Cotton Bowl defensive notebook: Jan. 1

IRVING, Texas — Representatives from the Sooner defense met with the media Tuesday morning, and Sooners Illustrated has a complete update.

  • Monday fullback Trey Millard addressed his potential to go pro. Tuesday it was cornerback Aaron Colvin's turn. But he wouldn't talk too much about it, saying he hasn't even come close to making a decision. I am, however, told from a source that there's an "80 percent chance he'll return." Here were his comments: "I'm definitely gonna think it through. I've always been that type to kinda think it through, even with my recruiting process and all that. So, I'm gonna think it through all the way out."
  • Outside of that, as expected all the talk was about containing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. "I don't think you stop him," said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "I think that's [apparent]. Nobody's stopped him. I think you try to contain him. You try to limit his big plays, try to keep him in the pocket. That's all easier said than done. But they do a great job creating certain runs for him to get him some running space and then the offensive line does a great job creating space. People don't realize what having such a strong offensive line does for his game, and that's the other thing he has I think that makes him a great player, a great offensive line."
  • Stoops said what makes him so special is that Johnny Manziel just does Johnny Manziel: "Well, I think he doesn't try to be anybody he's not. He plays to his strengths extremely well. He knows who he is as a football player right now. He uses those gifts to help them win, and that's what any great quarterback or any great player does. He knows exactly what he can and can't do and he tries to do those things as well as he can and certainly his ability to extend and create plays, there's not really a defense for that. And you get stretched. You know, your whole defense gets stretched when you play them for 60 minutes. It's a handful."
  • That said, Colvin said the onus will be on the entire defense just to do their responsibility: "It's definitely vital for us to play well as a defensive line. We definitely would like pressure, as much as possible I would say. But I'm very confident in my defensive line. They've been great for us all year, and I feel like they'll do great this game, so I've seen them practice hard. I've seen them go out there and do everything right, so I'm expecting big games from those guys and I know once they have a big game we will, too. So, it all just kinda translates to you."
  • Fact of the matter is Manziel hasn't been able to do it all by himself. As elusive as he is on the run, he's also got some skill players around him both in the run game and passing game that make his life a whole lot easier. Said free safety Tony Jefferson: "He has good weapons on the outside. I think that's another part of what makes him so successful. You know, when he's scrambling, they know to get open and it makes it a tougher job on DB's to lock up on him."
  • And a big, physical offensive line with All-Americans doesn't hurt the cause either: "They work extremely well together," said defensive end David King. "They don't miss very many assignments, and then when they do, somebody's there to help pick up the guy who got free in the backfield. So, they're physical guys, great players. They run block well and then when he has to throw it, they sit in there [and protect]. You know, they don't let very many people get to him. We have our work cut out for us for sure."
  • Even linebacker Tom Wort admired the Aggies offense for that: "I'd say it's everyone's been talking about Manziel, but they got a lot of great players on their offense. Their offensive line is outstanding. [Ryan] Swope has been a great player for them. Their running backs, just they can make plays happen. So, they're an all around great offense. You look at where they rank in the SEC and everything, total offense, points scored, stuff like that, they're near the top or top in each one. So, they're just really impressive all across the board."
  • One thing that really figures to play in the Sooners' favor is the fact that Stoops and co. have had a month to prepare for the explosive offense they'll be facing. But Stoops cautions they must not over-think things: "Well, again, you want to try to this game enables you an opportunity to create more looks. But we're not gonna stray too far from what we've done all season. We have to adjust to him and how much we have to adjust to him the game will dictate as you go along."
  • Of course, the defensive line play will be paramount in this contest. They must force Manziel into some uncomfortable situations. Stoops said they'll have to do so collectively, hopefully with the aid of defensive end David King moving back inside: "It's been a group by committee. We've been kinda moving David King around pretty much all year from end to three-technique and continue to do that. He'll play inside. So, we need to improve up there. Defensive end is an area that we lost two Big 12 defensive ends a year ago in [Frank] Alexander and [Ronnell] Lewis, the other end. The two ends we had were All-Conference and NFL-type guys, so replacing those guys has been probably the hardest guys to replace from a year ago."
  • King responded to playing inside: "Yeah. You know, hopefully I can get through the line and force him out left or right and let our defensive ends or our linebackers be out there to tackle him. At the end of the day that's what it comes down to. You gotta get him on the ground, tackle him, take out his legs. You gotta go low on him. You go high, he's gonna make you miss. So, we got our work cut out for us as a defense."
  • Again, the Sooners praised the A&M offense and talked them up as a Big 12-like unit. Jefferson did so especially: "I mean I can name a ton of teams that run the same [offense]. They're a Big 12 team in the SEC. So, I feel like we've faced a lot of teams that do the same type of stuff."
  • On top of it all, the Sooner defense is now starting to get antsy. It really seems like they're tired of hearing all the talk about facing Manziel and are ready to play this game if it were tomorrow. "We just want to get out there and play," Wort said. "Sure Manziel's probably tired of hearing about the Manziel talk, but as players you just want to get down and play in the game. We're all looking forward to it."
  • Said King, who has a dinged up finger still from the Oklahoma State game and has it wrapped, though it's fine: "Well, we're just ready to play the game. Kinda sucks sitting around waiting for however many days since we played our last game, but that's the only thing I don't like about the bowl season. The games are too far apart. I mean it is what it is. It's a great challenge for us, and we'll [be ready]."
  • And Jefferson: "I'm ready to get out there. We're almost there. We just gotta keep preparing, you know, keep doing what we've been doing and just go out there and play, play defense the way we know how."
  • So, it's safe to say the anticipation has built up. There have been no injuries that have been brought up to my knowledge. Now, it's just all about getting out there and getting a W, especially for the seniors in their last game out. Jefferson (maybe accidentally) gave an indication of his decision if you read between the lines on this quote about how special it will be to send off the seniors with a win: "It's real important. You know, especially for seniors. We've gone through a lot down the road, but this game is real big and we just gotta come out and be disciplined."
  • Colvin echoed all those same sentiments about winning in his teammates' last contest: "You know, it's definitely big because I can remember at every other bowl game when I was playing freshman and sophomore year, getting that bowl win is something big. So, seniors definitely cherish that and you want to send them out the right way. No matter who it is or what happens, just leaving without a win is definitely big because it builds on the next year as well and guys are more motivated in the spring and summer and accomplish more."

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update when head coach Bob Stoops heads to the podium for the final time before the 7 p.m. Friday contest.

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