Full coverage of Oklahoma football's weekly press conference from Norman.
NORMAN, Okla. --
Head coach Bob Stoops and select Oklahoma players met with the media Monday in advance of OU's season-opener against UTEP at the Sun Bowl in El Paso .
The No. 4 Sooners square off with the Miners at 9:30 p.m. (CT) Saturday in El Paso. The game will be televised by FOX Sports Net.
For complete coverage throughout the week, details on attending the game and broadcast options for following the Sooners from around the world, visit Sooner Gameday Central
|| Head Coach Bob Stoops
"Here we go again starting another season. I know fans and people around the country are excited. I know all us coaches and players around the country are equally fired up about finally having a chance to compete against someone else instead of running into each other.
"Heading into the UTEP game I feel our guys have really done an excellent job the last several weeks of going through camp in a positive way other than the early injury to Tyler Evans and the inability for Ben Habern to play. Outside from that we've really for the most part we've kept everyone fairly healthy. A few ankles here and there but everyone for the most part has gone through pretty well. It makes our offensive line a little more thin but I do feel our quality of players will be good and positive.
On Landry Jones:
"He's improved. He's throwing the ball really well, really accurate. I think the ball is getting there quicker. He is more mobile he's worked hard on that all spring and summer; avoiding pressure and keeping some plays alive and I've noticed it."
On the Receivers:
"I feel like they've really come along with Kenny Stills being back. The addition of Justin Brown from Penn State has really helped that group. Justin's an excellent player, very talented. He has a lot of maturity and toughness to him and competiveness. He's making tough plays. To go also with Trey Metoyer who has shown through the spring and summer a consistent ability to do that. Some young guys have stepped up. Sterling Shepard, Lacolton Bester, Durron Neal. All those guys will contribute and play."
On the Running Backs:
"Dom [Whaley] appears to be back to his normal self. I kind of said that on my Big 12 conference call in show earlier. I felt that Dom and the good Lord might be the only ones that know if he's a 100 percent or not but he sure looks it to me in all the sessions we've been in. To go with him, Brennan Clay's been a mainstay. Roy Finch as well, he'll go between slot and running back. Damien Williams has been impressive and will definitely get a bunch of snaps as well."
On the Defense:
"I feel like we've made some good progress overall with the consistency with practice and scrimmages. We've got some experience and senior leadership up front, which is a positive, and with the secondary same thing. All those guys back there have played quite a lot and I've seen more consistency at their play and at linebacker, as well. I feel like hopefully we can make some improvements there, I feel like we have."
On the Special Teams:
"Those guys had really excellent years a year ago. Tress Way, Michael Hunnicutt, Daniel Franklin will do the long snapping and Austin Woods is doing the field goal snapping. Austin has been able to go through all our practices and looks good."
On going to El Paso:
"We're looking forward to going to the Sun Bowl there and playing UTEP. We had a positive experience there a few years ago playing against an excellent Stanford team. So some of our guys have familiarity with playing there. Like always, hopefully we can be at our best and start the year off in a good way."
On the team's preseason ranking:
"You have to go earn it, you have to stay healthy. You get a break here or there and you have to play well. I think our guys have done that. As far as talent I think in today's college football everybody's pretty similar. With the top 10, 15, 20 teams there's not a whole lot of difference. Usually what makes a difference maybe more so than talent is who has more experience. In today's game there is so much parity that everyone's pretty similar."
On the members of the defense who have departed:
"It's natural to graduate guys at the college level. I do feel that we do replace them with two seniors who rotated with Frank and Ronnell all along. They've played as many snaps as those guys or pretty similar. They're always the mainstays at that rotation - R.J. Washington and David King. Chuka Ndulue has really come on and is ready to step in there and be one of those guys, hopefully."
On UTEP QB Nick Lamaison wanting to outdo QB Landry Jones:
|| Senior DL David King
"Anytime an opposing player from another team says 'I want to outdo this guy, this guy;' it's going to reach over to the defense. I'm going to challenge our defense this week, starting up front with the d-line. Make sure [Lamaison] doesn't have the kind of game he wants to have. Let Landry shine how he is capable of doing."
On not taking UTEP lightly:
"That would be one of my major concerns, coming out and down-playing an opponent. We did that a couple times last year, and it came back and got us. You can't do that, you've got to prepare for this team. They can come out and beat us if we don't play the way we're capable of playing."
On this being his last OU season:
"It's my last one; it'll be the last time I get to play with the group of guys that I came with in 2008. I guess it'll be my last OU opener. This season, we're trying to make it pretty special for the guys who are going into their last one. That's what I'm focused on. I want us to go out with a bang."
On the questions on defense:
"I feel like every year our defense is questioned. It's all about how we respond. Last year we didn't do a good job of responding. This year we got Coach Mike [Stoops] back, he's really got us all jacked up to stay with it, with the intensity he brings. We lost a guy like Stacey [McGee] for however many games. But the next guy has to come in and fill the void. I think we'll be good up front. We'll be better than a lot of people are expecting us to be. This defense this year will be a lot better than our defense last year."
On playing in the Sun Bowl:
|| Junior OL Gabe Ikard
"I'm excited to go on the road for game one; I'm sure it's going to be a tough test. I'm sure they've sold out and the place is going to be rocking. It'll be a good test to go out week one in a hostile environment. It'll be good for us. It's tough to play on the road anywhere you go. This is their marquee game. It's one of those things where you know you're going to get their best shot. You know they're going to be sold out, the place is going to be rocking, so you've got to be ready because you're going to get their best shot. It's going to be an intense atmosphere so you've got to come focused, assignment-sound, ready to play."
On attention this season:
"I wouldn't say we're under the radar. We're the University of Oklahoma, we're never going to be under the radar, but we're not at the top in the spotlight like we were last year."
On the offensive line:
"They've come a long way since camp. Bronson [Irwin], [Adam] Shead, Nila [Kasitati]…Shead last year got some playing time and he's playing even better now. Bronson got some time last year but he's ready to step into a bigger role. I've been really impressed and pleased with the way those guys have been playing together well, really communicating and getting the interior line to gel. I'm really excited to see what they can do on game day."
On Landry Jones:
"I'm very confident in Landry just from how much he's worked. Footwork, throwing the ball, everything is better. All the confidence in the world in him."
On starting on the road:
|| Senior P Tress Way
"We'd love to start at home, but we have to win every game so it doesn't matter when we start."
On the late kickoff time:
"That's just when we're scheduled to play, we can't control a lot of that. We talked about that yesterday, how we don't want anything to get us off our game, so that's going to be our job. Coach does a great job when we're on the road with setting us up for our schedule for the day. That's up to us, the players, to stay focused and not to get too lazy, stay up, stretching. We're going to have our team meetings and chapel to get us focused. Nothing's going to throw us off our game, that's up to us, so we're good."
On how he'll pass the time on Saturday:
"I'm a movie guy, so if I can find a movie, I'll be good, but the TV show I like watching is Seinfeld, so if I can find some Kramer in there and get some laughs to keep my blood pumping, I'll be good."
On getting snaps:
"Daniel Franklin has been doing a great job. He really took a lot of pride in that this summer. We worked every week this summer with his snaps, and he even went out and bought a medicine ball in the shape of a football, so it was cool to see him take it that serious. He is a linebacker, he has kind of a crazy mentality, and he reminds me every day that I could really drop some bombs and hang it up high so that he could knock the snot out of people. I have a pretty good angle of the field whenever I hit a good one, so I would like to see him knock somebody out, that would be kind of fun to see."
On keeping Franklin focused:
"I talked to him a little bit about that, that the snap comes first. That is my job for me to hang it up and let him go knock somebody out, but the snap comes first. He doesn't have to block anybody the way our punt team is. He gets down and covers. He has just got to get the snap first, and so I have got to calm him down. [James] Winchester last year, he was a wide receiver, so he's used to staying cool, staying loose, and linebackers, they get all up tense and try to knock somebody out, so I have got to keep D. Frank calm, just remind him the snap comes first."
On what being a captain means to him:
"For me, it is really the biggest honor that I have had. The awards and stuff that I have gotten here have been awesome, but being voted team captain by my best friends and by my teammates, that is the best award that I could ever be given.
"For me, I am kind of the guy, since I don't really do as much as the guys being a punter, I am kind of that guy that keeps everybody up, the kind of guy that goes around to make sure everybody is on the same page. I have always had the gift of shooting people straight up and down. Sometimes people don't like hearing that, and I don't mind people shooting me straight up and down and getting in my grill a little bit. In the game, if somebody's getting that bad attitude a little bit, I am there to kind of remind them, let them know 'Hey, we have got to get going.' Landry and I feed off each other a lot in that in games.
"Most of all, I am just kind of there for everybody. We've got our defensive guys. We've got our offensive guys. I am fortunate enough and blessed to have the opportunity to get to pray over the team before the game and also to get to help lead our chapels, and so having that respect from the guys, that's most important, too, them recognizing me for that."
|| Senior QB Landry Jones
"I think for a quarterback, that is always a focus. You are always typically looked at as a leader in the offense and those sorts of things. So I think it comes with the position. You grow into that, the more games you play and the more time you spend with the team. You kind of grow into that position."
On working with Trey Metoyer:
"We have worked a lot, but it is always a little different in a game. I am sure there are going to be things that show that we will have to talk about on the sideline. But, I feel like we are on the same page. We are to the point now that we can go out and play a game together."
On his concerns playing with a true freshman like Trey Metoyer:
"It's really just experience. You never know how a person is going to react when there are a lot of people watching. And his emotions are going up and down in games, so it is so much different than practice. So I think it is just one of those experience things that make you a little nervous. But, I am sure he is going to do a great job for us."
On how he feels about this year's team being more disciplined on and off the field:
"I feel like we are moving in the right direction, disciplined wise, with guys being on time and guys really taking advantage of the little things."
On how he feels coming off the field in short yard plays:
"As a leader and as a competitor you want to be a guy that leads your team into the end zone, so yes it is a little frustrating to come off the field to do those things. But, like I said, at the end of the day we are out to win the game. That's what the Sooners are for and that's what we are trying to do. So whatever makes us win, that is what we are going to do."
On what he improved on this summer to become a better quarterback:
"I think mobility is something that I really kind of worked on. Moving around in the pocket and being able to throw on the run and in tighter spaces is definitely some things I kind of focused on this off season."
On comparing this freshmen class to the one two years ago:
"They are very similar talent wise but a little different, I think, as far as speed and explosiveness. There are going to be a lot of freshmen that play and there are going to be a lot of guys that are going to be great football players. But, I think it is a little different because we had guys like Kenny [Stills} and Roy [Finch] who are really quick and shifty. Now we have someone like Sterling Shepard who is going to be playing a little bit more physical, I think, and he'll make catches in traffic. I think those are small differences I see in the differences in the classes They are really similar but I think if you look at the class as a whole maybe a little but more, as far as wide receivers go, this [year's] is a little bit more physical class. Other positions it is still pretty similar."
On the style of Sterling Shepard:
"He does remind you of Ryan [Broyles] a little bit. They are different enough where you can tell them apart though. Sterling has a similar game to Ryan but they are not all the same. I think Ryan might have been a little bit more shifty than Sterling, but Sterling has more size than Ryan, I think."
On developing chemistry with wide receivers:
"You can do that in practice, for sure. It depends on how well you are practicing and what you are practicing on. But you can definitely develop that in practice. The more time you get to work with those guys the better your relationship becomes with them."
On Roy Finch and his movement in the slot:
"He is a little bit smaller [than Ryan Broyles] but he is really explosive and really shifty, so we are trying to make some matchup problems with some of those linebackers out there. He has been doing a really good job in working there for us. We will move him around and use him in different ways as well."
On his eagerness to see his improvements:
"I think it definitely has manifested itself in this preseason. But, you never really know until you get into a game and see how well you really move and see if guys can actually sack you. Because in practice they just go by and if they get a hand on you, you're sacked. So we will see in the game."
On Kenny Stills playing in the slot:
"It was kind of just the way it worked out. We had a lot of guys moving around in different positions and Kenny was the guy with the most experience and the best feel in the slot, so that is how it went from there. He just kind of got stuck there. Now, he is doing a great job of playing inside and I'm sure we will still move him around like everyone else. But, I think he will be predominately in the slot. I don't know if it necessarily makes it easier on me, I think Kenny just has a really good feel in there and he is going to cause some people to play differently against him because of his speed and athletic ability. I think he might see more balls come his way. I don't really know, like I said we have to see what the games calls for really."
On his expectations for the offense:
"I expect us to be a great offense. If you are not going into the year and expecting you to be a great offense, then what are you really doing? So I expect us to do great and be able to run the ball and throw it around a little bit."
On the importance of having experienced running backs like Brennan Clay:
"I think in pass protection he is great, that is something I think people over look with Brennan [Clay] or Dom [Whaley]. I think those things are going to be big for us with them having experience in our offense."
On the progress of Dominique Whaley:
"He looks like the old Dom. He has been running at full speed, so I think he is going to be the same player that you saw last year."
On playing the season opener:
"I am going to go out there and play Oklahoma football. That is what I am here for and that is what we are going to try and do. I am not here to outplay anybody. I am just going out to try and win the game."
On what he does to prepare for late games:
"You feel like you sit around all day. So I will read my bible or do something like that to try and calm myself down, or I'll get into my playbook a little bit."
On being more of a vocal leader this year:
"I haven't really noticed it much, but obviously the guys have been noticing it. I think it is just confidence and knowing kind of what you want and setting those expectations."