NORMAN — Four OU football coaches shared some inside knowledge on the upcoming season with civic club members at the annual Coaches Luncheon Wednesday at Journey Church.
Head Coach Bob Stoops was joined by Mike Stoops, Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell at the event, which raises money for the Citizen Advisory Board of Cleveland County. That board spent about $115,000 on its Special Needs, Secret Santa and Independent Living program this past year.
The event comes as players began moving into housing. Practice begins on Thursday at 5:40 a.m. The early drills help players beat the heat and allows the ones in summer school to attend later classes.
“We’re excited about the year and I really think we can have another championship team,” Stoops said. “The media doesn’t expect a lot out of the team but we do.”
He joked that since no reporters were there he would announce the starting
quarterback. Despite two questions about it, the coaches didn’t budge on naming a starter.
Stoops, whose contract was recently extended to 2020, fielded a question about leaving OU. “You never say never,” he said. “You just never know what your current situation is going to dictate.”
The Sooners radio voice, Toby Rowland, and longtime Norman developer Gene McKown, raised several thousand dollars at a brief auction before the coaches spoke.
Citizens Advisory Board member Autumn McMahon said proceeds from the luncheon and other events help kids in Department of Human Services supervision in Cleveland County.
“The role of CAB is we kind of supplement all that DHS does,” she said.
The CAB’s Secret Santa program lets the children choose Christmas gifts, often the hottest gifts of the season.
“It’s one of those rare opportunities that these kids are just like everyone else,” she said.
Here are some of the highlights from the coaches:
· Bob Stoops on whether he has the same connection with players he had 15 years ago.
“In today’s world, you have to connect with the people you’re working with, with our players and everyone that interacts with them. To me, it’s really important that we do have a personal connection, not just a working connection.
“I don’t know how to quantify it because I can’t remember that long ago how much I was able to. It’s something that we’re constantly aware of. I’m very aware what a pat on the back or putting your arm around a guy as he’s grabbing his stuff or 10-second conversation means to kids. I walk around all the time trying to have a personal connection with all of them one way or another. It may be 10 seconds, it might be 10 minutes, it might be whatever, but I think we’re all trying to connect with our guys.”
· Bob Stoops on whether he might leave OU to coach in the NFL:
“I’m one of those people who never say never. It’s hard to say. I’m 52 and I’ve already been here going on 15 years. In this profession, I’ve never gotten more than one year ahead of myself in terms of what to expect and what you’re looking for many reasons: for family, your situation, what are the other opportunities, people you’re working with.
“I’ve been lucky here. One of the major reasons this has been so positive for me is the people I work with and answer to: President David Boren and Joe Castiglione, our athletic director. That can change next year. You just never know what your current circumstances can dictate in your life, but especially a football life is that way. There may be a time where you think this is the time to do it or whatever, but it’s hard to predict the future.”
· Big 12 player Mike Stoops is happy he doesn’t have to face anymore:
“Certainly, (West Virginia’s) Tavon Austin was a guy we never had an answer for the whole night. That was frustrating and it was something that happened during that week that we didn’t anticipate and didn’t adjust very well to what was happening to us. Certainly, there was enough blame to go around in a lot of different areas. Tavon Austin was one of the best.
“Each team presented some unique problems: Colin Klein at Kansas State: his ability to make plays in critical situations really frustrated us in critical parts of the game. I thought we were about to gain control and momentum and we couldn’t close in the fourth quarter. He was another one. His awareness and his versatility and his ability to make plays. I would say those two guys were very problematic for any defense.”
· Mike Stoops on who will be the defensive leaders this season:
“The leadership we must have to be successful is gonna come from Aaron Colvin and Corey Nelson. Those are guys that have been in this program and played a tremendous amount of winning football for us and really contributed in a lot of ways. I look for those two guys to really step forward and be the catalysts for our defense.
“Having Corey on the field this year will, hopefully, add to his enthusiasm, his passion and his ability to make plays. We’re looking for both those guys to really develop some of these younger guys. We have seven new starters and some very talented players, but our leadership will come from those two. As they go, we’ll go.”
· Josh Heupel on the quarterback competition:
“Whoever the guy is, we believe he has a chance to play at a championship level and those are the expectations for whoever the quarterback is at the University of Oklahoma. A lot of that will be on his shoulders and how he prepares every single day.
“Those guys are different than the guys we’ve had here recently. We believe he’ll have an opportunity to make some plays with his feet a little more than the guys in the past. Some of that is with the quarterback run, but some of it will be when things break down in the pocket or there’s great coverage on the back end, he’ll be able extend a play and let our guys work when plays break down a little bit.
“We’re excited about those three guys. They all had great days in the spring. They all had days where they made a lot of mistakes. The great thing about being a coach with young players is that you see those make mistakes and grow from them every single day. When they’ve made a mistake, they haven’t repeated it.”
Transcript Sports Writer John Shinn and Executive Editor Andy Rieger contributed to this report.