Below is a transcript of OU head coach Bob Stoops' Media Day Press Conference Friday morning in Norman.
I don't see things a whole lot differently. When you look at the number of years Paul Thompson has been in and the number of years he's been in our program, the respect of his teammates and the way he's worked, offensively I'm excited. You look at the players that are around him, the experience there, we have a strong backfield situation and receivers. Our offensive line is going to be a lot different than last year but hopefully as we build during the summer we can be better because of the size and the ability up there. That has to come together but that has the potential to be a solid unit.
On Paul Thompson at Quarterback
He brings great experience. It isn't like we're replacing a guy that's got a lot of experience; he'd only started for one year. We're excited about the possibilities are. We like our other quarterbacks but they don't have the experience that he has and the maturity. They are guys that need to continue to develop and they will but we felt the experience factor and Paul's ability to make plays was the way we needed to go.
On yesterday's practice
Watching them yesterday at practice I was very encouraged, loved what I saw yesterday and excited by what we saw. Paul stepped in and handled the huddle; he was excellent in his pass skel and team situations. I don't believe between he and Jon Cooper there was one bad snap. He just managed it in a great way. The very first play of team, I had to leave to go to the Sooner Caravan, but I looked back and that first play he hits Malcolm Kelly for a 50 yard bomb and got everybody excited. There's great opportunity there to be really strong.
On the defense
We're in a great situation there to be really strong and improved on what we did last year. We're much more experienced up front, and the secondary, with a year under their belt. A guy that's going to step into safety, who showed it after practice and the way he tested is Keenan Clayton. He looked really good and tested really well. And that's a big plus. He's a great hitter, in that mold of the good, strong hitters we've had at safety so that's a big bonus to have him coming in. We have all the defensive ends back this year and I think everyone agrees that has a chance to really boost us in a big way this year. The experienced linebackers we have. One of the guys that stepped up really big in the spring, that we expected, was Demarrio Pleasant. We're working him at SAM and he's been really impressive.
On special teams
(Stoops mentions Chris Wilson now special teams coordinator) we worked hard yesterday with our punt unit. (Deep snapper) Eric Mensik and Derrick Shaw, a walk-on that was out there was really impressive and sharp in his first day. Michael Cohen, a new guy in punting-wise, a non-scholarship guy but a guy who impressed us. Garrett (Hartley) hit the ball well also. Those guys will compete with Mike Knall to see who can be the most consistent. Reggie did a good job returning yesterday, we feel he'll be able to help us get some big plays out of our return game that we need. We're hoping with Reggie we can get some big plays. Garrett did a good job kicking. We need special teams this year to be a big factor for us in each game.
On Thompson's strengths
We'll see. That's one of those things that as you get out there and work through the communication out there with coaches Wilson and Heupel, we've just been doing this now for two or three days and we'll find what works. And just because he has great speed and athleticism, you know Paul throws the ball very well. We've always felt that way and he's not just going to be running with him, we're going to pick our shots when we do and teach him to get down and avoid the collisions. But at this point we've got a full month and all our practices to get it ironed out with him.
On if offense's evolving situation impacts whether defense should start out stronger earlier
Yes, but I expect our offense to be on its game early as well. We believe it will, coach Wilson is a guy that has great flexibility. He's coached in multiple sets and offenses and understands them all. He's coached many positions and he'll do a great job of getting us geared towards what we're good at and what we can execute. But sure, our defense needs to come out and be great right off the bat.
On DeMarcus Granger
Demarcus has worked really hard. He showed up yesterday and his testing looked good. We're counting on him to be a big factor up front and be one of those guys.
On Kevin Wilson's philosophy/play calling fitting what he wants
Well he's had success before coming here. He's been an instrumental part of our success the last five years. He's been calling plays for us for years with Chuck, and setting the plan up for what's going to be called. He understands philosophy-wise what I think is right in how to attack a defense and he designs it but he knows how to expose weaknesses and how to go after it. I've got great trust in him.
On Wilson's preference to push it and gamble on O more than…(alluded to vs. Chuck Long)
Sure, I'd say no more than where you were going with that. Listen when Chuck was here we had a lot of big plays, you can go back and look at how many plays Jason White threw. We're going to mix it up and we understand that. You can't run the ball without throwing it and vice versa. You have to have a good blend.
On Wilson's philosophy vs. Long's
I'm not going to compare the two. I think in some degrees there won't be much change in what we do in certain formations. In other parts, even if Chuck was here, we might tailor it to fit Paul more. To me it isn't fair to say, ‘here are there differences', they've been doing the same things together for five years and we're going to work through that here this month. Some things that we've done that have been great for us and that Paul likes, we're going to continue them and we may just add some wrinkles that take care of his speed.
On if Bomar's absence will hurt more next season than this one
I don't believe that. We've got a year with these other young guys and we have the opportunity to recruit.
On Birdine's progression
He looks fantastic. Yesterday his strength was obvious, watching him test; he's gained about five pounds or so and looks as quick and fast as ever. He gives us a chance to give us a big boost, with his abilities and his energy. He's ready for the season and he's really worked hard.
On not using Bomar's departure as excuse
Absolutely. And again, we're not walking in there with a freshman. We're going in with a guy who's been taking snaps for us for four years. So I promise you our expectations haven't changed one bit.
On the freshmen
What we saw yesterday they looked good – very, very good. They're a really impressive group and they're a close knit group, which you love to see. They all come in together and they get a really good bond here in the summer. It's a really impressive group and I'm really excited about it.
On who could step in to help offensive line
Chase Beeler. He really was impressive with his lifting and his strength, unfortunately he had an ankle sprain at some point this summer, which he's still working through. But you hear the kids talking - he works hard and looks good, even with a sore ankle. But he has the strength and the power to really step in right away. And we'll see with the other guys, but we'll work them all and see.
On other freshmen who could contribute
I always feel bad if I single out a few but I would say watching guys strength-wise: Adrian Taylor up front with Gerald McCoy. Jermaine Gresham, at tight end, is an incredible looking guy who works hard. Watching him practice yesterday and test he worked hard and didn't look like a freshman, he catches the ball well. Brandon Caleb at wideout stuck out also.
On Duke Robinson working at tackle and guard
Couple of those guys are going to have to have a little bit of flexibility and Duke's one of them. We'll see, that's as long as he's able to handle it and if he feels good about it.
On if Adrian Peterson's carries will go up
Last year I thought we ran him about as much as we need to. Game to game that depends but let's face it, he needs to get a certain number each game. But I don't say he has to have a certain number game to game, but I think it's fair that he'll get somewhere to 30 -35 a game maybe. Wherever we can get it to him where he doesn't have to run it through the line is a bonus.
On winning with a "Baltimore Ravens" style
No. We're going to do everything we were going to do before. Absolutely not. Paul has too much ability to do that.
On defenses ganging up on Peterson more
How do you do it more? They already have. It's not going to happen. We've got two wideouts and they have ten in there, we're that good I promise you that.
On the center situation
The guys that were there yesterday looked good: Jon Cooper, Ben Barresi and Chase Beeler. So all three of them worked it yesterday but all three need to improve but Jon looked really good in there. The other guys will keep improving.
On how much of a concern o-line depth is
As much as you want it to be I guess. We'll have 7-8 guys that we like by the time it's ready to play. We've got our numbers back in a decent way and we'll keep improving but I think there's a lot of potential there with some guys like Brandon Braxton. He's got great ability, he's becoming a leader in the huddle, a rangy big and strong guy. Chris Messner is looking really good. Jon Cooper is coming back from that ankle injury as well. So everybody loves to paint this terrible picture but it's not that way. We played the whole year last year, virtually without Chris Chester, so we don't look at it that way.
On 30-35 carries a game for Adrian – coming out to be 420 a year – is that too much?
I don't know is it? Some games it may not be that much, that's what you shoot for. Depending on how it goes you may not get that many. What is the right number where you guys will like it? If you don't run him enough it's ‘you got to get him the ball more.' Each games different, if he's healthy and feeling great then we'll feed it to him. If play actions and all are working and he only needs to carry it 23 times then it will be that way sometimes. He's a strong, strong guy who's really tough and has great endurance.
On using AD more in 3rd down situations
Hopefully yes. He needs to keep polishing up and making sure he's a great pass protector, he wants to be a complete back who understands protection schemes and who to pick up. He does catch the ball well, that's always been there. Not just third downs, on first downs, if we take a shot downfield and it isn't there, he's a good guy to dump it to and you're likely to get 10-15 on a two yard throw.
On the secondary last two or three years hindering defense from becoming dominant
I would say so. The last few years we've given up plays we shouldn't have. Last year I think a lot was inexperience. We had DJ Wolfe and multiple true freshman safeties, which to me, safeties and linebackers have the hardest positions to learn because of all the adjustments. To me, you get the biggest plays offensively from your receivers and defensively you give up to most with the secondary and those were our most inexperienced areas on the team last year. That is not the case now. I love the improvement made there in the spring and let's face it, the second half of the season also. Again people forget, but if you take just Big 12 opponents into consideration we had the number one defense. Is that good enough for our standards? No, but those guys are quite a bit better, we need to better still.
On Big 12 not having experienced QB's (mentions after Bomar's departure)
We'll see, you don't have a guy who's done it for so long. I think it's fair to say Rhett wasn't in that position either.
Reporter asserts that Bomar was "about to be on the higher level of Big 12 QB's"
What's about to be? Vince Young was. Jason White was, he was a Heisman Trophy winner who threw for over 40 TD's. Everybody loves to say who could have been, well there are a bunch of guys who could have been but I'm saying who's coming back that's already done it to that level. There isn't one of those guys in that category.
On Thompson's greatest strength is respect from teammates
Sure, but he has a lot of ability as well. There's not a guy on this team that's on this team, since I've been here, that's more respected than Paul from the staff or the players. I think his character shows that, his willingness to accept responsibility that takes a lot of guts and courage. The whole nation's watching him and the scrutiny that comes with that and he steps up and says give it to me, I'll be the guy that takes it. You know he's got a great character and I think he's shown it over and over to this program.
On the punter situation
Those guys looked good. I was probably most impressed with Michael Cohen. He showed power, hit some good ones, there were times when he didn't hit it correctly, like with a golf shot, but he still could power it to have a decent punt even if he didn't hit it just right.
On Garrett Hartley working at punter
He had several that looked good too.
On if the decision to go to Thompson was a no-brainer
Ugh, well I don't know if it was, I mean it didn't….yeah. My first thoughts, I guess why I said it that way was that my first thoughts were for Paul. He's already made this move and I don't want him to move again, but then you think of the inexperience of the other guys. When you boil it down, Paul has been here for four years taking snaps, not a lot different than Rhett, it was close. I said to Kevin it would only be right if Paul, in his heart, wanted to do it. Otherwise, it's not going to work. I presented it to him that way and he said I want to do it. I'm excited about it.
On if, during his coaching experience, had he seen more of a team guy than Paul
I don't know of any. That's not fair to say, not that we haven't had great team guys but we don't have guys that have made all these moves and all so not really.
On if he'd have been surprised if Thompson would have turned it down
I hoped he wouldn't, he'd have had good reason to but Paul's a bright guy. I hoped he would because he's a confident guy with great character that would accept the challenge. I think he sees the opportunity to have his hands on the ball a lot and he's got that kind of courage that he'll put himself out there to do that. That shouldn't be undervalued, he puts himself out there and he's excited about it.
On C.J. Ah You and plans to possibly move him inside in certain situations
We'll see, in passing and long yardage situations, we'll look at moving him or another DE inside to rush. Again, I feel great about our inside guys but that's a possibility considering who are best inside guys and pass rushers are.
On if the improved secondary gives more options for different packages
I'm not sure we could run any more than we already to. We've got as many as you'd want now. With the "spinner" situation, we had a unique guy in Dan Cody that was so flexible and could stand up and do different things. When we had Roy, we all know what a weapon he was, in that dime position so close to the line to make plays. But we'll play to our strengths, we'll take advantage of our guys in a good way.
On kick returners
Reggie (Smith) will probably be one, along with our punt returner. But we'll also look at Allen Patrick along with some of our freshman backs, such as Demarco Murray. So we'll see, we've got a number of guys.
On how QB recruiting has changed
It's definitely a priority now for us. And you know we'll work it hard, get the word out there.
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