The defending Big 12 Co-Champions took the stage at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, TX on Tuesday. Head Coach Bob Stoops was joined by Owasso native cornerback Aaron Colvin, center Gabe Ikard and fullback Trey Millard. The Sooners are picked to finish second behind the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the preseason Big 12 media poll.
Here is a question and answer session with Coach Stoops.
COACH STOOPS: Thank you, Peter. Welcome, everybody. Like always this time of year, and like all coaches and players, we're excited to get ready to start the season and looking forward to it.
I've really been pleased and excited about our players' work through the winter and spring. Obviously, in the summer we have limited access to our players. Hopefully, that will be changing in the future, but the little I've seen of them coming and going from class and around our facility, I know everybody's excited about it.
Just they've had a great attitude, a great work ethic, and I really feel excited about the way they've worked here through the summer.
We're anxious to have a chance to get with them, start coaching them, start trying to make improvements as we go into the year.
We have an incredibly tough schedule throughout, but in particular when you look at the first six games with our nonconference schedule to go with West Virginia and Texas, I believe, in our first couple of games, also is just really challenging and difficult. So it will be a tough challenge when you look at that first half of the season.
We traditionally have scheduled very difficult, so it will be a big challenge for the coaches and players to be able to play not only those games but then finish out the year.
We have great -- three great players here with us today. Trey Millard, our great fullback, H-back, running back, No. 33 for us. And then Gabe Ikard on our offensive line, who could play center and guard, play tackle if we need him to, great young man. He's already graduated. Trey Millard graduates in December. And Aaron Colvin, our cornerback, a great excellent player for us, No. 14, and he will graduate in December.
These guys are great student-athletes and great kind of leaders on our team and excited to have them here with us for you to have a chance to get around them.
Q. You've had great stability at quarterback over the last six years or so. Blake Bell, I guess, is the next guy up. We all know Blake from the Bell-dozer package, but we haven't seen him throw a lot. Can you give us a talk about what you expect from Blake this spring and what you'll see this fall.
COACH STOOPS: You're kind of making assumptions if you think he's the guy right now.
Q. I didn't make an assumption. I just haven't seen him throw.
COACH STOOPS: You started your question by saying "I guess he's the next guy up." We've got a number of guys in there in competition with him that are doing really well, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight to go along with Blake Bell. We've never been real excited about naming a guy too early. So they're working hard as well.
In the rest of your question, Blake is a guy that does throw the football well. We have a history in my going on 15 years of having guys in quarterbacks that are really excellent throwers, and Blake fits that mold. We would never recruit a guy that we didn't feel would be a great passer.
So he works hard at it. He throws a great deep ball. So to go along with his big physical presence and ability to run it, we're excited about the way he throws it too, yes.
Q. Obviously, the Big 12 is an offensive league top to bottom. You're a defensive coach. Since '05 you've given up 14 games, 40-plus points. '99 to '04, no games you gave up 40 points. Do you think you kind of shied away really looking at coaching the defense compared to the offense since the league is so offensively spread out?
COACH STOOPS: No, I don't think so. We've gone about our business of coaching and trying to be great on defense, and the way we work it, the same way a year ago as we did back in '99 and 2000, in years where we've had great defenses.
I think some of it is gets down to offensive schemes and being able to adjust defensively. There's always a coaching element to it, and there's also a personnel element to it, where sometimes you're more dominant in the personnel that you have on defense as opposed to offense.
I think you do have to give a little bit of credit to every year, it seems, in our league there's some incredible quarterbacks. You see a good number of them littered throughout the NFL once they leave here. So that always -- to me, the better the quarterback, whether it's in the NFL or in college football, the harder they are to stop.
So in our league, we've had a lot of really good ones.
And to finish that, I think, too, our decision to go more up tempo has led our defense to be on the field more, and that's a fact too.
Q. Bob, your success with the Bell-dozer, you've used that with Landry as your starting quarterback. If you had Blake as the starter, or theoretically any quarterback as your starter and what was also your specialist, do you find yourself thinking, I won't use the Bell-dozer as much? I'll find somebody else to use that. Do you want to use the Bell-dozer if that's your starting quarterback?
COACH STOOPS: I wouldn't shy away from it. I think you bring up a good point in that my -- in thinking through this, the thing about you put Kendal or Trevor back there to run it, they're faster. So you've got more options there of what you're able to do with them. Or if they happen to hit a crease, they're not likely to be caught very soon.
So there's some of that to consider, and it gives him a break or gives him an opportunity to avoid what you're alluding to, is taking too many hits.
But there are times when you maybe with the no huddle or you're going quickly and you want to be able to just snap it and let him do some things, we'll do that too. There could be some of each. I'm not sitting here wanting to tip my hand, but Blake is a big, strong, sturdy guy, but we are very aware of we never want our quarterback to take too many hits.
Q. Bob, can you just talk about the direction of the defense right now. I'm sure you gave up more rushing yards than you'd like last year, got a lot of faces you're trying to replace on that defense in year two with your brother.
COACH STOOPS: It's still a work in progress. Definitely, in some of our schemes a year ago, we were more coverage conscious, and it hurt us in the run game.
In the end, we'll have to make some adjustments there. And personnel-wise, we do lose quite a few guys, but we are very excited about the talent and ability of some of the young players coming up that we're still developing, still polishing, still trying to improve skills.
They're working hard at it. So I believe we have a chance to make improvement there.
Q. With TCU coming into the league and A&M having the success that they've had in the SEC, is it getting harder for out-of-state schools like you guys to pull players out of Texas?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I can't say that it's ever been easy. I think you're not giving credit to -- A&M's always been down here recruiting, and they've always done it well. Kevin's doing an excellent job. I don't mean to take that away from him.
But recruiting, people have a false -- oh, is it harder? It's always hard. Always has been hard, just because there's good, quality teams that are recruiting against you. And it's been that way every year that I've been there.
Q. You're used to great success, great career. Last year certainly didn't go probably as you -- certainly as you would have liked and Oklahoma fans expect. Does that give you or the team more motivation, or you don't have to worry about that kind of thing?
COACH STOOPS: I think we're always motivated. I think, when you've been somewhere 15 years, you're not going to win the championship every year, and I think we've done a pretty consistent job, I think, pointed out 11 of the last 13 years, we've averaged 11 wins and been 10 or more wins in those 13 years.
So we've had our success. It hasn't happened every year. I doubt if I'm here another five, that it's going to happen every year. Again, the longer you are somewhere, it's hard to continually be at the top.
We were 10 wins last year, co-champs in the Big 12, and lost to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. No, we're not pleased about that, but there's improvement to be made, and our guys are excited about making that improvement, and hopefully we'll be able to do it.
Q. With most of your offensive line back and a strong running attack, are you toying with the idea of going less up tempo to take advantage of that strength and help your defense?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it's something to consider, definitely, how fast you are going, how effective it is, how it is affecting the defense. So it's something to look at.
There is a lot of experience back. The one thing I think, no matter who the quarterback is, there's a lot of experience around the quarterback -- three senior running backs, an experienced receiver corps, experienced line.
So hopefully we can stay on the field, eat some clock. Even if we are going no huddle sometimes, there's opportunity to still use up some of the clock.
Q. Can you talk about your quarterbacks, what you mentioned, Trevor and Kendal a little faster than Blake, but can you talk about what each of them bring.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they all -- first, what we look at, as far as teammates, they're great teammates, they're great workers in the weight room, in the off-season program. So they're respected really well by their peers, by the other players.
They all exhibit toughness and leadership in different ways, not only how they work, how they conduct themselves, and they're competitive on the field. I've been excited to watch all of them throw the football. They all run well.
So you've got some versatility there to do some things that maybe in some of the other traditional just passers that we've had, that we haven't had that dimension.
Now, they all, though, through spring had their "uh-oh" moments where how did he just throw that ball or where did -- you know, so they have to learn, and you learn by being on the field. But they also have all made those great throws down the field that you want them to make.
So they're good passers and good athletes. So we'll see where it leads with all of them.
Q. You mentioned the up-tempo offense forcing the defense to be on the field more and having to consider that. Has that always been kind of a tough balance to try and keep your offense fast while also alleviating a little pressure on the defense?
COACH STOOPS: It is a tough balance. If you're going to be doing it, you need to stay on the field and score. So, anyway, it's a big issue.
I know we come out of, I think, the second half -- we played poorly on defense, but the second half of the Cotton Bowl we had four straight possessions, three and out and a turnover. We did nothing and handed them right back -- the football back in good field position and that kind of thing. So we go hand in hand that way.
So it is something that always needs to be considered and watched, how we're doing it and how effective it is.
Q. Bob, with Mike coming back more than a year ago, was there any learning curve with Mike coming back, any change in defensive philosophy?
COACH STOOPS: I think a learning curve to a degree. I think there's always maybe a little bit of that. I've always -- at the end of the day, as a coach, you can control so much in what your schemes are. In the end, if guys are in position to make plays, they've got to make them.
So there's always some of it. Scheme-wise, yes, you've got to make adjustments, and put them in the best spots, and player-wise, you've got to be able to make them when they are in position. So there could be a little bit of that.
Q. Can you evaluate your defensive front-seven depth, and given the speed of the offenses in the Big 12, is that a concern to you?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it's obvious we lost five seniors up front. So there's inexperience there. We do feel we have quality players and a good number of them up there in the defensive line -- when I say D line, D tackles, D ends -- so those guys have to continue to develop, and they're working hard at it. I believe we'll have a chance to be a good, solid unit up there. There's good talent in those positions.
It's hard to come out and brag on them when they've got to get out there and play and earn that, but that's not unlike college football. Every year there's people graduating and new guys coming up, and I believe these guys have a chance to be a good group.
And even with the linebacker positions, Frank Shannon, Corey Nelson played a great deal a year ago and were good players for us to go with Aaron Franklin and some other young guys coming up that I believe have a chance to be good players up there.
Q. Bob, with offenses going to tempo everywhere, the game kind of goes back and forth: the offense does something, the defense catches up, tries to catch up. Is there a way to scheme against the tempo or just do something to counteract that on the defensive side?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, play well, tackle well, line up. Is there any -- not really. You just got to be -- you have to be as efficient as they are. So if they're able to get to the line, get their call, and get ready to play, whatever pace that may be, you've got to be efficient enough defensively to have your call in order, to have it relayed, and to be down in position to play.
As much as anything to counter it, you've got to be as prepared to play on the snap with the tempo as they have to be. From there, it's who's going to make the play.
Q. Walt Anderson was in here a little bit ago trying to explain to us all the ramifications of the targeting rule and getting us all confused. Are you as confused as we are about all of it?
COACH STOOPS: Probably. Those are things, as we get into our camp, we'll have the officials come in and show us videos, teach our players how they're looking at it, what they'd call, what they wouldn't. So those will be things through camp we'll be doing with the officials.
So it's a big one when you think about it. Hopefully, they're not -- you know, they're getting it right because that's a big penalty to have a guy tossed out of a game and what it can lead to.
I'll say this. Just like the NFL has moved, anything we could do to try and make the game more controlled or better for the players is a positive thing. So we can all live with it if it's going to make it healthier and better for the players, and which they are, we should always be looking at ways to do that.
Q. Do you still feel appreciated by Oklahoma fans? And the million dollar question is: Is your wife here as part of this Mary Kay convention?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, and she will be.
Yes, I do feel appreciated by our fans, administration, and everybody. I've never been appreciated by everybody, even in 2000. So not everyone's going to -- that's always going to be the case, and any time you've been somewhere 15 years, that's something to consider.
And then my wife is a national sales director here for Mary Kay. She comes down Friday, and her seminar starts, I think, Monday through Wednesday. So she'll be part of this group, just in a different seminar. Very proud of her. These women do a great job.
Get your wives into it. It would be good for them. I'm recruiting.
The Sooners will hold Meet the Sooners Day on Saturday, August the 3rd in Norman. Oklahoma kicks off the season on August 31st against Louisiana-Monroe at Owen Field at 6:00pm.