Wilson: "We can do better than 8-4"

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson says he still expects his offense to be better in 2006 despite the loss of quarterback Rhett Bomar. (AP Photo)

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has never been one to pull any punches about what he thinks is going on with his team, whether it be the offensive line or any position on his side of the ball for that matter.

Yesterday was the first day since the pads were put on that the media had a chance to catch up with coach Wilson, and he had some interesting thoughts about his offense following the first two days of workouts.

JH: Things always change when you put the pads on, so how what caught your eye the first couple of days concerning your offense?

KW: "We are real soft."

JH: You didn't like the contact and how they got after it?

KW: "Nope."

JH: That was something that you were stressing in the spring about your offense, right?

KW: "Yep."

MEDIA: Where do you go with that from here?

KW: "We've got to get not as soft."

JH: Do you do that by continually lining them up and telling them to get with it?

KW: "Yes."

JH: Is the same true at your two positions — tight end and fullback?

KW: "The tight ends are doing really good. They are making some solid progress. Brodey (Eldridge) is playing solid, Joe Jon (Finley) is playing well and the young kid (Jermaine Gresham) is going to be a great player. I think we have three, but the young kid is still thinking. However, Jermaine has a chance.

He is physical and learning how to block and thinking a little bit now, but all three are going to give us some opportunities to do some different things. Fullback is OK, but they need to be better. But they were better today than yesterday, as far as effort, attitude and staying after it. So I liked that. However, I think the tight ends are playing good.

I am not saying that because I coach tight ends now. Those guys are playing better and all of them are bigger and stronger. They all come in at 257 to 263 so we have more girth and we have more size. Joe Jon weighed the most as he weighed — 263 on reporting day — and he was at 259 after yesterday's practice.

"We are in that 260 range so we have a little more in our pencil, a little bit more lead back there. They are not wining Mackey Awards, but they are better tight ends. So that is going to help us."

MEDIA: With all the changes you are going through on offense... (Wilson interrupts the question)

KW: "What are the changes?"

MEDIA: The changes that we don't know about, because you are closing practices so can we say you are trying to play to your strengths?

KW: "Again, we wanted to go a week or so here so that we could find out our strengths and who we could count on. I still think that we are going to go through Saturday's scrimmage, because after Saturday we are in a three-week mode before our first game. We will have some time to see what receivers and linemen are coming through, and who the quarterback is comfortable with.

"We have made no rash, radical all-of-the-sudden moves of we have to do this or we can't do this. We are still kind of in an install mode, because not everything is in yet — getting things in, getting things worked out. So, yeah, we are going to look at things but there has been no immediate judgment. The only judgment that we have made is that Paul (Thompson) is our quarterback. We are going to go with him. He is going to be our guy and we are going to be real good as soon as we get some toughness and get rid of some softness.

Toughness means playing smart. Toughness doesn't mean you run out there and hit somebody. Tough means you are smart enough to focus, get the plays, get the adjustments, react to the defense and play physical football. That to me is why I am saying that we are soft. We need to be tough enough mentally as we play football as a young offense. That is where we wait and see who we can and can't count on. It is not a lack of we won't hit or any of that kind of deal. Are we tough enough mentally to play on play after play?

We practiced hard today, but there is a difference in practicing hard and practicing tough when you are getting better. We practiced hard, but we were sloppy and that needs get out of our football team. Last preseason we had a sloppy camp, and we started the season as a sloppy offense. We need to stop being sloppy and start being a tough, fundamentally sound football team so we can have a chance to have a great season.

That is what I mean when I say they are soft. We are sloppy, and we are not mentally tough enough right now to play concentrated on the next play. What do I do to give good effort, good technique and good assignment fundamentals on the next play? It is still early in camp and we are playing some young guys, but we have some old guys who need to be better.

"It is not that we won't hit or we are afraid or that kind of deal. It is the ability to play mentally tough football and knowing what you are doing. That is being tough. If you know what you are doing on every play, as hot as it is, and the way we practice, then you are a tough player. That is what we are trying to challenge our guy,s and that is what I kept saying all summer about our young offense. You don't know who you can count on, because mentally we don't know how tough we are until you throw them out in that environment and see how we respond."

JH: How have the quarterbacks done over the last couple of days?

KW: "They did really good early, but the last couple of days the defense has kind of expanded their coverages given us different coverage looks. We have gotten bluffed a couple of times and we forced some balls. I am trying to teach them that at times a very good pass is incomplete. If you make a mistake it is not wrong if it is incomplete. It is a mistake when you then force the throw or get bluffed and make a blind throw, and we put our defense in a bad position and we give up cheap points.

"We have a great defense and we are working extremely hard in the kicking game, so if our quarterbacks are smart with their decision-making when it is not there and they make good misses we will have a chance to have a championship team. If they get bluffed with coverages and force the football, that is where the quarterback beats us. In the last couple of days with a couple of coverage wrinkles, they made some poor decisions.

"It wasn't mistakes, they made poor decisions because they tried to force it when they got the wrong read. That is going to happen sometimes. We are going to miss a block and they are going to have to scramble, but don't force it. That will be a key to their play and us being a championship team."

MEDIA: Rhett got better last year when you tailored things for him. Do you feel you can do the same thing for Paul?

KW: "Yeah, but I hope we can do better than 8-4. I hope we can do better than when we are playing in conference games that we can score more than 17 and 20 points. It was nice that we had some improvement last year, but it wasn't championship improvement. Our goal is that Paul should do better than that.

"Paul is a guy who, contrary to Rhett, has been here for a while and he has played as a quarterback more. He has a lot more time on task and understanding. I think his immediate upside potentially should be to play higher than we played last year — to play better earlier and to play better down the stretch.

"I just think with that competition last year we just didn't have a chance early to get us in sync with maybe what his strengths and weaknesses were. We were actually looking at the whole offense, not that he can't do things, because he is a drop-back player. Again, I think his upside should be better and it needs to be."

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