Monday press conference central: week 3

OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops

NORMAN, Okla. — Head coach Bob Stoops had a funeral to attend, so it was a less conventional weekly press conference, but the coordinators took his place to reflect on last week's game.

Here's a notebook of all the major news and notes:

  • Perhaps the most imminent of news is that defensive tackle Casey Walker, as Stoops said last week, is set to return to practice tonight and will play next week. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops confirmed that again this afternoon: "Hopefully he'll have a good practice tonight and I think we'll know more as we go along. But we certainly hope. You know, Casey's a big part of what we do. Gives us another very stout body in the middle, so he's played some great football for us here at OU and we're excited hopefully to get him back and going stronger than ever."
  • The defensive performance as a whole was pleasing to Stoops: "Well, just going back over last Saturday's game, I thought defensively overall we did [good]. You know, we executed the game plan, went in and limited Florida A&M's offense with what we wanted to install defensively and did relatively really good job. Take out the one play. It was a little problematic and, you know, it was obviously a breakdown at the line of scrimmage fundamentally and then technically not getting a safety over the top we lost position on the football. And, you know, that's happened to us before and we've really tried to make a conscious effort of all being on the same page. We got caught in a bad rotation and gave up the big play, and that's something that if we can limit throughout the season, I think this can be a very effective defense down in and down out against all the competition we're gonna season as the season goes on."
  • Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said he was pleased with things on the other side of the ball as well: "I guess, end result excited about the way competed and played. And you look at the numbers at the end of the ball game. I thought we executed better throughout the ball game and that's why you finish with the numbers that you do. Excited about the growth of some of our young guys from week one to week two. Obviously there's some areas that we need to continue to grow in. Can't turn the ball over and you can't have the number of penalties that we did to sustain the type of success that we want to him here offensively week in and week out. But excited about the growth of a lot of our young skill guys, guys that played in week one and executed at a higher level."
  • Fellow co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell expressed his satisfaction as well, though he said there were some things that need to be corrected: "Overviewing the game, we were real disappointed the way we started the football game. The first series we had a mental error on our second play and then the third-and-short we should have had the personnel on the field and that was just some guys not being aware enough. Very disappointed the way we started, but then we started getting in a groove and getting a rhythm and played much better with much more precision offensively."
  • Back to things on the defensive side of the ball, much of the talk for the last two weeks has been at the defensive tackle position, where Walker and indefinitely suspended Stacy McGee had vacated spots that needed to be fill. Youngsters like Jordan Phillips and Marquis Anderson are trying to fill the depth there behind starters David King and Jamarkus McFarland, and Stoops said those two guys along with some other youngsters played well: "I thought they all played good. I think they're all good players. They all can play at this level. They're all gonna be great players if they stick to what they're doing. They all have the physical skills to be tremendous players for their positions. So, a lot of it is just developing and staying with it."
  • A lot of people may want to look strictly at stats with respect to linebacker Tom Wort, but Stoops cautions not to look just at his tackles and things of the sort and for other things: "Tom is one of our leaders on defense. He's kind of the glue that holds it all together. He's a tremendous player. He has tremendous instincts. He's very coachable. Again, a lot of the things we maybe ask him to do may be different than what he's done before, but again we like what Tom has done. There's nothing Tom can't do at that position, and I think he's a great player. So, you know, he'll make more plays as we go along. That's for sure."
  • With K-State's power running game coming up, the Sooners will likely work in more three-backer schemes for that contest: "Well, I think that's predicated again on how many tight ends and fullbacks and running backs are in the game. So, I would say the chances would be greatly improved that we would use more, you know, a three-linebacker defense more than we have these first couple games."
  • People talked so much about Stoops revamping the secondary when he returned, and it appears with the exception of one play the other night that he has quickly started to do so. But he claims it's just about putting them in the right positions, and the players are making plays. You can say he's satisfied with the progress through two games and basically happy with the other night outside a play where cornerback Demontre Hurst got beat deep and Jesse Paulsen didn't have deep safety help: "Take out the one play, I couldn't be more pleased with the way we've competed for the football and our position on the ball. So, I wish I could have that play over with, but it's another great learning experience to understand when we get out of position what happens to you. So, it happened in a game that we were up two or three touchdowns and it was really insignificant, but again we have to learn from it and understand those mistakes can be very costly."
  • Flipping back to the other side of the ball, one of the biggest pluses to start the year has been the emergence of Damien Williams into an explosive, power back that can break loose for long touchdowns like his 85-yarder the other day. So, will he be a starter now over Dom Whaley? "Well, at the end of the day, you know, this question comes up every year. Who's gonna be the lead horse at the running back position? You know, ultimately we're gonna need all those guys to perform. Dom's coming off a serious injury, is gonna continue to get better and better as he gets more and more touches. He didn't go through any contact going through two-a-days with the injury, so he's gonna continue to get better. He's gonna continue to get work. Damien's certainly the first couple weeks played as well as anybody we've had here at the running back position in awhile. And with that, I'm sure his number of carries will continue to increase."
  • The biggest question mark coming into the season after being a strength heading into the summer was the offensive line. They were shaky in game one, but really picked it up the other night, and Heupel liked that: "I thought we continued to execute better and better throughout the ball game. I didn't like the way we executed week one against UTEP. Didn't like the way we executed early in the football game this past week. As the game went along, we handled their movements. They were coming from all areas of the field and boundary and inside. We handled their moment better and better. That's why you saw some of the longer runs as we got into the end of the first half and second half. And if we can continue to grow here in the next week, leading up into Kansas State, then I think we got a chance to be the type of offensive line that we need to be. You know, you look at the sacks numbered. Everybody's going to point that out. I think it was the last third of the season before we hit six total sacks last year. Four of those are on the quarterbacks right now. So, we need to do a better job at the position of getting rid of the ball and understanding our protections."
  • Another talking point has been the fact that OU supposedly developed a special package for running back Roy Finch, who shifted out to the slot in the offseason. But he has still yet to play very much. Could he soon be getting more carries? "We all know what type of talent Roy is. We know the type of explosiveness he can bring to us offensively when you get the ball out to him in space. You saw some of that the other night. Ultimately, we as a coaching staff, teammates, everybody are asking all of our guys to buy in, be disciplined in everything you do, how you approach every single day on and off the field because it's going to show up on the field on gameday at some point, too. And as Roy continues to handle himself in a mature way and practice better, he's gonna continue to earn more touches."
  • Asked if he'll stay at the RB position, Heupel sidestepped it and responded that he's capable of playing a number of positions.
  • It seems like through two games the Sooners are less reluctant to take Jones off the field this year in favor of the Belldozer in goal line situations and red zone situations, for that matter. There's no doubt that Williams has some to do with that. Just ask Norvell: "I think there's no question we do. We're a little bit more physical up front. You know, our tight end position is continuing to improve. We don't have a lot of game experience at that position, but that's improving. And I think we're more physical at the running back position. I don't think there's any question that having Damien emerge as a powerful back has helped us in that red area, and we'll continue to utilize him."
  • Metoyer was another guy he talked about. After struggling some in his debut, he showed out with his first career touchdown against Florida A&M: "You know, it's interesting. I used to go see Trey last year at Hargrave and all he did was march around in circles and do push ups. I mean, he really wasn't playing football. So, he hadn't played a meaningful game in two years, so you know, his first college game being on the road and at UTEP, he had some glitches. He wasn't clean on some routes and some assignments as he needed to be. And so much of what we do in the passing game is predicated on timing and where you're supposed to be, so he improved tremendously this week, didn't have any mental errors, had an opportunity to make a couple plays down the field, had the nice touchdown catch."
  • Brown appeared to be shaken up the other night with some type of shoulder injury. But he's OK, as Norvell cleared up that issue: "I think he's going to be fine. He just kinda came down on the football and kinda bruised his chest plate a little bit. He looked like Mike Tyson punched him in the chest or something. He was really deflated after that and so we took him out for a little bit and let Durron [Nea] play. But he'll be fine. He's a tough kid. He just kinda got a little chest bruise. And what a wonderful kid he is. I mean, just in every single way. And he's really affecting his teammates just by his maturity and how he handles himself and just talking about a kid just being really respectful of his opportunity, he's the greatest example of that. And so he's a really blessing for us to have. The impact he's making on special teams and just being a solid guy and a great preparer is really affected our younger players."
  • The tight ends are coming along, but perhaps still not quite where they need to be: "You know, I kinda put those guys in the same category as some of our young receivers. They haven't been playing. They don't have a lot of game experience. Geneo Grissom has really added to us. He's a physical guy and is able to block the edge for us as well as become a good receiver, and he's really learning in the passing game. You know, Moose has done a good job as well and we're trying to get Taylor McNamara more involved as a young guy. But so many of those young players every experience is a new one. He had a couple glitches Saturday that he'll learn from. But we feel like those guys will grow in the passing game as well as we move on."
  • Lastly, Norvell was pleased with what true freshman Sterling Shepard did the other night: "I was really happy for Sterling. You know, it's really important to him. And to play the way that he played Saturday, I mean, I was excited to see him without the ball. If you go back and watch that game, when he wasn't catching it, he was flying around. And that's the kind of effort that you gotta have, and it's obviously extremely important to the kid and I just see him getting better and better as we move on. Really good player."

Now, here is the first part to Stoops' press conference.

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