Media Day: Stoops says '03 team could be best yet

Excerpts from Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops' press conference with the press during media day Wednesday in Norman. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

On his outlook for 2003
"We should be very good. I expect this to be our best team since I've been here. We still have to go out and get it done. However, I believe that we have the desire and work ethic to get where we want to go as a team."

On the differences in 1999 and 2003
"Enormous. I have said from day one that I do not mind the expectations — mine are probably ever bit as high as any fan. We will compete for championships, period. But once you've won a couple of Big 12 and a National Championship, yes, the attention does swell locally as well as nationally. We welcome it. It highlights our program and makes our job easier when we go out and recruit.

On if this team totally bought into the idea of a championship season
"Sure, their work habits show that. We're confidant, of course we still have to go and do it, and that's the hard part. However, so far we're where we want to be. But championship trophies are earned — none are ever given out at the first of the year."

On the status of Tommy Grady
"I'm confidant that he'll get his stuff worked out and be here in a week or two. Right now we're waiting to hear from the NCAA clearing house on an issue and it should be resolved."

On when will the captains be named
"We'll wait a few weeks. The players need to have a major impact on the selection. Right now the new guys don't have a feel for who the leaders are. They will."

On Jason White this year versus last year
"Jason is more mature — he's obviously been through a lot and he's done well. He's experienced just in helping Nate last year after he got injured. He stayed with it, kept studying film, stayed involved, that will pay off this year. And I really do believe he's in great shape physically now."

On the new practice rules
"I like the rule, because I think it's designed to protect players. It'll take a bit of time to get used to but I think we'll be very comfortable with it in a few weeks. Obviously the downside is how it effects the freshmen. But the old system was not perfect either. When we had the freshmen by themselves, we really didn't always have enough bodies to run all the drills and go one on one. What we'll do this week is go through a full practice with everyone, when the varsity is finished and begins their conditioning drills, we'll pull the freshmen off for 45 minutes of individual instruction. That's where we'll be able to give the individual attention needed. We'll go over all the drills and things we covered in practice, that way they'll be able to go to all the team meetings and be totally familiar with everything discussed."

On a few selected players this year
"Derrick Strait is just a difference maker. He has a certain toughness, a quiet strength, a real team leader. His attitude is contagious. He's like a coach on the field, and one of the more special guys on our team. Brandon Everage, I think he'll get his legal issue covered next week and I think the things he's done this summer in the offseason have earned him the right to begin working with his teammates today. So yes, he will be out there, again, because he's earned that right. In some ways his troubles have made him mature and become more focused. When something like that happens you either conquer it or it conquers you. In this case Brandon may end up becoming a better person for it. Donte Nicholson's a great talent, a natural at the safety position. He'll give us the power and range that we need at that spot. Brodney Pool had an incredible spring and really came on, we'll see him a lot in our dime coverage and Eric Bassey and Brandon Shelby will make big plays for us in the nickel."

On the change in the (removal of) halo rule "I'd like to see ‘Perk' run it back every time he touches the ball – but it's OK, it's worth a try. Like everyone else, I get tired of seeing a yellow flag on the field on every punt."

On any particular group of players showing improvement
"I'm really excited about our receiver corps. Will Peoples came in last year and played so well we couldn't take him off the field. Mark Clayton has made big plays for us for two years and he'll do it again this year. Brandon Jones had a breakout spring for us, Travis Wilson's 6-3, 220, he can run and really plays physical. And I expect Jejuan Rankins to show up well."

On if the o-line will the be the best he'd had at OU
"Yes. I believe it will be. Davin Joseph is a guy to really watch. Merv Johnson says he has a chance to be the best since here Greg Roberts. And Kevin Chaisson has really come on. Both were part-time starters last year. We're strong at tackle also. Coach Wilson has really done a great job with the attitude of this group."

On the health of Tommie Harris and the other defensive linemen
"Yes, he appears to be 100 percent. I don't think his hamstring has bothered him all summer. But when you talk about the tackles, I don't think we talk about Dusty Dvoracek enough. He's a full time player – played as a true freshman, right along side Tommie. He's very powerful, with good speed great intensity. But yes, we're very solid with a good group of defensive linemen."

On if this is the best linebacker corp he's coached
"Certainly. Everyone wants to talk about Teddy Lehman, and I understand why, but Lance Mitchell led our team in tackles last year, he's powerful, quick, he just makes tackles."

On the stadium renovation
"It's very exciting to see it come together like it has. It will give us a stronger home field presence, more intimidating, louder. But the main thing is that our fans deserve a great stadium with great amenities. It will truly be a great place to watch a game and as nice as any college stadium in the country."

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