First-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch spoke at OU's media day, addressing the importance of attitude and mentality over scheme, the current state of competition across the board and the number '129' — OU's pass-defense rank in 2018 — as motivation and a reminder to players.
Here's what he had to say.
On competition across the board and establishing starters at every position
"The more bodies that you have, not just competing for starting spots but competing for roles is certainly an important element for us. We didn't take a lot of stock in what's happened in the past. That's the responsible thing to do... open-minded for those guys, fresh start.
"There's probably more questions than answers at this point as we go into fall camp. The best case scenario is you have to establish starters at every single one of your spots on defense. That doesn't happen often so this is unique.
"What we're ultimately working towards is getting as many guys on defense to be in that mix to compete... and truly be able to use on Saturdays the better off we'll be.
"There's a lot of work to do though."
'129' remains a reminder to players, 'try to dig in their soul'
Grinch revealed on Friday that, on top of saying he wanted tattoo the No. 129 on his defensive players, he also made his players do rep counts that added up to 129.
"We did workouts with Coach Wylie in the weight room that from a rep count standpoint added up to 129 as a reminder.
"Why we used that in the spring is just a constant reminder of why that rep's important, why that rep for individuals is important, why that rep for one-on-ones is important. As competitors you try to try to kind of dig in their soul in terms of keeping them motivated on a day in April.
"As you flip the page and the calendar goes on to August, it's onto 2019 and that will no longer be the emphasis. It just serves as a reminder that it's difficult to play defense in 2019. We're one play away from being average. The nice thing about playing the type of offense that we do on a day-to-day basis is that you get a really good evaluation as to where you're at."
Balancing realism and instilling confidence in his players.
"The negativity never goes away. It's the best headline that you'll ever read, is the negative thing. We're all drawn to that. And obviously depicted at our guys are somehow caught in a bubble where they can't hear it or feel it would be naive on our part. It's also part of dealing in realness.
"It's important for us to highlight (progress).We're going to be very honest when it's not the way we want it and you just go through it and find the numbers that fit the story that we need to tell.
"There's been enough good to get excited about but not enough to say we're ready to play a football game."
Jalen Redmond has 'big speed,' Grinch says he is excited to add him to the mix in fall camp.
Redmond was preparing to be a key role player on OU's defense in 2018 but missed the first six games and only appeared in games against TCU, Kansas State and Texas Tech before missing the final five contests of the season. The Missouri City, Oklahoma native first came to OU as a five-star prospect and was ranked as the No. 8 weak-side defensive end in the country, per 247sports.
"You talk about big speed, he falls into that category. That's about the extent about what I've seen from him. I haven't seen the football player yet. We're excited to get him out there in fall camp, we're (building) an indication of how we're going to do that from a health standpoint. Things have checked out, so it's another guy to add to the mix up front.
"He's itching to get back out there when practice starts."
Attitude and mentality is valued higher than scheme
"That scoreboard isn't real yet so that's something that's on-going. When you take over, what do you change? It's easy to change a call, and again the scheme stuff is the easiest thing to change because it's just checkers, X's and O's."
"It's a little bit harder to change the hearts and the minds and all that. I think what you're seeing as you go through spring I think you saw a little bit more of a confident group. I think you saw a little bit of guys understanding what we're practicing on a day-to-day basis."
"It's attitudes, it's believing in each other, it's trusting coaches, it's trusting each other. It turns out with all those facets that it's a hard job to change all those things in a short period of time."
"Can you get everything done in seven months? But you need to."
"No one cares that it's the first year of the defense."
"The standard at Oklahoma is to be the absolute best."