Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops met with the media on Monday to discuss the UTEP Miners, his first opponent of the season. His counterpart, Mike Price, also met with the media to discuss the Sooners and apparently he's pretty high on them.
"Oklahoma has no weaknesses. We haven't found a soft spot that we can exploit. They are solid across the board. They do a real outstanding job offensively putting their game plan together. Their quarterback threw for 4,463 yards last year and they still run the ball. They're a running football team but they make the big plays with the play action pass. They had a couple of receivers suspended and immediately recruited an outstanding junior college player and one of the best receivers in the country from Penn State. They're solid and well coached. I have a lot of respect for who Bob Stoops is as a man and a person. He's a real good guy and treats his players right. You don't hear people gripe about their treatment at Oklahoma. Their whole department is well run."
You'd be hard pressed to find an Oklahoma fan to speak so glowingly after the spring and summer that the Sooners have had. If you were to say the team has no weaknesses most of us would quickly point out the anxiety over the offensive and defensive line issues along with the fact that the Sooners are heading to El Paso with Kenny Stills as the only eligible player that has caught a pass in a Sooner uniform.
I get that Mike Price may have gone to the Lou Holtz of media relations where a coach becomes over complimentary of an opponent but labeling the Sooners as a "running football team" is still a bit of a stretch after Josh Heupel's first season as offensive coordinator.
When it comes to his own team, it appears as if Price is just focused on the basics and looking...well...like a football team.
"It sounds simple, but what I'm hoping to see is for us to align properly and play with 11 players on the field all the time. I want to see us come off the ball all together with no offsides penalties and know who we have to cover and what gap we're responsible for. I want to see us run our plays effectively and run in the right direction. I want us to have minimal mental errors. If we get run over, we get run over by a bigger and stronger guy. If a guy outruns us because he's faster, he outruns us. But we'd better know who has him and cover him with the right guys. I know we will play with emotion, enthusiasm, toughness and desire. I know we will run and hit. I know how excited we are. But I want to make sure we do the things that got us here, and that's basic fundamental football. If you can't block the guy, at least you're attempting to block the right guy. If you can't cover the guy, at least you know who you're supposed to cover. If we've got that right and we don't turn the football over then we will have a chance."
I know that you're hoping to line up with eleven players, coach. But to be honest with you, Oklahoma is looking to catch you with twelve or thirteen on the field as the snap the ball using their hurry up offense while you're making substitutions. I honestly don't blame Price for feeling this way as this game is only going to help better his team for the remainder of the season as Wisconsin and the Conference USA season loom on their schedule.
One area that I may strongly disagree with Coach Price is the downplaying of the return of Mike Stoops to the Oklahoma staff.
"It's given us another 25 games to look at. We have looked at all of Arizona's defensive games and all of Oklahoma's defensive games to see what similarities they have. It looks like they will do a little bit less on defense than last year, they'll be a little more basic. But we don't know what their base is going to be. It could be anything. They lost their defensive coordinator, and he did a lot of things last year. It's a combination of Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops and Tim Kish's defense. You have to match what you know with your players and that's a big key."
Sure, its given UTEP another 25 games to look at but is has done so much more for an Oklahoma defense that seemed to have lost its way in 2011, particularly in the secondary. With all due respect to Arizona, you can watch all the film that you'd like to of what Mike Stoops did in the desert but it won't show you the things that he can do at OU with a higher caliber of athlete.
As far as the game plan for Saturday night, it appears that the only thing we can deduct from Price's comments is that they are going to run the ball which, if successful, will shorten the game.
"Our running game is really looking good so far. Our offensive line is back, they're sharp and they're blocking well. We have really talented backs. You'll see a lot of them. With a new offensive line coach, it's going to be a different look on offense and a different philosophy from what you've seen before. Our rushing game has a lot to do with that."