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Oklahoma Sooners Football Press Conference Notes: Lincoln Riley talks TCU, recruiting and the coaching carousel

Also, Baker Mayfield and Lincoln Riley discussed the chippy nature of football games.

Texas Tech v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

We have reached the final press conference before the return of the Big 12 Conference Championship Game. Last Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners decimated the West Virginia Mountaineers in an emotional contest. Baker Mayfield did not start the game, which made way for Kyler Murray to step into the Sooners’ starting lineup for the first time. On the first play, Murray made the most of his opportunity with a 66 yard scamper. Mayfield stepped in after that initial drive and put on an offensive clinic from that point forward.

Now the challenge is a rematch against the top rated defense in the Big 12. Last time out, the TCU Horned Frogs showed little resistance against the Sooners’ offensive onslaught in the first half before Lincoln Riley turned on the cruise control in the second half. After a season-ending leg injury suffered in Norman, Gary Patterson’s bunch will be without starting running back Darius Anderson. Further, starting safety Nick Orr will sit out the first half of the championship game for throwing punches in a brawl that broke out during TCU’s game against Baylor on Friday.

In his weekly press conference, Lincoln Riley addressed the rematch with TCU, the increased chippiness in football, and the early signing period. Here are some of the highlights from Riley’s presser on Monday:

Riley on if the built-in rematch in the CCG is good or bad

It’s been widely talked about heading into this season, but with the round-robin format of the Big XII conference schedule, the championship game was always going to be a rematch between whichever two teams finished atop the standings. In turn, the game could either help or hurt the conference’s chances of making the CFP, and Riley shared his thoughts on the positives and negatives of rematches:

“I don’t know if there’s good and bad, I just think it is what it is. You know each other better, there’s probably going to be less surprises. Both teams are going to have a better feel for each other’s personnel. You will have prepped for each other for multiple weeks now. [. . .] It comes down to winning your individual battles and playing great team football. That’s what it’s going to take for us to beat TCU. That’s what it’ll take for TCU to beat us.”

Riley on Rodney Anderson’s versatility

Rodney Anderson has come on incredibly strong in the second half of the season, both running the ball and receiving it out of the backfield. Riley talked about his versatility and even compared him to Joe Mixon:

“It’s strange, I said it to a couple of our coaches this morning, and we all had to kind of look at each other, but we all kind of agreed afterwards. In a strange way, he’s actually maybe even more versatile than Mixon was, because there’s the element of power to his game that he’s got, especially at a younger age more than Joe had. Joe was a little more fluid in some areas, made a few more maybe ‘wow’ plays, but [Anderson’s] versatility has been impressive.”

Riley on the increasing number of fights across football

Whether it was in one of the many collegiate rivalry games or even in the professional league this past weekend, there has seemingly been an increased number of fights across football. Riley shared his views on the matter:

“I think it’s something I think we’ve got to look at, I do. [. . .] We’ve got to make sure that we’re sending a strong enough message as far as the penalties to help reduce it. [. . .] I think it’s something we’ve got to look at, because it’s not good for the game. At the end of the day, playing on an edge, all the physicality is one of the best things about football, but the fights, guys leaving the bench, our guy taking a swing the other day, our guy did it too, it’s definitely not good for the game.”

Riley on the distractions of today’s coaching climate

With all the recent coaching changes, you have to wonder if Bob Stoops was still the head coach at OU, Lincoln Riley’s phone would be blowing up with interview requests. Riley spoke about how thankful he is to be where he is now:

“I’m very thankful to be in the position that I am. Of course I love it here, and this is a dream job for me, so it’s nice not to have to pay any attention to that. And then it also shows you how special this place is with the stability that’s been in place here for a long time, just the way that things are run from an administration standpoint, not just athletics but the whole university. Some of the things that have happened over the past few days makes you even prouder to be a part of this university.”

Riley on what he expects from the early signing period

The first early signing day for high school football recruits is less than a month away. With the normal February signing period still in place, this added signing period creates a new dimension for coaches to recruit around. Riley talked about what he anticipates from the upcoming signing day:

“I think we’ll sign quite a few. I don’t know if I like it yet or not; ask me in a few months. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, I mean honestly there’s a lot of guesses out there. Are 20% of the players going to sign? Are 75% of the players going to sign? How do you handle the ones that don’t sign? You’re having to make decisions even now on if a guy may be academically as close, and you don’t have nearly as much info as you normally would when you sign him in February. So do you sign him now or wait? There’s going to be some trial and error with it, and we’re trying to think of everything we can and prepare as much as we can, but it’ll be a little bit of a moving target for a couple years and I doubt we’ll actually have a real sense of is it positive for the game or negative until we get through a couple of them.”

Full Press Conference Links:

Baker Mayfield

Mayfield was also asked about the increased number of fights and skirmishes in games across the country:

“I can’t speak for everybody’s games, but I can speak for what’s said during ours. In between the lines, there’s a lot of trash talk being said, but football’s also a violent game. There’s going to be harsh feelings, bitterness towards each other, but in the end there’s got to be respect because you’re both out there trying to play well and trying to win. Sometimes you go too far, and that’s where it needs to be drawn back a bit.”

Orlando Brown

Brown was also asked about if other teams have attempted to emulate Iowa State’s defensive game plan to try to slow down the Sooners’ offense:

“Yeah, you know it’s something that you’re seeing all throughout the Big 12 now, a similar defense that Iowa State’s running. It was obviously effective against us, it’s been effective against Oklahoma State and all these other high-powered offenses in our conference. Iowa State did their thing, and you know they kind of exposed it and the weaknesses in some of the scheme-related stuff as far as our offense. But yeah, a lot of people are trying.”

Lincoln Riley

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