ARLINGTON, Texas — The Sooners kicked off their 2021 football season with Big 12 Media Days on Wednesday.
Oklahoma will have coach Lincoln Riley, redshirt junior linebacker Nik Bonitto and redshirt senior H-back Jeremiah Hall to speak. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby will also address the media.
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Riley followed up with his thoughts on the proposed 12-team College Football Playoff expansion, saying "it was a great proposal, something we can all work off to make things better."
He addressed that getting conference champions in the playoff is important. However, Riley also said that he doesn't want the playoff committee to shy away from the bowl games completely.
With the dismissal of running back sophomores Mikey Henderson and Seth McGowan due to alleged involvement in an April 15 armed robbery, Riley has just four scholarship running backs entering the 2021 season.
Junior running back transfer Eric Gray, who ran for 772 yards and six touchdowns at Tennessee last season, will be an asset Riley relies on.
"He's a true professional," Riley said. "It feels like he's been in our program for months or years already. He does everything right. We're thrilled to have him (and) he's going to be a big factor. He's been a joy to have to this point."
The Sooners are coming off their sixth consecutive Big 12 Championship, and return redshirt sophomore and Heisman Trophy candidate Spencer Rattler.
With high expectations surrounding OU, Riley said "I think for us and our team right now, we have a genuine excitement and a confidence in the people in the room right now.”
Riley said the focus is getting to the best version of themselves, and that has been the process since defeating Florida 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl last season.
Shortly after arriving the podium and saying "it's great to be back at our second home," Riley confirmed that OU quarterback Spencer Rattler was not in attendance at Big 12 Media Days due to the team's long-standing policy to bring upperclassmen.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, who defeated Oklahoma on Oct. 3 last season, said he has "the utmost respect" for OU quarterback Spencer Rattler.
"You saw him gain confidence as the season went along," Campbell said. "(He has) elite athleticism, elite arm strength."
OU athletics director Joe Castiglione said he was "bitterly disappointed" that OU-Nebraska's kickoff was announced for 11 a.m. this season on May 27.
When asked about the matter, Bowlsby said "11 a.m. is an inconvenience for some fans."
Bowlsby said that Castiglione wanted the game to be played in "prime time" as he thought it was a marquee matchup.
"Having said that, we all signed the TV contract," Bowlsby said. "We can change it the next time if we want to change it. But we're going to live by the stipulations of the contract (now) and that's what we did."
On June 10, a sub-group of College Football Playoff's management committee presented a proposal to change the four-team playoff to 12 teams.
Bowlsby commented on the proposal, saying he thinks "a 12-team playoff would be a tremendous asset for regular season." He also said the expansion isn't for monetary reasons, but for broader participation.
Bowlsby had high praise for the Sooners, who are vying for their seventh consecutive conference championship.
"When they've been predicted to be near the top, they've delivered," Bowlsby said. He added that OU has earned its success, but mentioned Iowa State as a threat. The Cyclones finished 9-3 last season and won the Fiesta Bowl.
Bowlsby said no decisions have been made in terms of COVID protocols for the 2021 season, but he expects the issues to be resolved within the next 30 days.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby commenced Big 12 Media Days with a few opening remarks.
Firstly, Bowlsby commented on the challenge of navigating through COVID protocols over the last year, and said the Big 12 is encouraging its athletes to get vaccinated. "Frankly, anyone that’s not getting vaccinated is taking unnecessary and unwarranted risks," Bowlsby said.
He added that this applies to everyone, not just student-athletes.