Spring practice is over for the Sooners for 2007, and on Wednesday Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops made an appearance on Sports Morning with Bob Barry Jr. and I to give his thoughts on how the 15 days of practice went for the Sooners.
JH: Bob, time really flies because it is hard to believe that you have been at Oklahoma now for eight years. Does it seem like you have been at OU for that long?
BS: I guess it is flying by pretty fast. Really, it is yes and no because sometimes it seems it does and sometimes it doesn't. Heck, overall it has been a great eight years and I am excited about this year's team, the way we finished last year and what the possibilities are.
BBJ: When people watched the Red-White game this past Saturday, the buzz was there was loads of talent everywhere. You really have to like the make up of this year's team.
BS: I really do. We have a lot of young guys who have really come on that we were hoping would. I really like how our quarterbacks are working and progressing. I feel they are going to be just fine. I think the challenge is to make sure the players around them improve. We are a young team still, but a lot of guys got great experience last year, even though they were young. But being young and all that, as we mature and get older we have to get better. So, I am hoping these guys around the quarterback all improve and if they do we have a chance to have a really good year.
JH: You have said over and over again that you like how the quarterbacks are working together. Why is that important for your football team?
BS: It is just important for your overall team camaraderie, attitude and willingness to pull for each other. Those guys are really showing that. It is being unselfish and it is not being out here all about me. It is about the team. We are all going to have our opportunities at different times, and let's all compete together and make each other better. That has been happening.
BBJ: When you look at the three, what did you see this spring, especially form the young kid Keith Nichol, who is just fresh out of high school?
BS: He has a lot of ability that we had seen. It gets down to, first, just the ability. You see the great arm and the ability to make some excellent throws. He has excellent feet to run with the football. So, he is what you had hoped when you recruited him that he does have those kinds of skills and he really does. So, now it is just getting him comfortable with everything that you are doing. That just takes time to learn the terminology, what his reads are the timing and speed of everything here. That is the challenge to get him enough snaps to get him to feel comfortable.
JH: Am I correct in saying that the competition continues through the summer and into two-a-days?
BS: Well, yeah. Of course, I have said that 800 times.
JH: You were a great safety at Iowa, so how would you tackle DeMarco Murray in the open field?
BS: Getting him before he gets into the open field. That was my trick. I was getting down there quick.
BBJ: I was as impressed with that first 18-yard run as I was with the 60-yarder because he can turn quickly and explode without losing any speed running north or south, it looks like.
BS: Absolutely. He is a tough, hard-running guy that can hit it up in there tough. He has speed to get around the corner. He has a lot of different tools, and he knows how to use them that is for sure.
JH: Everybody talks about the competition at quarterback, but you have just as much, if not more competition, at running back, don't you?
BS: I think the positive thing there is the same thing, and I think our guys really see this. If you have an 80- to 85-play game offensively, none of our guys really have that kind of endurance and stamina that Adrian did, or the strength that it takes to take 60 snaps. So, between them they are going to get 20, 25 or 30 snaps, and depending on who is hot and who is doing what. They have a chance to keep each other fresh, to play fast and, inevitably, one may miss a game due to injury or something, who knows. Through a 13- or 14-game season we are going to need them all, and there is going to be plenty of snaps for them.
BBJ: I really like Chris Brown because every time he gets the ball he is doing something positive, and he can move the pile, it seems to me.
BS: Absolutely. I think you are very right and that is a great observation. As coaches, we just marvel at Chris. He isn't the flashy guy, but he is so efficient, and he is so good at picking up not only everything that is there, but he makes some subtle moves to get him an extra 3 and 4 yards at the end of piles. Rarely does he ever take a square hit, he never misses a hole and he has great patience as he takes the ball. He has great feet to slide and to get himself into some spaces. When you watch our coaches' version (of film), which is from the end zone up tight and zooms right into the line, backs and the quarterbacks, and you see the holes develop, and the way he just had an incredible knack for sliding and getting himself into the right spaces. Then he is faster and quicker than every one gives him credit for. He is really a good back.
JH: The good news on the injury for Brody Eldridge is that he does not have an injury that will require surgery. Tell us how much he means to your football team and the quality of player that he is.
BS: People will recognize how good he is the more he plays, and I am sure other coaches that play against him see it. I am sure other defensive ends and linebackers on other teams do too. Last year he was as tough, as good, as complete a player as we had. He is so consistent when you watch his blocking -- he just does an incredible job especially for a young guy. When he was hurt the other day we were all holding our breath because of how valuable he is. He is really one of those guys when you get a lead and you start to take Adrian Peterson out last year, we were always talking about getting Brody out too. That is how important he is to us.
BBJ: I liked how Mike Reed smacked Allen Patrick on the second play of the game, so talk about him and also about some of the younger guys on defense.
BS: Mike is doing a really good job. He has the tools that we want, the explosiveness, the toughness, and the ability to hit and all. He can cover and move, but it is just that we have so many different ways that we use our safeties to fit the run game. If the one safety is coming down the line then the MIKE linebacker has to stay on this side of the block. If we use the other safety he has to stay on the other side of the block. So, it is just getting him familiar and more consistent with him being able to play in that context to know and be disciplined where he needs to fit. It just takes time. He is just like a quarterback and he just needs to keep getting snaps to get comfortable with it, and he will.
The young guys up front are really going to be good. I thought that was one of the best things of the spring as I thought our young interior guys really played well. Gerald McCoy, Adrian Taylor, Auston English and Jeremy Beal all played well this spring. Jeremy moved up there from MIKE linebacker and he has a real knack for playing off the edge up front. So they, along with the other guys who are already there, are really coming along.
JH: Lewis Baker has been in your program for a long time and he is proof positive that if you stay around, work hard and have some talent you will eventually find the field.
BS: That is very true. Sometimes guys think coming into a place just because they have so and so, that I can't play for a few years. That isn't true. Lewis has played every year that he has been here in different capacities. He has contributed and played a lot, and he has made the most of the ability that he has up to this point. We are hoping that he has a big year next year. He works hard, is a great young guy in his attitude and everything that he does. He has had a really good spring.
BBJ: What did you think of some of those guys in the secondary in the Red-White game?
BS: I thought D.J. Wolfe has really been a great addition at the safety position. He shows up a lot, and he is making plays. I am pleased where he is at. The cornerbacks are doing well, but I still feel there is polish to be done there to get them to play at even a better level. They have been solid, but again I think they can still improve, and they are working toward that. Some of the other safeties are kind of in the same situation that I said about Mike Reed. Darien Williams started all last year and he is out, so these other safeties have been getting a lot of snaps. And again, on defense, safeties and backers have the most to understand, read and get themselves in the right position. These guys can't get enough snaps to give them the opportunity to improve.
JH: Walk-ons have always played a role on your football team and this spring was no different with Tommy Taggart and Carter Whitson, who looked as if they had big springs for you.
BS: They did. Tommy is very solid inside and has made great, great strides through the year. We are pleased with where he is at. Carter has always been very good here. He works hard, he is very smart in how he plays and he makes a lot of nice plays. It was good to see him make those plays the other day, and I thought the quarterbacks put the ball in some nice spots for him as well.
BBJ: Are you going to wear mics during the games next year? I thought that was a good touch during the Red-White game.
BS: How much did they have me talking though? Not very much, did they? It is a lot easier during the spring game.
BBJ: I noticed as soon as the game was over you were pretty quick to get that ear piece off.
BS: Yeah, I am not much on that stuff. You don't want to hear it during the game. When you are out there competing it is kind of like you are going after it. Everything isn't always the best.
JH: Are you going to be able to use those new video boards to your advantage when you are trying to show those officials that they made a mistake?
BS: I don't know. Hopefully I don't have to. Hopefully they will turn around and look and see it. I am sure they are probably told not to, I don't know. Again, we will see how they all go, but I don't know that it is going to change my world a whole lot. A lot of times if there is a controversial call they don't put it up on the board.
BBJ: Are you going to get a little time to relax now that spring practice is over?
BS: Actually, it almost gets busier with all the things that you have to get to and get around. I find my own time in there though, that is for sure.
JH: You do hit the recruiting trail again soon, don't you?
BS: We are in all next week and then we get out for the next four weeks.