OU head coach Lincoln Riley lamented the NCAA’s suspension of three Oklahoma players and updated the media on the status of injured wide receiver Jadon Haselwood in a Tuesday Zoom conference, saying he's expected to play later this season.
Riley’s Sooners (1-0) are scheduled to play Kansas State (0-1) Saturday without Haselwood, defensive end Ronnie Perkins, wide receiver Trejan Bridges, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and, perhaps, others in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's what Riley said in his latest media appearance:
On suspensions of Perkins, Bridges and Stevenson
Perkins, Bridges and Stevenson — a junior, sophomore and senior, respectively — have still not been cleared to play after the NCAA suspended them for OU’s Peach Bowl loss to LSU and the Sooners’ first five games in 2020 for testing positive for marijuana use.
For the second time since the suspension was levied, Riley called the rule “archaic” and said the NCAA needs to do more to help athletes who find themselves in similar situations.
“We're not sitting there dwelling on it day to day. It has been a challenging year for the NCAA. There’s a lot on their plate right now. But this is a ... that's a big issue. I mean it is. And it's a much bigger issue than these three players. ... The unfortunate matter is you could go have a first positive test at just about any school in the country and you're gonna get counseling and you're going to get all the support that you need at so many of these great schools. And right now studies are showing that's how you win. That's how you beat this. That's how you actually help a player, help a person that has made a mistake. And I think a lot of these schools have figured that out, and I think there's been some really positive trends, and I think development’s there. The fact that if you had the same test from the NCAA that you miss six games, and the disparity between that is ... it's not right.
“I am confident that it's going to get fixed or head to a more appropriate spot. And again, my experience from that comes from the players you see over the years and how, you know, ‘how could we have helped them, how could we have done better’ and right now it's about that. And so, I don't know if something will change in time to affect these guys. Obviously, for their sake I hope it does, because it is really severe, especially when only a couple of teams in the country are getting tested. But you know, they made a mistake, and they're living with the consequences right now, and hopefully something has changed before that. If not, hopefully it gets changed for all the rest of the players.”
On Jadon Haselwood
During the 2020 offseason, the sophomore and former five-star prospect Haselwood suffered a non-contact lower leg injury in what Riley called a “freak” accident when he confirmed the ailment on May 14.
Haselwood missed OU’s season opener against Missouri State on Sept. 12, but on Tuesday Riley expressed confidence that the second-year pass-catcher will return in 2020.
“Jadon has done really well. (He’s) progressing very quickly. We absolutely expect that he’ll be available to play for us at some point this year.”
On extended recruiting dead period
The NCAA extended the current recruiting dead period through Dec. 31, meaning some athletes who put pen to paper with schools during the Dec. 18-20 early signing period may not have even visited their new homes yet.
Riley said he was confused by the NCAA’s surprising decision and the disadvantage it bestows upon himself, other coaches and athletes.
“I really don't understand it at all. Everything that we were told and led to believe was it was going to continue to be a month to month decision, and we would continue to monitor, obviously, the (COVID-19) and travel and all that goes with that. So for us to just jump ahead and do that, I have no explanation. We as coaches have received zero explanation about it.
"I was shocked, because it's important that these guys are able to go see these places, and (I’m) not saying it's going to be able to happen, but it might be able to happen. And for us to close the door on it so quickly ... I, like I think most of my peers that I've had a chance to speak with, was caught off guard with really zero explanation for it, and don't really understand it at all.”