Stoops says Sooners rested, ready for A&M

See inside for quotes from OU head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman. Stoops talks about the effect of OU's off-week and Saturday's matchup against Texas A&M.

Below are excerpts from OU head coach Bob Stoops' weekly press conference Tuesday in Norman.

On the off-week

Just trying to rehabilitate and heal up some injuries.

I think we'll have several guys back, and even the ones that have been a little bit nicked up or banged up I believe are further along. They're healthier. Still not 100 percent, but still better than I think we have been in the last few weeks.

Getting Chris Chester back inside on the offensive line is a big, big plus as well. Chris had been playing, before his injury, really as well as anybody we had had and has got a great future in their on the offensive line. So it's good to have him back.

The extra work and having some extra health hopefully helps us. I feel like we're stronger coming into the week.

We practiced Monday through Thursday last week and had picked up this week on Sunday. I feel like we're in good shape and like where we're at.

On Texas A&M

Stoops: A&M is a team that we see that has been very explosive offensively.

You look at Big 12 statistics only and they're averaging over 400 yards a game. They're third or fourth I believe in the league in scoring offense. They're a team that can be very explosive.

I've always felt Reggie McNeal was one of the better players in the league. Then you look at their receiver — (Jason) Carter — and then a couple of really good backs. They have some excellent weapons.

We have to be very good defensively. They're one of the teams in the league that's been better running the football, so that will be a key component for us defensively — to be able to stop their running game and be great against the run.

And then we have to be able to contain and pressure McNeal and take away their big plays. They like to go after a lot of big plays on early downs and we've got to be good and be in position to take those away.

And offensively, like always, we want to be able to maintain our balance — run and pass — and make sure that we take care of the football, don't get behind the chains penalty-wise and keep our balance running and throwing. Hopefully we can do that and again try and improve in some of our special teams-wise.

There's a chance, depending on Jejuan Rankins availability, that Kejuan Jones will return punts. That's a guy that has got a lot of work the last two weeks. We probably should've tried Kejuan in there a little earlier.

We're hoping his experience handling the football will give us some more security back there handling the ball. I think that's the one area, without Jejuan, where we have lacked a little bit. If he can shore that up I'll feel like we're in pretty good shape special teams-wise.

On OU's series against A&M since he's been in Norman

Stoops: There's been a lot of really good games. Probably the best was the 2000 year.

They're always a good football team. They're always talented, so we understand that. It's a big game again this year.

On the young players getting better

Stoops: They are much more confident, but they're more experienced now.

They've been in the games, they've made plays. They've not made plays and they've learned from them.

Just being out there more, again, they're just more sure of thereself in what they're doing.

On if the team is getting their 'swagger' back

Stoops: I don't know. You guys throw that word around a lot.

They're more confident in what they're doing, I guess. You can term that or put whatever catch phrase you want to put with it — it helps them and they are playing more sure of thereself.

That's the way I like to say it, and more confident. They practice that way and they're showing that in the huddles in the way they play on gamedays too.

On if the weekend helped Adrian Peterson get back to being 100 percent healthy

Stoops: I don't know that he's 100, but his 95 is as good as most peoples' 100. He's closer and closer and looks really good practicing.

On if Chris Chester will start at center

Stoops: We'll go through this week and see how it works out. Whether he starts or not, he's going to play as much as anybody.

I don't really get concerned about who's going to actually start. In the end, they're going to all play. Coach Wilson's done an excellent job of that.

Having Chris in there, I believe, is going to be a big boost to us.

On if Reggie McNeal's scrambling ability will cause them to put more of an emphasis on the secondary not letting receivers get behind them in practice

Stoops: Well, it's an emphasis every week. I mean...

On if it's more of an emphasis this week

Stoops: Well, not any more than Nebraska when he was running around and trying to make plays too.

Whoever's back there, if you give them a chance to run around you've got to hold your coverage, stay on top and just react to scrambles. People take off and change their route, you've got to be able to see it and re-direct and stay on top.

On the versatility of the players on the offensive line

Stoops: Well, we've had to. Just because of all that's transpired in there we've had guys be able to step up and play multiple positions.

What's been good about that for the most part is most of them have a good understanding of not one but a couple, even three, positions. Especially some of the older guys, like Chris Chester, can play any of them up there. Chris Bush (can play) a number of them. Davin (can play) a number of them.

If they understand one, you understand the other once you've played a little bit. And the techniques are always fairly similar. Usually, inside, you're dealing with the guys that are a little bit heavier, but overall your techniques and what you're trying to do carry over.

On if Jacob Gutierrez has been ruled out for this weekend

Stoops: He's not definitely out. He's practicing. He practiced yesterday. I think, in the end, it will be how effective and strong he'll be with that arm.

He's close, but we're going to have to gauge with Jacob how truly strong he'll be with that arm and able to protect himself and do what he needs to do.

On if the teams main goal is to become bowl eligible

Stoops: Its main goal is to beat Texas A&M right now, this week. That's as far as we've gotten right now.

I'd like to win this week against Texas A&M and get to six (wins) and we'll try and get seven after that.

It's simple enough. You guys write what you want. That's where I'm at.

On in what other aspects of the off-week helped the team

Stoops: I think all of it — mentally, physically. It allowed more practice time, which to me always carries over mentally.

You get more familiar with who you're playing and recognition. I believe it's helped us and we're anxious to play again.

On if the team is playing at the level of consistency he's looking for

Stoops: Not always. At times we haven't. No, we're not as consistent as we want to be. We're more consistent than we had been early in the year, so that's progress.

I feel like, as we go hopefully if we can keep some of these guys back on the field we can have more and keep establishing a level of play and consistency that we're used to.

On Texas A&M's defense

Stoops: They have given up some numbers. They've played some very productive and good offenses though too. But also, they've given up some plays — whether it's run or pass. For whatever reasons, it's hard to say exactly why.

But I do feel watching them that they're very capable. You watch them and they've got good players running around and their schemes, to me, are sound.

Hopefully we can make some of the plays other people have been able to make. Whether it's run or pass, people have come up with some big plays and we'll need to do the same thing.

On the quality of Texas A&M's personnel

Stoops: Yeah, I do believe they have good players, sure. I'm not going to sit here and try and dissect that. That's not for me to do.

I do respect the heck out of their coaching and what they've done. I do feel they've always had good players, so that's more for them to address than me just sitting here watching a tape to say.

On if offensive lineman J.D. Quinn will play

Stoops: Yes, we have certain measures and punishment in place. And he's aware of that.

I'm not much for making it all public. We'll deal with it as we have so many others.

On his thoughts on Reggie Smith returning punts

Stoops: I've been over this probably four or five other times...

On if Smith has improved catching punts in practice

Stoops: Not to the level that I feel is necessary to be out on the field doing it in a game. Unless you guys have been practicing him somewhere else...

On if he envisions Smith eventually returning punts if he shows him in practice he can catch the ball

Stoops: Should he show me...yeah. Heck, AD would be the best back there if he showed me it too. He can run with the ball a little bit.

I feel Kejuan has a chance to give us something there too. In hindsight, probably should've used Kejuan earlier.

On if Jones approached the coaches about returning punts

Stoops: Yeah, depending on Jejuan's situation. He has experience, he's good taking care of the football and he has caught it before. So, we'll see.

On if the area of the team he's the most pleased with at this point in the season is the front seven

Stoops: I don't know if there's anything I'm most pleased with. I guess I'm just most pleased at the progress we're making. I wouldn't say there's any one area that's so dynamic.

Maybe, overall, the play of our front four. Those guys, I think, have really been solid — run defense, pressures for the most part through the games.

They may be up there, but outside of that we're always pushing for more.

On if there was a point where the season could've gone either way before they turned it around

Stoops: I don't know if there's ever a sense of dispair or panic in our ability.

I felt we would naturally progress and improve as we've gone. We have good character guys that have worked hard that are capable.

I feel confident in our staff. We've won over a number of years. It isn't just like we've had one year that's been decent and the rest of have been bad. And it's progressing.

We still have a ways to go. This game this week means a lot, and we need to keep showing improvement.

On if he sees more improvement in Rhett Bomar has he gets more reps

Stoops: Oh, absolutely. No question.

Everything he does he's gotten better. He's improved. I see it in practice — his reads, his timing, getting the ball out.

He's just more and more familiar with his receivers and the timing of things and defensive recognition. I think he's progressing in a great way.

On who has stood out on the defensive line stopping the run

Stoops: It's all those guys. They have a rotation in there and they all compliment each other and play hard all the time.

Dusty, Carl Pendleton, Remi Ayodele, Cory Bennett as a young guy has really been solid in there, and Steve Coleman at times. All of them rotate.

And again, I just really can't say enough about C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux. Alan Davis has come in and also had some nice plays in the Nebraska game. Those other guys have played more, but Alan's been solid. And Auston English continues to get better.

But those other guys that have played the most, have really been solid. C.J. has made a ton of big plays and so has Calvin. Both those guys, along with the inside guys, have been really good.

Dusty's has had as fine a year that we've had here of any defensive lineman, and his statistics show that. His sacks, tackles for loss, pressures I'm sure compare as good as anybody in the country or better.

On if this team has been the most challenging job for this coaching staff since they've been at OU

Stoops: It's probably fair to say. I'm not much on going back and comparing it to other challenges, but it's probably fair to say it's been one of them.

It's been exciting and that's what you're in it for. And I like the fact that we've got good guys —good, young men that are fun to work with and have good attitudes. Not everything's going to be perfect all the time. You do the best you can and that's what you're in it for.

It's been challenging, but fun and exciting. Even the games we've been in have been in a way invigorating. They charge you up. Even when you're finished, I'll be there at two in the morning and I still can't go to sleep. They wire you up.

On if they'll defense McNeal the same way they did Vince Young

Stoops: Well, the offenses are different. The plays, the formations are fairly different than what you get with them.

We'll defense them a little bit different. In ways, how you want to try and contain him and pressure him and eliminate his run game is similar.

But again, the way they try and run him is a little bit different in a lot of ways than the way they tried to run Vincent Young.

On if they've been working on defending trick plays since A&M pulled off a couple of fakes against them a year ago

Stoops: Oh, yeah. There's no question. That's a part of not just special teams, it's a part of everything we're doing.

All the fake punts and fake field goals, we've got two or three each day. Even a year ago we were in punt safe and field goal safe and still didn't handle it.

You've got to react to it and see it, and make a play much like you're on defense. You have to react to it, recognize it and be able to make the play when you see it.

On if he talked with Mike Stoops a lot last week

Stoops: Oh, a little bit. We talked some. We talked for sure after the game and he and my brother Mark felt good about what they had done.

They felt good actually going into the game that they matched up well and recognized how they would have to play. Fortunately, they played well.

They've been close and it's good for them to get over the hump in a game and show what they're capable of doing. Hopefully it keeps happening for them.

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