OU football: Five things we learned from Monday's press conference
The ‘Cali Trio’ is all grown up.
When the three members — junior wide receiver Kenny Stills, junior safety Tony Jefferson and junior running back Brennan Clay — were recruited out of California three years ago, the group embraced the namesake on social media platforms and in press conferences but fell short as a trifecta on the field. At least until the three veterans showed up big for the Sooners against Iowa State. Stills accounted for two touchdowns, Jefferson had a late interception and led the team with nine tackles while Clay had a career-high 157 yards and one touchdown. Although coach Bob Stoops wants all of his players to do well while they’re in a Sooner uniform, the coach has enjoyed watching the success of the West Coast group.
“You expect all of the guys you recruit to come out and have great careers, and fortunately these guys have done really well and it’s been fun to see them mature over the past three seasons,” Stoops said. “They’re great teammates, have contributed greatly, do a great job in recruiting and players in California are aware of the success they’ve had out here.”
Getting the running game back restored much-needed confidence.
Only putting up 13 points against Notre Dame the week prior was disappointing to an offense that touts a senior quarterback, many combinations of wide receivers and a stable of running backs that have proven its capabilities of breaking tackles for big yard gains. And when junior running back Damien Williams — who solidified his spot as the starter — wasn’t able to go against the Cyclones due to an ankle injury, the running game looked like it may have to wait another week before getting started up again, at least until Clay restored the Sooners’ faith in their deep running back rotation.
“We gained a lot of confidence getting a win like that on the road,” senior receiver Justin Brown said. “Whenever you can establish the running game that opens a lot of things up so that’s why its so important to the offense because doing that make things easier.”
OU is ready to go after senior quarterback Nick Florence and Baylor’s assembly line of point producers.
The Bears may have lost Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the team hasn’t missed a step in producing points. Florence currently leads the nation with 377.4 passing yards per game and carries a passer efficiency rating of 165.5, giving the OU secondary a lot to prepare for in Saturday’s upcoming matchup. But the Sooners know they have an opportunity to show up for another redemption win over a team that slipped past them last year in Waco.
“I feel like it’s going to be shootout because Baylor can put up a lot of points, but we feel like we can have success over anyone as long as we execute,” Clay said.
Sophomore defensive end Chuka Ndulue knows he has big shoes to fill.
Ndulue has only six starts under his belt — all from this season — but the emerging defensive playmaker is beginning to realize how important his playing minutes are in terms of getting invaluable experience. At the press conference, he talked about how he’s learning from the seniors on the defensive side of the ball, proving quickly OU has an emerging leader on defense the team will need next year.
“All those guys are gone next year, and I’m trying to be around them as much as I can be before next year,” Ndulue said. “When they leave I’m the return man next year and it’s slowly dawning on me that I need to learn as much as I can so the younger guys like redshirt freshmen tackles Jordan (Phillips) and Marquis (Anderson) and all those guys know I can help them and tell them what to do as much as I can when they go out there.”
Stoops doesn’t want to be memorialized until after he leaves campus.
Saturday’s win over Iowa State gave Stoops his 145th victory at OU, enough to tie him with former coaching great Bud Wilkinson. But before the ticker tape parade gets planned out or the decision to rename a building in his honor is finalized, Stoops wanted everyone to know while he appreciates being recognized with some of the top coaches in OU history, his desire is to just win the next ball game week after week.
“Hopefully I have more (years of coaching) in me, and I’ve been very blessed over the past 13 and a half years to do what we’ve done,” Stoops said. “They’ve asked and said they’ve got (the statue) ready to go, but I’ve told them I don’t want that until I’m done. That would just feel weird to me.”