Monday press conference central: week nine

OU head coach Bob Stoops

NORMAN, Okla. — OU head coach Bob Stoops previewed OU's Top 10 heavyweight showdown with Notre Dame Monday afternoon.

First, here's the major news that came out of the press conference:

  • The biggest news of the day is defensive tackle Stacy McGee's reinstatement. "I should have said that. Stacy McGee has been reinstated, but no change on the other guys." And he will play, Stoops said. "Absolutely if he's reinstated, provided he practices well. He's been practicing, so yeah unless something changes."
  • He's comfortable saying McGee is ready to go because he's been going up against the first and second team as a member of the scout team: "Play the same technique there on scout team as you do with the one defense. So, he's been going against a better offensive line for six weeks than he would if he was with the ones and twos. I said he's been going against a better offensive line than if he was going against the ones and twos, he's going against the scout team every day."
  • Though we basically knew, he finally detailed the full status of kickoff specialist Patrick O'Hara. "Well, Patrick's [O'Hara] got a groin injury. Patrick goes out there on Thursday before Texas not warmed up and pops it. So, he got a little lecture from me." In the meantime, it will be Michael Hunnicutt kicking off.
  • Reflecting back to last week for a minute, the offensive players of the game included quarterback Landry Jones, center Gabe Ikard and wide receivers Justin Brown and Kenny Stills. Defensively, those mentioned included cornerback Aaron Colvin, strong safety Javon Harris, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland and defensive end Chuka Ndulue. Stoops didn't mention defensive tackle Casey Walker, but he was singled out the other night. On special teams, Jaydan Bird was named the player of the game.
  • Moving forward to the big time game this weekend, Stoops insists he won't hammer home the tradition aspect too much because it is somewhat irrelevant to the players: "No. I don't mean no, that it isn't acknowledged, but where these kids are 18, 19, 21, 22, I could try to engage them all I want in what happened and what and when and I don't think it's going to matter. Just like how everyone wants to ask about how a game last year relates - it doesn't relate. These are all new kids, a new team. In the end, the only history I've got going is way back to 1999 and that's even a long time ago. I was asked this morning what I remember about [the Notre Dame game in 1999] and I said I remembered getting up by 17 points and not knowing how to win. I told my staff when we got home from the game I said our guys hadn't ever been up on anyone by 17 points. It was just trying to teach them how to play."
  • He'll educate them some, though, because he always wants his teams to understand the great players and teams that came before them: "I said I will to a degree and I was asked how relevant it is. I don't think it's that relevant. Nebraska's relevant in that at the time, we were both same conference, going for the championship and there was a lot larger history there. I mean there was a lot more games played there."
  • Undoubtedly there aren't too many Sooner highlights to show in the series since OU is just 1-8 all-time against Notre Dame, so that won't be much of a focus. Stoops even has some bad memories of his own, but ones that might have shown the fans Sooner football was close to back in 1999: "I don't know if that was the case or not. I know we weren't satisfied about it. We were up 17 points and I look around and see a bunch of guys laughing and giggling and knew they had no idea. We still had a whole half here and sure enough we didn't know how to keep it. I said with the staff, I said, ‘We gotta teach them how to do it.'"
  • Still, you can't argue with the fact that College Gameday's in town and it's the biggest game in Norman in years: "Sure, there will be [energy]. But in the end we don't get to participate in all that. We get to go to meetings, we get to go to practice and then go back to meetings, go back to the practice field and get ready to play. It's great for college football, it's great for the community, the fans and they ought to enjoy it. And we're excited about it. You know what a challenge it is and it is exciting. But the following week will be exciting for us too because you still have to keep winning."
  • As for playing a non-conference game at this point in the season, it's definitely strange: "The schedule all year has been a little bit different. I say that because we had two off weeks early. I guess it was the only time they could play, so we've got the game here. It's great for college football, it's great for both programs, it's exciting and it's what you want. It just happens to be right in the middle of the Big 12 season, so it's just another challenge."
  • The OU defense has been significantly better so far in 2012 than in 2011, and here are his thoughts on the play on that side of the ball: "They've played great all year. We're playing disciplined, we're playing physical, tackling well, our coverage has been excellent, so we have to continue to do it. This will be a big challenge with these guys, but I'm excited with the way they've been playing, sure."
  • They'll have a tough offense like Kansas State's to go up against, though, in this game: "They're physical and tough. The power running game is a big part of what they do so we've got to be able to take off blocks and be in the right spaces to tackle people."
  • In other news, Stoops said he likes the new Notre Dame helmets they broke out a few weeks ago. And said he wouldn't rule out something like that with the Sooners, though it won't happen this week: "Something with the helmet here or there might not damage the look too much, you know. Just put a little extra sparkle in it, whatever. I won't get too many letters in regard to what am I doing changing the uniform, which I wouldn't read anyway. The secretary would read them, but I don't get to read them."
  • While this is the first time in a long time Notre Dame has come to town, this isn't the first time head coach Brian Kelly has been here. Stoops wouldn't talk much about that last contest (OU destroyed Cincinnati), but did say he's done a great job so far at Notre Dame: "He's done a great job. They have a lot of great athletes running around. You can see the structure in everything that they do in how disciplined it is, fundamentally sound it is, players play with great technique, so you can see the quality coaching throughout every part of their team."
  • Stoops gave his thoughts on Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson: "He's a guy that, it's been said a lot and it's true, when there isn't anything there he has a knack for breaking tackle or making somebody miss him and runs around so he can buy extra time and scramble and wait for someone to work open or take off and run it himself. He's got excellent feet that way."
  • And While Golson's a solid player, the Sooners figure to have the advantage there with Landry Jones: "I don't see it that way. We love our quarterback, I'll say that. Landry [Jones] is a great player. Again, their style of offense is a little bit different than ours, so they feel good about the way their quarterbacks have been playing their game."
  • The Sooners' turnover margin has improved drastically over the last three games, with OU forcing nine TOs. So, that's been a major improvement: "Turnovers are always a major issue in any game, let alone when you have two teams in the top 10. They're a factor. They were a factor earlier in the season with us. We've got to do a good job taking care of the ball. To me, it's the biggest factor in games like this."
  • Of course, all the talk about Notre Dame deals with Heisman hopeful linebacker Manti Te'o. Everyone is curious to see how he'll match up against Jones and OU's offense, including fullbacks Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski. "I don't know how anxious I am about it, but in the end, as I said earlier, it will be a big challenge for those guys. He's a great player. Those guys have had a great year so far for us, too, so it will be one of the many battles in that game."
  • Up front, Stoops has a pretty good idea how they'll play OU's big packages and the rest of their offensive schemes: "They do a lot of 50 front. They'll use their 50 front primarily, but then they'll shift into a four-man front. In the 50 front, he [Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o] has a lot of freedom to go to the football and make plays, and he sure does it for them."
  • The Fighting Irish are strong in the secondary as well: "Again, very fundamentally sound, good technique. You know, they play very sound. Good discipline in the secondary in their structure and how they play it. Good, good cover guys and keep the ball in front of them. They've done a good job, all that."
  • Back to more discussion solely about the Sooners, the pass protection has really improved recently starting with the Texas Tech game: "It has been [good], but we haven't really changed our protection. Some of the run schemes that we've worked from week to week will change or vary depending on what we feel we can do. The protections, we have been good really through the year. Again, you play against quality teams, they're going to have their time where they get you, but I've been pleased at the progress and how well they've played and protected."
  • The new weapon, wide receiver Jalen Saunders, has also helped in the passing game: "Jalen has such good experience, and he's such a great route runner. Just gives you another guy now to put on the field to at times spread people out more. When you look at all those guys, when you put Sterling [Shepard] out there with him, that's a pretty good inside group. Then, you've got Kenny's [Stills] experience where he's the most natural outside. It allows Kenny to be more outside now, and again where he has been so effective through the years, with Justin [Brown], too."
  • Wide receiver Trey Metoyer and running back Dominique Whaley, both starters on the preseason depth chart, have both been bumped down on the depth chart, but not for anything they haven't done. "They are doing a great job. We love them. Just like always, nothing's the matter with them whatsoever." It's all about the others who have stepped up, including Saunders and running back Damien Williams.
  • Metoyer's shoulder injury is nothing to be concerned about and he's fine.
  • In other discussion, the kickoff and punt returns for a touchdown the other night were the first time it's ever happened in the same game at OU, and Stoops has been pleased with the play all around in special teams: "I finally got a special teams coordinator in Coach Bobby Jack Wright. Even though we are doing everything exactly like we have in the past. We are just executing better. Better with our blocking with some of the returns. We've had good discipline, fewer penalties. Our cover units, I think just overall with a lot of work, and Coach Wright should be credited with a lot of work in the spring and summer, particular kickoff coverage of just having a better feel, whether it is recognizing schemes or beating blocks and tackling well, we have been very strong with it. Hopefully it will continue."
  • Offensively, right guard Bronson Irwin has been a stabilizing force since center Ben Habern and right guard Tyler Evans were lost for the season due to injury: "Bronson's been really good, and we felt coming into the year he was gonna be in our eyes a starter or rotating in that way. And so Bronson has played really well and keeps progressing and keeps improving."
  • Tackle Lane Johnson has done all right himself as well: "Yeah, it's pretty incredible. Lane deserves a lot of credit. Here's a guy that now is only [in his] second year full time of playing tackle, and he's really playing great. Had another really good game the other night, you know, and exciting for him. It really took us a while to find the exact right spot for him, but here he's really growing in it, doing well, gets better all the time and good for him. He's another guy that all the pro scouts are watching and are excited about, especially when they see he's only played it for two years and how well he's doing."
  • And one last piece of information. Stoops fired back at the comments so many people have made about this team not having serious NFL talent: "I don't buy that, you know what I mean? Just because Adrian Peterson isn't here or you don't have a first-round draft pick. We've got talented guys. We don't have Sam Bradford, we've got Landry Jones. Is he going to be the first guy taken in the draft? Maybe not, but he will be a first-round guy. Gerald McCoy. OK, we aren't going to have the guy that's going to be taken third in the draft, but we've got good guys all across the board, and good players, and I believe that. Every year from year to year, we aren't going to have the first three guys taken in the draft, or three of the first four or five, that isn't going to happen every year. We are as talented as about anybody we will play overall."

Here's the first part of the press conference in video.

Now, check out Stoops' full presser in all four parts inside.

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