IRVING, Texas — There’s no doubt Sam Bradford’s status as a celebrity has reached a level few Oklahoma players have ever experienced. Everywhere he goes, he is quickly surrounded by well-wishers.
Sooner tight end Jermaine Gresham said Tuesday at the Big 12 Media Days there isn’t another person better qualified to handle the attention.
“I’ve never seen Sam turn a person down for an autograph, even when we’re out eating or something,” Gresham said. “Whenever somebody wants to have a conversation with him, he’ll talk to them.”
But Bradford said there have been some strange requests. A couple at a Norman eatery asked him in the spring if he would sign a baby, just like in the movie “Talladega Nights.”
“It was a little different. I never pictured that happening before. They actually placed the baby on the table,” Bradford said.
There’s no training for a situation like that. Bradford said the biggest question going through his mind was where to sign.
“I signed like on its one-piece, on its stomach. A onesie? Whatever,” Bradford said. “It was a little odd.”
OU will break in four new starting offensive linemen this season. None of them carry the bulk tackle Phil Loadholt or guard Duke Robinson possessed over the last two seasons. Both tipped the scales at over 330 pounds.
But Bradford does see potential benefits from a leaner offensive line.
“The lighter they are, the more in-shape they are, the fresher they’re gonna be in the fourth quarter, which will allow us to have a much quicker tempo in the fourth quarter,” he said.
OU’s defense is expected to be much improved this season. It has nine starters returning from a group that gelled at the end of the 2008 season.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said the goal for this season is to play like the dominant units the Sooners put on the field in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
“They had so many All-Americans because they were so selfish and stingy. They didn’t give up anything. They were like dogs on the field,” McCoy said. “We want to keep that legacy up. We want to be that type of defense where if you watch us on film, you’re like, ‘Man, I really want to get past this week and get on to the next game.’ We want to put fear in the offenses’ hearts. That’s the kind of defense we want to have.”
He still has it
Bradford said his golf game has become non-existent due to summer workouts and classes. But OU coach Bob Stoops said his quarterback still has plenty of game on the links.
“He shot 70 the other day at the (Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club), 2-under. Imagine that,” Stoops, an avid summer golfer, said. “He’s only played like six times all summer. I’m envious.”
Stoops said middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds has progressed well since a torn ACL suffered last season against Texas. Reynolds has been able to participate in offseason workouts and is expected to be at the level he was at prior to his injury.
“There wasn’t as much collateral damage around this particular injury in this case as there was in the first one,” Stoops said, referring to a knee injury Reynolds suffered early in his career. “Talking to him, he feels great. He looks great. He’s really trimmed up.”
As good or better?
OU would love Bradford to have encore of last year’s Heisman Trophy winning season. But Stoops isn’t counting on his quarterback equaling or surpassing the gaudy passing totals of 2008.
“It’s going to be hard to improve on those stats. It’s just like offensively, they’ll be hard to have that kind of production. You know, but hopefully with a better defense you don’t have to,” Stoops said. “We’re not concerned about statistics. It’s doing what you need to do and manage the game to win. So to me, just to manage the game and avoid turnovers, make the smart plays, be consistent like he has been and not to force things. You know, remind him you’re not Superman.”