Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Eric Striker talks improved defense, College Football Playoff and Clemson

'Strike' has always been one to talk but he shares a few words in preparation for the postseason

It’s been a long road for the team, how have you guys been able to make the changes?

I look even before Texas. I look back in the spring, just where we’ve come. You have to look back. That time really helped us be where we are. I’m not thinking about the Texas game at all. I knew what we had and what we had in us since the spring. We kind of lost that during the Texas game, but we bounced back pretty good. You just have to be proud of everybody and how they responded with everything we’ve been through, especially off the field. To be so successful on the field, I’m just really proud of the guys, proud of the young guys that came along and really helped us be in this position that we are now.

You’ve been teams that havestruggled to rebound, but how is this team different?

This team, everybody is on the same page. Everybody bought in. Everybody understands what it takes: The discipline and the focus on and off the field and how important it is. The little things that are important. I think everybody bought tin. The small things off the field really help on the field, when you talk about the discipline.  It’s the difference. Everybody is in for the greater good of the team. That’s what we talked about, changing the culture of the team in the spring. It’s the No. 1 thing. It’s for the team. Everything you do. You’ll do well by making the team do well. I think everybody understands that and bought into that. I think that’s what put us in the position to be where we are now. 

So that wasn’t the case last year?

I think that the team last year was coming from a culture of the team where we felt like guys weren’t all-in for the team. I think that we’ve changed that culture. Everything was a little bit of about “me.” That’s one thing that we wanted to change. I think that is what helped us be in the position where we are now. Everybody is giving up for the greater good of the team.

 Last year, the defense allowed at least 30 points seven times. This year, it’s only two. How did you make that change?

I give credit to the young guys for buying in. It’s one thing to be a senior and you know how serious it is. When you’re a young guy and you’re out there, you just kind of are playing. Young guys don’t understand. When the young guys understand and buy into it, that’s what’s really helped us in the discipline. It takes everybody on the defense for this to happen. It’s kind of like a machine that works together. I believe that everybody bought in and understands it and understands where so and so is, in front of me or next to me or behind me. It really helped us out in the discipline and just knowing your job is good enough. Do your job. Everybody’s got a job to do. I think that really has helped us.

 Are you ready to see a non-spread, non-Big 12 style offense in the College Football Playoff?

That’s fine. Any offense. Like I said, good defense is good defense. Line up an offense. We’ve got to prepare for it, whatever it is. I think we’ve seen it: All with the formations we’ve faced. Whatever team we play, whatever offense they run, we have to prepare to shut it down.

Do you want revenge on Clemson though?

Like I said, that loss was really embarrassing and hurt, but I’m really proud of where we are today and where we are now as far as our goals were. It pretty much doesn’t matter. I’m not holding this grudge vs. Clemson. . . . I’m not holding a grudge vs. Clemson. The better team won that day.

How big of a difference has Mike Stoops made in the turnaround?

He’s the defensive coordinator, and he puts his players in the right position to make the plays. That’s what he’s been doing since he’s been here. He understands the talents and skills of his players. He lets us be who we are and be free. He’ll call a blitz at the right time. He’s up in the booth, now. I know if I make a mistake, I’m getting on the headset when I come to the sideline. When he calls a good play, I’m getting on the headset to tell him, ‘Hey coach, Woo, they ran right into the blitz. That was beautiful. Good call coach.’ He gets the credit. He gets a lot of credit. He calls the defense. He sees it and kind of knows what’s coming. He’s been pretty good at it. As players, we try not to show what we’re doing. Sometimes if we show to early, the offense can see it and check. That’s on us. We have to execute. He makes the play call.

Does it bother you when you get so close to a sack but can’t pull the quarterback down?

I’m pretty much not worried about the sack. I’m just worried about getting to him and giving it all I got in my last regular season game. I didn’t care about the sack. I really don’t care about the numbers. I affected him a lot. As long as I did that, did my job to help the defense out and help the team out, I’m fine with that. You want to get him. Sometimes you get close, but I was just happy out there running around and having fun, to be honest. I didn’t really care about the sacks.

Will you be getting your degree in May or December?

It’ll be May. I’m on track to graduate in May. I plan on getting it in May. By the end of this semester, I won’t have anything but nine or ten hours left. That’s about three or four classes, not much. I’m right there. I’m on track for May. I’ve always been on track for May. Those overachievers graduate in December. I ain’t saying I’m not an overachiever, but I don’t know how it worked that they graduated in December. I’m on track for May.


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