Strait says OU refuses to look past KSU

Senior cornerback Derrick Strait talks about Mike Stoops leaving for Arizona, Brent Venables taking over and the Sooners' matchup with Kansas State in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City. Strait is a finalist for the Nagurski Award, which is given to the best defensive player in college football. (AP Photo/Tony Guiterrez)

NORMAN, Okla. — Many believe that senior Derrick Strait is the best defensive player in college football. He is a four-year starter during one of the greatest runs in the history of OU football at the very demanding position of cornerback.

Strait is the odds-on-favorite to win the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given each year to the top defensive back in college football. Strait has two more games to play and they will be among the biggest of his career in the upcoming Big 12 Championship game and the Sugar Bowl for the national title. Bob Stoops has called Strait the most consistently great player thus far of his era.

D. Strait sat down with OUInsider.com Monday after practice for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Have you talked with Mike Stoops much about his new job as head coach at Arizona?

DS: "We talked to him about it yesterday and today. He didn't have a meeting, but we talked to him in general when we saw him and things like that. Most of the guys are just happy for him and we wished him nothing but success. We know that he is going to go down there and do a great job for them."

JH: Did he coach you any differently today?

DS: "No, it was business as usual. Whoever messed up he got on them and stayed on them until they got it right. That is just how he is, because if you mess up he is going to get on you."

JH: So he was just typical Coach Mike and you couldn't tell any difference?

DS: "He was just typical Coach Mike, because if you messed up he got on you and he got on your hard."

JH: "Mike has the tremendous ability to focus on the job at hand,, so how much does that rub off on all of you in the secondary."

DS: "I think it rubs on us a lot. He has been here as long as I have or I have been here as long as him, which is five years. We kind of take after our coach as far as being focused and what not. I think our whole team is pretty much like that. We can stay focused and stay focused on the task at hand."

JH: Are you guys as intense as he is?

DS: "On the field I think we are. During practice, when it is a learning situation, he really does enough for all of us out there."

JH: How do you feel Coach (Brent) Venables is going to be as the man next year?

DS: "I think he is going to do the same because he coaches the same way. If he catches you messing up he is going to get on you to. Both of them are like a two-headed dragon out there, but now with Coach Mike gone Coach Venables is still going to get after guys and still going to put guys in the right situation."

JH: They are pretty much cut from the same cloth, don't you think?

DS: "I would say that, because they both get on you and they both want to see you succeed."

JH: Do you feel for the guys next year because they will have to deal with a new secondary coach?

DS: "They pretty much don't have to worry about that. I know it is going to be a great guy that Coach (Bob) Stoops will bring in. Coach Venables is still going to be here and he is going to have the last say so over the defense, so I know that it is going to be a great situation for the guys."

JH: Mike says he knew that you were going to be great the first day that he saw you, but did you know that you were going to be great?

DS: "No I didn't, because it was my first time to play corner when I came here. I just remember one play during two-a-days my freshman year and we were doing one-on-one drills against the varsity and a guy ran a route on me and I just stopped. Coach Mike yelled at me so much that I thought I was never going to be able to play out here. From then on I just tried to work on it and get better. I guess things have worked out for me."

JH: How much did it touch you that Mike got so emotional talking about you guys during his acceptance speech?

DS: "We already knew that it was going to be tough on him to talk about us because he gave us a hint about that on Friday. When he told us that we might here some news over the weekend he broke down a little bit then. We always knew that he was a real emotional guy, because after we go out and win games and do what we are supposed to do he gets real emotional. A guy like that is so emotionally wrapped up into what we need to do as a team, that you can't blame him for having those kind of emotions."

JH: Everybody says you don't have to win this Saturday to go to the Sugar Bowl and play for the national title. How does that kind of talk effect you?

DS: "That is crazy talk from our point of view. Why wouldn't we want to win out and go to the national championship game as Big 12 Champs. That is just crazy for us to not totally concentrate on wining. Winning the Big 12 Championship is our main goal anyway."

JH: You guys just refuse to lose period, right?

DS: "In general we hate to lose at all. To have a loss going into the national championship and then win it would still be a damper on the season. We would know that we had lost a game and there was a team out there that had beat you."

JH: What do you remember about the three great past Kansas State games?

DS: "They were all big, physical, tough, hard-nosed guys out there going hard. There have been a lot of crazy games as guys are going hard, so you have to be mentally prepared for anything that they throw at you. They have a great team, and we just have to step our game up and play our game that we know that we can play."

JH: Do you realize that you career is coming to an end with two games left to play?

DS: "Yeah, I kind of realize it. But everything must come to an end. I don't want it to end, but in a way I want it to end. It has been fun, but my time has been fun and I don't have any regrets."

JH: What about the Kansas State offense?

DS: "It is a difficult offense to cover in that you have to be in position, because they have option, option pass and all of those kind of run games. We just have to be lined up in the right situation and know what is going to happen on this play or that play."

JH: Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles are two great players aren't they?

DS: "Yes, those two are so talented that they can hurt you in so many different ways. Roberson can throw the ball and then beat you with his legs. Sproles is having a great season. We just have to go out and execute and stop them from making plays against us."

JH: Is tackling the main key in this game?

DS: "Tackling is always the main key, because if you don't tackle well then they will also get extra yardage that add up during the game."

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