Saturday, August 6, 2016

OU Football Players Hang With Fans At Meet the Sooners Day

NORMAN — The Oklahoma football team was up with the sun on Saturday. The Sooners hit the practice field at first light to beat temperatures forecasted to climb near 100 degrees.

Following practice, the Sooners took part in the annual Meet the Sooners Day. The free event gave OU fans a chance to interact with their favorite players and coaches. Those in attendance ages 14 and younger were able to get autographs.

At the conclusion of Meet the Sooners Day, coaches and players turned their attention to the media. They ran through a gauntlet of photo and video shoots before addressing reporters about the coming season.



HEAD COACH BOB STOOPS

Opening comment: “I feel like we’ve got a really solid football team coming off last year. Overall, we’ll be further along offensively in our system. We lost the most players on our interior line, but I feel good about the young guys coming up in those positions. Bobby Evans, Ben Powers and Cody Ford have all looked really good in the spring and summer. At receiver, of course everyone asks about replacing Sterling (Shepard). You don’t replace a guy like Sterling, but I do believe guys like Dede Westbrook will have an opportunity to make bigger plays. The overall group though will be a stronger unit than a year ago with the added experience. Mykel Jones, a young freshman, has really been showing up. I’ve loved seeing Jordan Smallwood coming up off that knee (injury) a year ago.

Defensively, we really feel good about what we’re doing with our system. It will be a big chore replacing three of our four starting linebackers, but we’re really excited about what we’ve seen from our guys. Tay Evans is a guy who’s really been great this spring as someone who can really run. Obo (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo) has been really good at the jack position. We’ve got other guys like Will Johnson,Kapri Doucet and Caleb Kelly who are really athletic with a lot of power to them. We’re just very pleased overall with the guys who we need to step up. In the secondary, Dakota Austin played great for us a year ago and has stepped up.Michiah Quick has really had a great couple of days and is showing up at the corner position. In the kicking game, Austin Seibert is even in better shape than he was a year ago. He’s really looked good hitting the ball.”

On Mykel Jones: “He’s got explosiveness, speed, and quickness, and he has excellent hands.”

On leadership at wide receiver: “Dede (Westbrook) is a great competitor and has a great ability to go get the football. Hopefully he can step up and have even more of those kind of plays this year.”

On having two marquee non-conference games: “You don’t worry about it until kickoff. We definitely have to get a lot of strong and physical work in against each other, but we’ve got to keep ourselves healthy and be at our best for game one. The schedule is challenging going to Houston right off the bat and then coming back home against Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio State. Two of those teams are top 12 or 13 teams in the country, and deservedly so. We’ll have a sense of urgency to really push and get in a great rhythm ahead of game week.”

On Samaje Perine’s success and potential for breaking the OU career rushing record: “It sort of snuck up on everybody, and that’s probably what Samaje would prefer. He’s a low-key guy. It would be a great accomplishment if it could happen in our normal scheme of things. It’s pretty special when you look at the history of running backs here at Oklahoma: Joe Washington, Steve Owens, Billy Vessels, Billy Sims and on down.”

On the new pieces on the offensive line and their communication: “It’s been okay so far – pretty good. Those guys will only get better. Jonathan Alvarez is an excellent player who has played a lot here already. He’s a real natural at the center position – that’s what he was recruited for. I don’t think there’s anyone better at getting it to come together than Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh. It all starts with Jonathan, and he’s a really good player.”

On the competition at cornerback: “They’re doing well. I talked about it a little before but Dakota (Austin) has looked really good, along with Michiah (Quick), P.J. (Mbanasor) andAntoine Stephens. Our offense does a good job throwing it, so they have their battles. They’ll get beat, then they’ll make a play, so it’s back-and-forth all the time and that’s what you want.”

On being more physical than they were against Clemson: “I don’t think you can ever be physical enough. It’s something that you’re constantly pushing for. You balance it with going against each other and keeping your team healthy as well.”

On coaching guys off-the-field as well and bringing in speakers about issues: “We’ve got someone scheduled virtually every team meeting, talking about all different parts of handling yourself out in the community and on the campus. You’re constantly trying to educate and develop your players to understand the correct behavior and learn how to grow.”

On how the stadium construction is coming along: “It’s fantastic. I can’t wait to get out there and get in the middle of it. They’re really doing a great job. Hopefully, it will affect the noise in the stadium for us in a positive way as well.”

On having a quarterback like Baker Mayfield: “A year ago at this time, we were still figuring out who our quarterback was going to be and we were in a relatively new system. Now, having Baker run it all last year, all spring and all summer, I don’t think there’s any question that he’s much more comfortable in his role and decision-making. You’re going with a guy who has experienced it in a lot of big venues. It’s always a positive when you’ve got a veteran quarterback to start the year.”

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE STOOPS

On the challenge of having a new linebacker corps:
“We lack experience in those positions and I think that’s the biggest disadvantage. I think we have outstanding players, but in just the last three days I’ve been surprised by their development and their ability to conceptually dissect what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to whittle down who we’re going to give our primary repetitions to. They’re all fighting for their place and that’s good to have that competition. We’ll see how it plays out these next three weeks.”

On the preparation ahead of Houston and Ohio State:
“I think we feel relatively good about our starting 11 and what we can do with those guys. We played all spring with them and having those players these first few days has helped. Finding out what style we want to play and kind of maneuver our way around. We’re going to have to play some young guys if someone goes down but they’ll be ready. I’ve been very pleased with their development in such a short amount of time.”

On his impression of Michiah Quick’s transition from wide receiver to defensive back:
“I think he has a chance to be an outstanding player. I think he’s really developed these last three days and he’s done some nice things. He has to continually develop and push himself to get better. He needs to become a guy who can be put out there on an island and hold his own.”

On how much different coaching this year’s defense is opposed to last year’s:
“It’s been a rough three days but it’s been fun. When you work with really good players to me that’s exciting. To develop a great young player, I don’t think there’s anything that coaches love more. I think we have some guys who can become some outstanding football players if they really concentrate and focus each day. We have four more weeks until we play Houston and we’ll have taken a ton of reps. Our first group is solidified and now we need to get the same confidence in the guys behind them. That’ll take some time, but we’ve really worked to get in a positive direction.”

On his opinion of Steven Parker coming into this season:
“I think he has to take that jump to the next level. I think he’s been a really good and solid player for us across the board but he has the capabilities to become a dominant safety. We certainly expect him to take a jump in that direction. He has to be a playmaker for us; we ask him to do a lot of things. His greatest strength is that he’s very diverse in what he can do. He has speed, hips, range, and those are all great qualities for a safety.”

On how he’s seen his brother Bob evolve as the head coach on and off the field:
“He seems happier. I don’t know if that’s because of me or any of you. That was a joke. I think Bob is just happy with the direction of our players and what we’re doing. He feels good about our players’ attitudes, the work ethic of our team. We’ve had very few distractions and when you have a guy like Baker (Mayfield) I think that makes you feel good. You know every time I go to practice I kind of shake my head at what I see because he’s so mind boggling. I think we’re in a good position, we’re getting stronger as we go forward and that’s always a positive.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR LINCOLN RILEY

On the opportunity for the receivers with the graduation of Sterling Shepard:
“I think they sense that there will be more opportunities. We want to be a more well-rounded group. In a perfect world we don’t have a guy that maybe we don’t throw it to that high of a percentage of the time, but he won so much that it was hard not to. I think through the development of the offense, as we go through these years in recruiting, I think we are going to be a more well-rounded group and thus, hopefully, the thought is much tougher to defend.”

On Samaje Perine’s success as he approaches the school rushing record:
“He’s ran for a lot of yards. I’m a little surprised [about his success] because the history here is as good as it is anywhere for running backs in the history of the game. This guy has been so consistent and it’s awesome to see a guy that is having this happen, and is so humble in the career that he has had up until this point. The fact that he still has a lot left is very special and to be able to share it back there with another great player like Joe [Mixon] and see those two work together is good when he has the opportunity to do that and to see good things happen to good people. He’s a great example.”

On if they can create an offensive identity quicker this year:
“We better. We played better as we went on, but part of that was that it was year one and there was just a progression of it. I think we knew what our identity was the entire way we just weren’t great at it yet. Kind of around mid-season we started playing better and got some confidence and were able to take it from there. There certainly is an expectation that we’ve got to play better, and I think that our guys have a strong understanding that if we don’t then we’ll be in trouble. We play, obviously, some really good teams here in the beginning and we’ve got to be very good very early.”

On quarterback Baker Mayfield’s leadership role:
“How they [teammates] look at him is probably different. He’s played a year with these guys now and he’s established himself as a leader and someone that they’re going to look to, especially when the leadership is needed he’s been able to fill that. Before we had other guys filing that role and he hadn’t played here yet. It’s harder to do when you haven’t played and made plays and earned that respect. He definitely carries a bigger voice now, and it’s something he’s done a good job with.”

On Joe Mixon’s ability and outlook for the season:
“People better appreciate him because he is fantastic. He is a fantastic player, he is a great young man, and he is one of our most valuable flat-out players on the team because of the energy that he brings. He is with our young players, like with Abdul Adams, he’s got his arm around Abdul all the time helping him out, teaching him whether it’s something about offense or something about college in general, or helping him grow up. I think Joe will be a team captain here one day. He acts like one right now. He is obviously a really good football player, and we think that his best ball is definitely ahead of him.”

On what he has seen so far from Geno Lewis:
“He is really mature. This is a guy that has traveled half way across the country to come here and have a great senior season, and he’s really approached everything with a very professional mindset. It’s been good for our guys to see, having again a little bit of a younger receiving corps in some areas, some new guys that we need to contribute, and he’s been a great example. He has got really good ball skills. He has shown the ability to be able to move around at different positions while being here for a short time. His attitude has been fantastic.”

/// SoonerSports PR

Image Courtesy of Oklahoma Athletics

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