It's the middle of the summer and OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops is trying to find some time to relax. To be honest, this is not a problem with Coach Stoops. He has his act down pretty well on how to be a head college football coach and a family man at the same time.
However, the summer always has some things that have to be taken care of. There are always the summer football camps and recruiting to tend to. The Sooners off-season program is also in full swing as well, and despite the fact Stoops totally respects Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Schmidt, there are always things that toops has to deal with.
Recently, Coach Stoops took time to talk with OUInsider.com about the upcoming season and issues that involve his Sooner football team.
JH: The Big 12 is adding a 12th game and there are discussions to eliminate the Big 12 Championship game. What are you thoughts on these issues and others facing the Big 12 Conference?
BS: "Those are just issues that are being discussed and I understand there is not any real ground swell for eliminating the Big 12 Championship game, and I understand it. After listening to some of the other coaches views and looking back on it ourselves when I think back at our years, our opinion has been a little tainted the last few years. The National Championship has been right there in our sights, and I think that is what everybody was focused on.
"I think back to the year that we won the Big 12 Championship and went to the Rose Bowl, what a special year that was. I think there are other schools around the league that are saying, hey, if we can just get into that Big 12 Championship game and have a chance to win how special would that be for their programs?
"I understand that because every year we are not going to be in the National Championship. Though we are going to try, realistically, that is not going to happen every single year. To be in the Big 12 Championship game, and to win there, there are some big, big plusses to that. Some of the other Big-12 Coaches have expressed those opinions, and it makes some sense."
JH: Joe Castiglione always says he just wants a formula that gets as many teams in the BCS Bowls as they can possibility get, which will give the Big 12 the best chance to get into the National Championship game. Is that really what you want as well?
BS: "No question. That is absolutely what I want as well. That is the biggest thing that everybody is after. The scenario of jumbling the league up and playing in one league, and playing the top two teams in a championship game at the end of the year has never been an issue with the AD's or coaches. The media had that wrong.
"If you jumble the conference up and made us all one league then you would have to get rid of the Big 12 Championship game, and that is the bottom line. We still have a great opportunity to get two teams in the BCS with the game and that has always been the objective. Again, there are differing views on it, which is OK."
JH: You have experienced great success thus far in your coaching career at OU. As you get ready for your seventh season, is your football program standing where you would like it to be at this point?
BS: "That is for everyone else to say where we are at because I don't really concern myself with that. I feel very fortunate for what we have accomplished the last six years, in particular in the last five where we have won championships and competed for others. I am very proud to be Big 12 Champions this year and go through that entire season undefeated, including the Big 12 part of it. That is not easy to do.
"I am excited about the future. We will feel very fortunate and blessed if we were able to do the same things in the next five years that we did in the first five. If somebody told me that we could have that today, I would take it. We are going to go out and play well. We have strong young players coming up and we are excited about the future."
JH: Isn't it amazing how big the name of Oklahoma Football is across the country?
BS: "I guess. I have a hard time, and I don't want to sound boastful or conceited if I act like that or say that, but the name is very common when we go and recruit and travel around. In recruiting, we usually can go anywhere in the country now, and nine out of ten times we are going be one of the top four of five schools that prospect is going to look at. You feel good about the fact that — not only have we won championships, but it is also out there that people like the way we play.
"They like the style we play with and the way the players have represented themselves in interviews, as well as on the field. I get a lot of comments like that through recruiting — that people recognize how well our players handle themselves in media interviews as well as on the field during games. All of that is a positive definitely."
JH: What are your thoughts on the job that Jerry Schmidt and his staff does with your off-season program?
BS: "Our guys work hard in the summer and they have a strong work ethic. Coach Schmidt is recognized as the best, or one of the best in the country, which is evident by the fact that anywhere from one to three NFL teams come after him every year. We have to fend them off with a stick. Jerry loves working with kids this age and loves the way they work. I don't have any doubt that he and his staff, along with our players, will do a great job this summer."
JH: Most of your players came back early for the summer and a number of the freshman came in early. The players look as if they are looking forward to the workouts, or at least understand how important they are?
BS: "We even had a decent number of guys who stuck around during the three to four week period from the end of school to the start of summer school. They enjoy living around here and go home on weekends, or just go home for a little bit. I am not sure who shows up when, but I am sure I can say that all most all of them were here at the start of summer conditioning workouts."
JH: Your camps seem to get bigger every year?
BS: "We really have them a perfect numbers, I think. In our high school prospect camps, we have around 400 kids. And then in our young kids and middle school camp, we had right at 600. Those little guys are not in equipment and they are not as advanced as the older guys. However, those little guys still have a great time, it seems like. The camps are fun. It is great working with all those coaches, and it is great seeing all these young guys work and enjoy the game of football."
JH: What are you thoughts of your team's offense? You lost some great talent, but you have always said that is why you go out and recruit, right?
BS: "I would say this offensively and defensively, but everyone talks about the guys we lost but we still have 16 to 17 starters back if you look at guys who have started five or six games or more. That is a lot of guys who are strong, experienced and who have been winning for us. A lot of these guys have been rotating in, sharing time, and have gotten equal snaps with some of the guys that we have graduated."
"Offensively, we will be fine. I think the pluses are that we will probably have five seniors on the O-line the two deep. That gives up a lot of experience up there. Our backfield comes back with Adrian (Peterson), KeJuan (Jones) and J.D. (Runnels), who took the bulk of the snaps last year. The tight ends, the same thing.
"At receiver, we'll look to Travis Wilson, who was our leading touchdown receiver a year ago. He had a great, great year. JeJuan Rankins started 10 or 11 games the year before (2003), and will team with Travis to give us some experience. Then we have some young guys coming up that we are going to count on. Quentin Chaney had a real strong spring, and he is big guy who can run. Then we have some young guys coming into the program, so those guys will have to pick it up, and we believe that they will."
"At the quarterback position, we have always had guys earn it around here and we have not had time for anyone to earn and solidify themselves yet. That is the only way teammates respect them, and that is if they earn it on the field, and we know that will happen.
"What I like is that all three are capable and are good. It would be a problem if all three weren't very good, then you would have an issue. There will be good competition, and then in the end the guy who will have earned it will have the respect of his teammates and coaches. We will see where it goes."
JH: Would you consider playing two quarterbacks at all this season.
BS: "Like I said, we will see where it goes. If there is no clear-cut starter by the first game, sure, we could consider that. I am not totally against that, but we would prefer one of them to step up and win the job, and I think one of them will."
JH: How many teams can say that they have the No. 1 tailback and fullback in the country? Adrian Peterson has been getting that kind of publicity since the first day he stepped on campus, but now J.D. is getting that kind of publicity as well.
BS: "He is a great, great player. I have said it for three years now. I don't say it just to say it blowing smoke trying to get some guy recognition. He is an excellent football player when you look at his ability to adjust to people and make his blocks. Then when you see how he catches the ball out of the backfield, you realize that he can do it all, and does it in a great way.
"You can gauge it to when some of the games have been in hand and we have a big lead and are taking some of the starters out, you notice that J.D. comes out about as fast as Adrian or anybody else. He is really valuable to us."
JH: What are your thoughts on the defense?
BS: "I think we have excellent experience and ability in the front line, when you look at Larry Birdine and Dusty Dvoracek. Carl Pendleton also started almost every game for us a year ago.
"We have to get some young guys going, like Alonzo Dotson and John Williams. We have Calvin Thibodeaux back and he looks recovered from injury. They will all work hard and share time in there. We also have Remi Ayodele, who has played and Steven Coleman who looked good in the spring. Actually, the names go on and on. We have some excellent depth up front with players who have a lot of experience and ability"
With the linebacker crew, you look at Clint Ingram and how well he played in the spring. Clint Ingram is not new to our program, I read some where that he was new this year, but Clint has had a great career here at Oklahoma. Look at the Texas game a year ago, Clint had a strong game against Texas and made a huge impact a year ago at a SAM linebacker. He had a great spring and everybody recognized that he is an excellent player. Clint was a full-time starter a year ago, as well as Rufus Alexander.
"Zach Latimer had an excellent spring. He and DeMarrio Pleasant will be excellent players in the middle. Zach really had an excellent spring, and we have a great group of young guys that are coming in as freshman."
"It's the secondary where we have the most to replace, but I still believe that there is excellent experience there. We have Marcus Walker back, and he did an excellent job in his starting role a year ago. Then you have guys who have played a great number of snaps in Eric Bassey and Chijioke Onyenegecha, both who have really progressed well. Those guys have played in a lot of games for a good number of years here.
"At the safety positions, Darrien Williams had an excellent spring in there at the free safety spot. Jason Carter, Lewis Baker and Tony Cade at strong safety will continue to battle, but they all have ability. I thought they made great strides in the spring. If they keep working here in the summer, then we are going to be solid back there."
JH: Then you have that recruiting class of defensive backs and safeties that you recruited a year ago. Do you feel they are going to be in the mix?
BS: "We have a great group of young guys coming in. All five of these guys coming in are excellent players in the secondary. They all have size, speed, range and work ethic. We are going to get them all ready to play, and I believe that they all will be ready to play."
JH: Your teams have always been great on special teams. What are your thoughts on your special teams this year?
BS: "Jacob Rice has been very solid for us as a deep snapper. Hopefully, he will get even better here this summer. Garrett Hartley, as you know in the limited time that he was in there, was very good. He has been excellent. We have seen him here for a full year used in a lot of ways, and his play has always been very solid.
"Cody Freeby struggled some with consistency, but we saw him all year hit the ball well. He got a slight back injury in the spring that I think flared up. And in his defense, that probably didn't help. He needs to make strides this summer.
"We signed another guy, Mike Knall, out of a junior college. He was recognized as one of the best punters in the junior college ranks. So, he will compete with Cody and have every opportunity to win that job as well. Hopefully in the end, somebody will lock it down and be consistent with it."
JH: You have said that you won't coach forever, but it seems that you are still having a great time. After six years, are you still having a blast coaching college football?
BS: "Oh yeah, it is wonderful. I am loving it. I am very fortunate to be at Oklahoma. (Laughing...) Heck James, you act like I am Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden."
JH: Hey coach, you are the one that told me you wouldn't coach forever.
BS: "(Lauging...) Hey James, I am a long way from that. I am only 44. Heck, I have a few years left before I have to start worrying about years in coaching."
Stoops: "I am excited about the future"
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