Monday press conference central: week 14

OU head coach Bob Stoops

NORMAN, Okla. — Sooner head coach Bob Stoops looked back on OU's thrilling Bedlam OT win and more, and Sooners Illustrated was on the scene.

First, here is a complete notebook, with the first part of the video below. Come on into Sooner Magic Insider for all the rest of the videos and coverage.

  • This press conference had some intriguing comments, but let's first start off with an injury report. Here's what Stoops said: "I believe it'll be the same as going into last week..Unsure about David [King]. His ankle was just dinged up a week ago, and it just got re-dinged up here this past week, so we'll see."
  • As far as linebacker Frank Shannon is concerned, the outlook is positive: "We'll see how the week goes, but I think he has a decent chance to [play] as long as nothing comes up this week."
  • So, has it been tough to keep guys healthy with nine straight games? "Well, I don't know. It's just how it is. It is challenging. We are still a little bit banged up and fighting through it. So, you know, you just gotta do the best you can to manage it here this week and get them to the game and give ourselves an opportunity."
  • Jumping into more of the discussion, Stoops went into the decision of running on the fourth-and-1 there and bringing the Belldozer in. He was poised to call timeout and run a second play after picking it up: "I had already told the official that once he got the first down I wanted him to call timeout immediately. So, running the ball I knew he wouldn't take 10 seconds and then we would have another play. We would depending on how close he was, we'd either run him again or have to throw it."
  • Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made the call strictly by himself and Stoops added he had no recent to doubt the call: "Sure. But I mean that's been the case all last year, too, so we've got great confidence in the package."
  • No doubt, the offensive line is a huge reason why it worked. Who graded out the highest? "You know, both tackles were excellent and they have the biggest stress. I thought Lane [Johnson] and Tyrus [Thompson], Lane moving back over to left and Tyrus from left back to right, they did a great job. And Gabe Ikard inside was really good."
  • The Sooners, of course, ran the ball the last three plays of the game after not having that much success with it throughout the majority of the contest. But all three runs worked, leading to the question of whether or not OSU was gassed: "It's probably a little of both. You know, so I mean we did feel there was some opportunity to run it. That's why Josh started with it, and Trey made a heck of a run to get, I don't know, five or six yards, whatever it was. And we went back to it and Brennan makes a heck of a run. Guys do a good job blocking up there, too, getting bodies on bodies and letting him sift his way through the safety. So, you know, I'm sure it was a factor in that we had just finished a six-and-a-half minute drive right before overtime."
  • OU wouldn't have even been in the game had it not been for their receiving corps, which had three 100-yard receivers in Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders and Kenny Stills. So, is this the best group he's had? "It's kinda hard to compare. It is one of the best. You know me. I never say anything's the best. When you look back on some of the guys Jason White was running around with, with Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley and Brandon Jones, those are all three guys that have had NFL careers, significant NFL careers. So, you know, again it's hard to [compare]. But again these guys are great players. These receivers we've got have been awesome. They've been consistent, route running, catching. Just they've been a really great group and unselfish, working together. Even the young guys coming in have done a really good job, so it's been a great group."
  • It's impossible to ignore the impact the two transfers have made, though. Stoops discussed how that all came about: "Oh, Coach Norvell researched it and was I believe more than anything. And I intentionally asked him to look into [that], see if there was anyone there that might be worth, that might be able to come in and make a difference. And sure enough, as soon as you looked as Justin, you knew here's a guy that's been great for three years in competitive, tough league and playing well that I know again that he would definitely make a huge impact. And then after watching Jalen, I felt the same way."
  • With respect to Saunders, there was a lot of discussion--even the shifty slot receiver said it himself--he might not play if still not eligible by the Texas game. Stoops had a different idea, however: "I don't know that I would have. I think I would have tried to talk him out of that because I felt strongly about the impact he could make, and everybody's seeing it now."
  • One of the many other unsung heroes is running back Brennan Clay, who has put together a monster year highlighted by that game-winner the other night: "Yeah, Brennan's been great. Just always prepared, works hard, very intelligent player. You know, so he can go in in any situation, any circumstance and he's always ready to make a play. So, he's made some huge ones here through the back half of the season."
  • Back to the transfers, one other area they've made an extremely solid impact is in the punt return game: "Yeah, and purposeful in the guys you get. So, you know, we did our work or Coach Norvell did and we got a couple of key guys that really have made a difference."
  • Because of that, special teams has been a big strength: "Sure it has. We've again--I always knock wood--we've played really well in all areas, so hopefully we can this week." Stoops said both will return punts against TCU.
  • Stoops believes quarterback Landry Jones has improved his draft stock: "Well, his draft stock has been high talking to people even a year ago. His projections were first round. And who knows compared to who got picked where, where he would have been. But of course the way he's played through this year has only helped him and improved him. So, he'll be a great quarterback for somebody."
  • And he even lobbied a little bit for the redshirt senior from Artesia, N.M., to be first team All-Big 12: "I say it all the time that we vote on some of the stuff way too early. I mean like the votes will be in before we play TCU right? I'm not sure. Is that the case or not? Oh, after that game. But yeah, Landry believe me, I think ought to be right there with anybody. Why wouldn't he be? Look at the position we're in. Look at the way he's played. Two comeback wins at the end of the game. Five-hundred yards, got every passing record maybe that there is in the Big 12. I mean he's earned it, so he should be a guy that should be the All-Big 12 quarterback for sure."
  • Moving on to a couple defensive topics, tackling is a major issue that needs to get shored up: "Well, you know, in some cases give their skill players credit when they make us miss ‘em. In some instances I believe we can do it better and we need to do it better, so you know some of it's spacing issues, too. In what they're doing it makes it tougher, so again we'll keep trying to find ways to combat it and be in better position."
  • It becomes maybe even more important this week facing a running team in the Horned Frogs: "Well, you know, in some cases formation-wise they're similar. Play-wise they're a little bit different in some of the plays out of those formations.... They do. I mean they've been good at running the football and it's something they like to do for sure."
  • A lot of OU's struggles, Stoops maintains, are because of facing better offenses while they're also not playing as consistently as early in the season: "It's up to you to say. Everybody's got their opinion. I don't [know]. I think it's a little of both. It's always that way..."
  • Also, defensive end David King won the Don Key Award and Stoops' statement was the following: "Yeah, David's an awesome young man. Just he's what you want in that he does everything as well as you can, always at workouts early ready to go, always does it in a great way. Everybody interacts with him. I can't say enough about how hard he works and what a positive impact he is. He does great in the classroom. You know, and David's had a hard family life, so he's had some [tough things to deal with]. It's been difficult, but he's overcome it and has been great here as a player and as a student. So, he's what you want in a student athlete for sure."
  • Still, some other happenings were the most interesting of the press conference. The Sooners, as everyone knows, have a chance to win the Big 12 outright title should they win and get a Kansas State loss to arch-rival Texas. But should both of those teams win, it'll be a tie and split championship. Will OU claim it? Listen to Stoops: "Well, why wouldn't it be? I mean it is...Well, I don't know. They play later at night. All I know is we gotta win at 11 o'clock, so and there's opportunities for championships. Who knows what will happen in their game, and who knows what'll happen in ours. So, in the end that's where it's at right now."
  • Asked again..."Well again, it's whatever the conference rules are. That's what you go by."
  • But Stoops has been adamant about the problem with co-champs, voicing out about it last year: "Well, I brought that up in our Big 12 meetings, but again they haven't changed anything so you play the hand you have.... Again, you know, the rules are what they are. I don't make them."
  • All of this said, would he still rather see a Big 12 Championship Game again? "Again, I don't know that some of those years when you're undefeated and the team you're playing has three losses in the league that that sets up real well. I think we played Colorado one year and they might have had [several losses]. I don't know what their record was. But so in some cases it didn't really equate the right way either, so in the end this is what we got. And it still is tough when you have to play everybody, so it's just the situation we're in right now."
  • It certainly at least sounds like the perfect season for OU to get another chance at K-State, but that won't be the case: "We have a chance here this week. That's where we're at. I mean it's not gonna happen. You go and play the hand you're dealt."
  • Many critics have picked on OU's inability to win on the road in recent years. But compared to last year, that has not been a problem at all. So, what's the deal there? "I think this team's better equipped. It has been all year in many ways maturity, discipline, you know, work habits, everything."
  • Everyone wants to talk about how powerful the SEC is but Stoops got in a little word about the Big 12 today and its depth: "Well again, I'm not all that surprised because I, having to play everybody, I realize the talent that's spread across the board with everybody, the excellent coaching throughout the lead. So, you know, it's difficult every week, which has been obvious for everybody."
  • On a more national topic, Stoops gave his thoughts about a defensive player (Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and freshman (Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel) being in the Heisman discussion: "Yeah, and there's not to say that there aren't any other deserving guys. Collin Klein in my eyes comes to mind, of course, but you're asking me about a freshman and a defensive guy. I don't think there's any question that each should have the opportunity. We had that situation with Adrian [Peterson] being a freshman and came so close to it that [he almost won]. A player's a player. It shouldn't matter what age he is, and the other is a defensive guy, being a long time defensive guy coming up in coaching, I've never understood it. And I think [Manti] Te'o for Notre Dame is absolutely deserving when you look at [what he's done]. Usually they talk about the quarterback or running back on the best team in the country or whoever has the best record usually has a better chance of winning it than anyone. Well, you know, they're noted for their defense and he's the quarterback of the defense. He's got, I don't know, six or seven interceptions. I mean he's been the guy all year. He's been their guy, so I don't think there's any question that he's a guy that should have a great opportunity to win it."
  • Keeping it on the national discussion, the Sooners need Stoops' very first coaching spot, Kent State, to lose to Northern Illinois for their best chance at an at-large BCS bid not being snapped. Stoops, though, hasn't even thought about that. At least that's what he insists: "Torn about Kent State? What's happening with them? Oh, really [they can knock us out of the Sugar Bowl]? I haven't followed Kent State, so I don't know. All I know is we got a big game to play, so that's what I'm working on."
  • Stoops said he hasn't spoken with his brother about the Kentucky job, and then he was questioned again about how long he'll be coaching because of Steve Spurrier's comments that it's less stressful now: "You know, yeah I feel my staff does a great job. It's always still a lot of work recruiting. I'm not at the point in my career where Coach Spurrier is. I mean I don't want to give away his age, but he looks younger than he is, I should say. And he's done it really well, and so I would say I like what I'm doing. So, that isn't an issue with me, and so hopefully I'm doing it as long as he has. But again, anymore with recruiting some of it is different in that so many guys commit earlier that you don't have as many to chase at the end and that may be what Coach is referring to. And that happens some years. Some years you're still chasing them, but the work is what it is. You just keep going after it and doing the best you can."
  • A lot of rumors are flying around in Knoxville, but Stoops made it very clear he won't be going there: "Me? Oh, I didn't know that. So, I like the job I have. No, that's not right. I love the job I have and the people I work for, so I'll try and keep it another year."
  • A couple more things. First, he'd prefer an early signing period: "You know, I have always thought one around Christmas would be right in that you've had all fall to take some visits. A lot of kids anymore, high school guys, are finished after Christmas or come in early. Junior college guys are allowed to sign, so somewhere December 20, 21, 22 where you've had opportunities to visit. And again some kids, there's five, six, seven guys can walk in at mid-year. They have an opportunity to sign, so anyway it seems like that would work, but it doesn't seem to [be happening]. We never seem to get the consensus to get it done."
  • And second, here was his comment about the OU fan base maybe changing in the last few years solely based on the fact that they might not have responded the way they did in the past after beating OSU (the series reads 83-17-4): "I'm not real sure. I don't [know]. Maybe it has. Maybe it hasn't. I'm not [sure]. Fans are what they are. Some of them--everybody has their differing opinion."

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