we've turned into a completely different team with winning the games that we've won. We've won some big games since then, and I think we'll go into this game prepared.
Q. Sort of following up on that, people have talked about the offense and how it's exploded since that game, but you guys defensively have kind of done that, too, in terms of getting turnovers, really explosive there, too. Can you talk about the importance of turnovers and what's clicked since that Texas game and getting those?
COACH VENABLES: I would probably we took a couple games of some growing pains, lost our middle linebacker and had three first year players at that position. If you had the experience of going through just coaching in general and those guys are kind of the quarterback on defense, at least for the front seven in particular, there's some growing pains there for a couple of games, just trying to get some good chemistry, trying to find the right guys. As a matter of fact Nic graciously volunteered to play middle linebacker the game after Texas, trying to get another freshman ready and didn't want to get him overwhelmed.
So anyway, a little bit inconsistent the next couple games, but really starting with the Nebraska game I think the first play of the game we intercepted and took it back for a touchdown. Guys are getting more and more comfortable, a guy like Dom Franks, a guy that's made a ton of plays for us as a first year starter. I think Dom has had a couple of touchdowns this year.
But the turnovers have been huge, and obviously all the credit is well deserved with our offense. When they get the ball, they know what to do with it. But our defense has scored or set up 154 points this year, 40 yards or less field position for our offense. Any offense is going to execute well and put points on the board. We take great pride in that. There's some areas that we'd like to be more consistent but we've really felt we've grown into our own, improved every week really since the beginning with the Nebraska game, and again, really a young, mature defense. It's only getting better and really understanding the totality of their responsibilities, trusting the guy next to him and playing on instinct and aggressiveness, the more sure they are of themselves.
GERALD McCOY: Personally I feel the coaches have done a great job recruiting, and I say that because they're also doing a great job of preparing the twos or even the threes. They make sure not only the ones are ready but the twos and threes are ready to go just in case something like that happens. I feel we have a great depth on this team. That's why I say the coaches have done a great job recruiting. And like I said, they do a great job preparing. So when one man goes down, we have another man who can step in and take over right then. You never know who can take over a game at any point on this defense, and that's why I feel we have a real good one.
Q. If the players could talk about how it is, your perspective on Florida playing in Florida, almost a home game for them. Any thoughts on that, on your perspective?
NIC HARRIS: Obviously any time you have a team that's home state and they're hosting the home state or whatever, it's going to be a great challenge for the opposing team, as well. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter when we get between the white lines. Nobody can win the game besides those 11 guys out on the field at any given point in time. We understand that. Got to make sure the guys on the offensive side of the ball as well as the defensive ball understand that, as well.
GERALD McCOY: It is somewhat of a home game basically because they're in Florida, but like Nic said, the game can be played anywhere. Once you're inside the white lines it doesn't matter. You can take two teams and put them out on the practice field and it's going to be the same game. All it really is is just fans. We're not really worried about that. You have to recognize and know that that is a factor, but we're just going out there to play and win the game.
COACH VENABLES: This is our 19th Orange Bowl, so we're pretty comfortable down here and have had great success. I think the last time in 2000 when we won it against Florida State, same thing. I think our fans will show up, and if that showing is indicative, and I believe it is, the type of fans we have, we have as good of fans as anybody in the country, and they'll be there not only in spirit but in large numbers, as well. Plus everybody likes to pull for the underdog, right? So I think we're pulling for all those corporate sponsors and tickets to lean in Oklahoma's favor.
Q. To any of you guys, this game has sort of been billed as the SEC style with their defense and the Big 12 style with their offense. Do you take a little disrespect from that?
COACH VENABLES: It's not the SEC versus the Big 12. It's Oklahoma against Florida, the match up on Thursday night. That's it. People can sit and debate about who's better defense, who's better offense. I mean, they didn't have a big debate about the Mountain West versus the SEC the other night, because it still comes down to execution, it comes down to tackling, it comes down to staying on top, it comes down to getting off the field or converting on 3rd down. It doesn't matter. It's for everybody else to debate. It's not for us. We're concerned more than anything else about how we match up and how we play against Florida. That's it.
NIC HARRIS: At the end of the day it's about winning, whether you're in the SEC South, Big 12 North, Mountain West, the WAC conference, whatever. At the end of the day it's about winning. You have the privilege to play in a Bowl game, whatever Bowl game it is. Fortunately it's the National Championship for us, and what we want to do is we want to win.
GERALD McCOY: I guess they said it all. All I have to say is we're going to go out there and win a game.
Q. Coach, I had a question for you: Talk a little bit about what motivates these players. What do you see works in practices, game time? What do you use to motivate these guys?
COACH VENABLES: Thankfully you don't have to motivate these guys. They enjoy playing with each other, enjoy the camaraderie. They enjoy to compete. They've got great character, really, really strong chemistry as a football team. Again, more in this day and age everybody breaks down the offense, everybody breaks down the defense, and you talk almost in different entities, really. In the end it's your team, how well you play together as a team, the chemistry you have as a team, how you feed off of each other, and our guys have got great, great respect for each other. Starting with Coach Stoops and the way he is around our team, the players feed off of that, and everybody does just as much as anything we've got a great group of guys that love the game, love to compete and love representing the University of Oklahoma.
Q. To any of you guys, this game has been billed as the SEC and all of its defense and the Big 12 and all of its offense. Do you take any disrespect from those comments, when people don't think you play defense?
LENDY HOLMES: Yeah, I mean, like I said, they're just commentators. We're not worried about what they're saying. I know that we're going to go out there and play those games every week, and they just sit up there and just comment on talk about how we play. We just use it as motivation to just move on.
JEREMY BEAL: Yeah, I mean, not the commentators, but people say we can't play defense, but I think we know we can play defense. That's what we're going to go out and do on Thursday is just play defense and do what we do.
Q. For Jeremy, you're up front. If he's running the ball more, do you see it as more of a challenge, or do you agree?
JEREMY BEAL: Yeah, I see it as more of a challenge because when you have a quarterback who can run, it's tough running the front four. So yeah, we're going to have to prepare a lot more for the run in the front seven.
Q. I realize this stage is slightly grander here, but how much did playing at Union and playing in those state championships and playing Jenks, how much does that prepare you for being in a championship like this?
DOMINIQUE FRANKS: It prepared me a lot. Being in high school and playing in front of all those people, you never expect to play in front of 25,000 to 30,000 people in high school. Then when you're in college you're used to it. Me preparing for that in high school, it really showed me what it takes to be a champion and what I need to do to help my team win.
Q. Could you talk about Florida's receivers, what kind of things you see from them, what, if anything, stand out to you?
LENDY HOLMES: Good receivers, good speed. Percy and obviously everybody talks about him being a fast guy, which he is, and never even talk about the other receivers, which they are a good group of receivers. We can't just be focused on Percy. They're all out there catching and running just the same as Percy. But Percy is just doing a little more.
DOMINIQUE FRANKS: They have a lot of great speed and a lot of big play guys. When they catch the ball, taking sweeps, taking handoffs, anything like that, we've just got to be great in open space and being able to tackle is going to be the key factor in this game.
Q. Can you talk about Harvin, how they line him up in different places and just following him on the field and kind of your responsibility of shadowing him?
LENDY HOLMES: They put him at cornerback or they motion him, get a little sweep play. Just like I've been saying, if we just play sound defense and just play our roles, everything will be good, and just contain him.
DOMINIQUE FRANKS: I think with Percy, he's a guy that whenever they break the huddle, you always got to know where he is. You know, if he's lined up at wide out, you always got to respect that he can run it wide, but he can also return to the backfield, and they can do some running plays with him, or he can just line up in a quarterback formation and take the snap and do some running game from there. So he's a real special player to their offense. Whenever he breaks the huddle, we've got to make sure we know where he is at all times.
Q. Can you just talk about their offensive line, what kind of things you see from them as you look at them on tape?
JEREMY BEAL: The offensive line, they're big, strong and fast. I mean, they're physical, they can block well, and it's going to be a real challenge for our front four, even our front seven.
Q. Jeremy, since the Texas loss, a lot of people have talked about the offense and all the points that you guys have put up, but defensively you guys have turned it around since then, too. What's been the key?
JEREMY BEAL: After the Texas loss, the defense kind of came together, and we kind of spoke and decided that we need to step it up, as well, especially since after Ryan went down, too. And I think the key was we got progressively better every week, and we tried to get better every day, as well. So I think that's been the key.