Spring Football: Q&A with Mike Stoops

Mike Stoops discusses the progress of OU's defense and other areas after the first week of spring practice

After TuesdayÕs practice I had a chance to talk with OUÕs Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops about how the Sooners were practicing on defense up to this point.

JH: How has Dan Cody looked?
ÒDan has looked great. We are really happy for him and the way he has come back. He is practicing hard, is happy and he really looks good out there. Dan weighs 270 (pounds), but he carries it well and he runs a 4.7 or better. Having Dan back at practice this year is one our biggest pluses of spring practice thus far.

JH: Will your pass rush be better this year?
It should be, because our defensive ends are really getting good. We were a good pass rushing team last season because our defensive tackles were so good at pass rushing. Kory Klein and Tommie Harris are tremendous pass rushers from the inside and Juan Prishker, our secret weapon, has great potential as a pass rusher.Ó

ÒI think our defensive ends are really going to be tremendous pass rushers. Jimmy Wilkerson did a good job last year, but was just beginning to learn the position. Now, he is at 270 and still has that great athletic ability. We feel he is going to be impossible to block off the edge. Jonathan Jackson and Dan Cody are also great athletes that we feel will be tough to handle off the edge. So, you put the defensive line together and I think we can really make a difference in our pass rush.Ó

JH: How big of a plus has Kevin Wilson been to the staff?
ÒI think you see that with our whole staff. We work hard together as a staff, work well together and really like to change ideas. We get along great in staff meetings and we have a great staff of tremendous knowledge. We trust each other and really feel we can get together and make a difference.Ó

JH: Do you have a lot more depth this year?
ÒI would say our depth is much improved this year. I think that we still need to improve in the offensive line and at wide receiver, but overall we are better. We need to continue to get more outstanding players at wide receiver and in the offensive line into our program.

JH: Will Andre Woolfolk play both offense and defense?
I think ÒWoolfÓ realizes that he can be a first round draft choice at corner. This spring he has continued to work at both cornerback and wide receiver, but he is working much more at cornerback. In fact, he doesnÕt really want to go over to offense much. ItÕs funny, but I have to tell him to go over to wide receiver or he doesnÕt go over there. If Andre concentrates at cornerback he can be a first round draft choice.Ó

JH: How has Brandon Jones looked in practice?
He is splitting time with baseball, but he is getting better out there. I will tell you that the guy who is really making some strides is Will Peoples. He is a big receiver with excellent speed and has really come a long way in our program. At wide receiver, those young guys can earn some playing time and really improve our depth a great deal and I would have to say right now that Peoples is going to really help us next year.

JH: How many players have been injured thus far in spring practice?
Dusty (Dvoracek) and Derrick Strait are not practicing this spring. Jason White is doing just about everything and it is amazing how far along he is. We are really in good shape right now.Ó

JH: When is your first scrimmage?

ÒSaturday morning...if the weather was good. 10:00 amÓ

JH: Do you feel you are better this spring than a year ago?
ÒI think so because we have more depth, team speed and we are better at quarterback this spring. We have a lot of confidence in Jason and that fact alone improves our team. Quarterback is such a unique position and we need to have leadership there and we will have that this spring. Our kids are really hungry right now. It really hurt us down deep to loose to OSU. That will make us a better football team.Ó

Do you like what you are doing offensively right now?
ÒWe like it, because our running game is going to be able to open up our passing game. We are going to be able to run the ball and that is going to improve our offense, because teams wonÕt be able to just sit on our passing game. Teams were blitzing us on every other down, because they knew that we were going to throw the ball more than run it. We couldnÕt convert on short yardage either and that really hurt us. That is really the tale of the tape and the key to the game. On short yardage we have to get off the line of scrimmage and win the battle up front and we didnÕt do that last year, but we will this year. With our running game doing better you watch we will throw the ball better as well.

How has Quentin Griffin looked?
ÒHe is doing great. Kevin Wilson says that he should be a 1,500 yard back. He thinks he is that good. You forget that when you combine QuentinÕs rushing and receiving that he is at 1,500 yards or better. Quentin has been a winning football player for us since he came out of redshirt. Renaldo Works is having good spring as well and he is getting better all the time. We are in great shape at F-back, because Jerad Estus is playing well too. KeJuan (Jones) is back at practice this week and we really donÕt know a lot about what he and Donta Hickson can do, except that they are two outstanding young running backs.

JH: Talk about your tremendous depth at defensive back.
ÒWe do and we have several outstanding players in the secondary. My job is to get the best five on the field. We are happy with all our young players and have some great players for the future.

ÒÓEric Bassey has been one of our better players on defense this spring. He is only a redshirt freshman, but plays with a great maturity about him. ItÕs just the way that he practices and the way he goes about his business.Ó

ÒAntonio Perkins has played really well and we are trying to move him around to two or three positions so that we can get him on the field. He is a big play guy who we need to get on the field more. Those are two guys that we are counting on heavily. We have a lot of young guys who are good players in the secondary.Ó

ÒAvery Shine is getting better and doing some really good things at safety. All of them are working hard and we wonÕt come up with a solid depth chart until close to the end of spring ball, because none of them are separating themselves yet. We have good competition and there is good parity their. Whoever understands the urgency and the need to play ultimately will play for us. I think it is a great challenge to those players, whether it is Eric Bassey or Avery Shine or whoever is playing for Roy. I think it is great that those players can try to imitate everything that Roy did and that is good. We feel that we have talent their, but it just needs to play. I think it is a great challenge for that position and for us as coaches to try to place those guys. We have done it before and we are confident that we can replace Roy and Rocky (Calmus) and be better at all other nine positions around them.Ó

JH: Has Avery Shine worked in the picture to replace Roy Williams?
ÒBassey is our number one dime guy right now and Avery has made a lot of progress. Bassey can really run and he has shown us that he can hit. Bassey ran the fastest of all the DBÕs and he has great explosion. We are very fast at that position and I think we have a chance to be physical. We wonÕt be as physical as we were a year ago when we had Roy, but we still have a chance to have great speed out there. That is the thing that we like in that we still have great speed. We improved our speed at that position, but Roy played exceptionally fast because of his understanding of that position was so great. Our new guys have the pure physical speed, but now they just have to see things and recognize things.Ó

JH: Who is playing where at safety?
ÒBobby Klinck, Michael Thompson and Terrance Simms are playing back at the deeper strong safety position. Those guys are battling for that spot and that is good for us right now. We even worked Michael out at corner today just to see how he would hold up and he did well. He was only one step behind his original speed and that has improved from three. He is getting closer and closer every day to being back to his old form.Ó

JH: Who is backing Brandon Everage at free safety right now?

ÒAll the safeties are interchangeable right now. We are rotating all of them at both safety spots right now. We are about getting our best five or six defensive backs on the field at the same time and our job is to get them in the right spots. We need to practice them with our five best on the field. Last season Antonio Perkins spent half the time on the sideline and he was probably one of our best five DBÕs last year and he certainly is this year. We need to find a position for him and the top four others and get them on the field. Derrick Strait isnÕt practicing this spring, so Perkins is getting a lot of work at corner. However, when Derrick comes back it is going to be hard to replace Derrick, because he has been one of our steadiest players. Derrick will come back to that position and he is a two-year starter. If Perkins canÕt beat him out then weÕve got to find a position that he can play.Ó

JH: Is Jowahn Poteat back at practice?

ÒJowahn is just now getting healthy and he is not 100 percent yet, but he is getting closer. He practiced a lot today.Ó

JH: Is your overall team speed going to be better this spring? ÒWe feel that it is much better. When you look at Jonathan Jackson and the fact he ran a 4.5 forty adds to our defense. Having Dan Cody back and Wilkerson makes us very fast at defensive end. It is the fastest that we have been at defensive end since we have been coaching at any place that we have been.Ó

ÒThen you have good speed inside at defensive tackle. Then Pasha, Lance, Lehman and Russell Dennison are some of the fastest linebackers that we have ever seen. Now we just have to get them to understand where they need to be. To run fast and to play fast are two different things. We need to get them to understand where they need to be and to get there as fast as their speed is. We will play faster as we get smarter. We are not that smart yet, but it is early on in the process and we still have most of our spring practices left. These kids are picking things up really well.

Have you found someone to back up Teddy Lehman?
ÒAll of those linebackers are interchangeable. They have to know how to play two positions. Russell is going to be our swing guy probably and play behind both Teddy and Pasha (Jackson).Ó

JH: Do you have better depth at linebacker this year?
ÒI think we do. We played with basically three players last year and this year we feel we have five linebackers who are good enough to win for us. Lance (Mitchell) is really going to be a good player in the middle, however Clint Ingram is an excellent athlete who has really come on this spring. Teddy has moved over to RockyÕs position at weakside and brings tremendous athletic ability to the position. Then Pasha and Russell are two outstanding athletes who can run. We feel we could play any of the five and win football games with them.

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