See below for excerpts from Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's interivew with the media on Tuesday.
On going into the opening game this year having a full month to prepare with their entire personnel, as opposed to last year when they lost a starting lineman the week of the game
Wilson: Yeah, we're healthy, but I think we have really practiced well. Will we play well? I don't know. We've got some unknowns with some young guys and first-time linemen playing, and Paul (Thompson) getting settled back at quarterback.
I think the key thing where we're at is the trust factor. Do the guys trust the guys they're playing beside? Do the guys trust themselves? Do they trust the scheme and will they play within themselves in an early game? I think that's a big factor. When the lights are on and the bullets are flying sometimes some young guys get a little frazzled, out of sync, out of kilter. We have really practiced well. We had a good go yesterday. Again, I think we're going to play real well.
The thing we've got going with UAB right now that we don't know — they've got a new defensive coordinator. He has been their defensive coordinator in year's past, but he has not coached the last four years. We went back and even saw things they've done in 2000 and 2001 when was the coordinator, and they were one of the top defenses in the country.
Those openers you get a little leery of what do you expect from them. So if you're not careful as a coach you can get too smart with too many schemes and you get all over the place. We've tried to concentrate on us, giving our guys a chance, giving Paul a chance to do some things well, give our line a chance to execute some things well. And try to get the running game going with Adrian and complement him on some passes.
On the gameplan and how aggressive they'll be with a young line and a new quarterback
Wilson: To me, we've got to come out and attack. We've got to get Paul in a rhythm early. That doesn't mean you just throw dink passes or flair passes where you complete five balls and you've got two yards.
We've got to come after these guys, but when you are young you've got to be smart. But at the same time you just can't be so vanilla that the defense can get a beat on you and come at you.
On Thompson spending more time meeting with the coaches because of his class schedule, and tailoring the offense to fit his abilities
Wilson: With him being a senior, he only needs two classes to graduate. Kinda like (Matt) Leinart, but I don't think he has ballet class. I don't think we're offering that here. He's (Thompson) probably on one of our tougher academic schedules.
But with two classes we've asked him when the opportunity presents itself to come in. Here's what we're seeing on third down, here's what we're seeing in the scoring zone. Here's what we like, but what do you like?
And I think getting around us and him hearing our interaction — our protection concerns and why, our blitz concerns and why, why the ball needs to be going certain places to get certain people involved — I think it gives him an understanding it's just not a play but here's where we're trying to fit this play in to attack the defense, to attack the situation and to get the ball to the right guys.
The bottom line to me is I always like when a quarterback says he likes something and when he doesn't like something. It's bad when you have a quarterback that says he likes everything. It's nice to have a guy who says, ‘I'm not comfortable with this throw, I like this one better.' Because you know in a game he's going to be a lot more decisive, just like that golfer pulling out that club. The guy who hedges sometimes doesn't hit that shot, and the guy that's decisive typically makes a better swing.
I think that quarterback is the same kind of gig. Getting him involved helps us. I think it helps him and hopefully it leads to him playing well. We'll see.
On how much Adrian Peterson will be involved in the passing game
Wilson: I think Adrian will be involved protection-wise for sure, and I think we've got some things where he's going to get some touches. We have not designed it where we expect him to have two catches, three catches, five to eight catches, but he is a player that we need to get involved.
Merv Johnson says all the time he's the worst guy to throw a screen to because everyone's watching him. Kevin Sumlin says. ‘Shoot, he's the best player on the team. Throw it to him and make them tackle him anyway.
On how much they'll use Reggie Smith on offense
Wilson: I don't know. We've done that in year's past and in the heat of the game when you start running kicks back — what's his stamina like? But he is in great shape. He does play a position where I think our coaches are comfortable defensively with him.
Maybe for sure in some third down situations, but I think there's going to be a fine line. I think, for us, I'm interested to see that first game how it goes and what can he handle with the excitement of the game, the punt returns and running on defense. Because, again, there's a fine line where you can do too much mentally and physically.
Right now we've got a plan of what we want to do with him. Sometimes he's going to maybe be a primary guy, sometimes he's not. Until he proves himself, I don't think the defense thinks he's a primary guy anyway.
It will be interesting after the first week or two how that plays. Is he getting three or five offensive plays a game or is he getting a dozen, 15 or 20? Time will tell on his stamina. Mentally, he can do a bunch but it's the physical part and the stamina part.
The game's are so hectic on the sidelines — can you find him? We tried to play Dan Cody some at tight end, Tommie Harris — can you find them? Sometimes they're over there on the bench and they're talking defense and they're tired. So it will be interesting to see in the heat of the battle how that truly plays out.
On when and why they decided to use Smith at receiver
Wilson: It's something we had talked about since we recruited him. I gave him a hard time last year, ‘Hey, do you remember that tape we put together of all the offensive plays when we recruited you and you would come here and play offense?' We still have that tape.
I know coach Stoops would tell you, and coach Venables, that the things we do defensively require a lot more mental preparation for the safeties in the way they get implemented in the run game. The corner position does have some things, but is not near as time-consuming as safety. I think him being more mature, he plays a position where he's playing well, I think our defensive coaches have confidence and that gives us the freedom to get him over and worked up.
It was Coach Stoops' idea after about a week of two-a-days. We got Manny (Manuel Johnson) out there going yesterday. I think he'll be, as the week goes, probably a gametime decision. Maybe it gets pushed to next week, maybe not. But he did go yesterday (Monday) and he did run. As a matter of fact, Scott (Anderson) said he ran awful hard. And I said, ‘he's trying to show you he can go,' Because his goal was to go this week. I think our medical staff is kind of waiting to see.
But when Manny got the knee (injury), I think that escalated coach Stoops' idea of getting him (Smith) involved as a slot receiver.
On if he has an idea of what he's going to see from his offense or is the first game of the season a situation when ‘you never know
Wilson: I think we've got a good feel. We've practiced and are doing things well in practice, but will the trust transfer into the game? I think the key word for us offensively is a simple word: trust. Will they trust the way they've practiced, the way they've prepared, things they're doing, their abilities?
When you're young you over-think things. You over-analyze and you get out of sync. It's a lack of confidence; it's a lack of trust. We have practiced in a way that gives me an idea that I think we're going to come out and play really well. But as young as you are, until those bullets fly I think it's a little bit of a guess.
On UAB's personnel on defense
Wilson: Three of the front four are seniors. They've all played and started last year. The one, Ian McSwain, is one of the best players in their league. He's a great pass rush guy.
They have three senior linebackers. They have been a 4-3 team. Will they stay that way or not? We're kinda gauging and guessing with a new coordinator. Six of their front seven are seniors. They are replacing a bulk of their secondary and their best secondary player, although they do have a player back that didn't play last year that started in '04.
I think they're going to be a challenge for us up front — staying on blocks, protecting the passer, giving us a chance for Paul to throw on time and throw in rhythm. But it's kinda hard to gauge exactly what we're going to see schematically. Like I said, we even went back and looked at things in 2000 and 2001 when the guy was a coordinator.
We spent a fair amount of time looking at them, but recently, as we gameplan let's talk about what we need to do to execute well and not really get consumed with exactly what they're going to do because it's a little bit of a guess.
But I do think their talent will be pretty solid. The strength of their team is their defensive front. If you read about their team, I think they feel comfortable about where their defense has played all preseason.
On how important is it to get Thompson some confidence early
Wilson: It would be good if it happened fast. Watching practice, I don't want to say he's a streaky guy but he does get through periods. And maybe it's just the luck of those plays right now. So until you get in games, I think we're always too fast to judge a guy and say he is this is or isn't.
But he does get where sometimes there's five, six, seven, eight throws in a row in 7-on-7 and in team – it's like, wow! Then all of the sudden we're a little out of sync. Whether he starts fast or not, we'll try and get him in the flow.
He does seem like a guy that once he gets going he makes plays and kinda gets rolling a little bit. It would be nice to start fast, but whether we start fast or not it would be nice, as the game goes, to keep him in as much rhythm as we can.
On if he knows what to expect from Thompson on Saturday
Wilson: He's pretty even-keeled. I don't think he's going to be overly emotional or overly excitable. I think he's practiced pretty well and he's pretty comfortable in the things we're working on.
We've tried to work real hard as a staff on things we're doing in the run and pass to get him comfortable, and if he wasn't comfortable to get out of it. The thing I've liked all preseason is he hasn't forced the football. He's been pretty smart with it. I do think he'll have the ability to make some plays running.
I think the key for him is will he take what the defense gives him? Does it feel like he's got to force plays? Whether he's throwing it or running it, will he be secure with the football? And if he does that, I think we'll be OK.
Wilson talks offense, UAB
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