I think I can safely speak for everybody when I say fans of the Oklahoma Sooners have had their fill of offensive shootouts and then some. After back-to-back scoring fests that weren’t decided until the final minutes, the hope is that there are fewer fireworks this weekend against lowly Kansas on Senior Night.
The Kansas Jayhawks will come into Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with their most wins in a season since 2014 — although those wins came against Central Michigan, Rutgers and a wounded TCU squad. It has already been announced that head coach David Beaty will not retain his position following the 2018 season, but he will remain the coach through the campaign. That came weeks after KU let go of offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
Riley answered several questions about the Sooners’ defense and briefly addressed the upcoming game against Kansas during the weekly Monday presser.
Riley on the timeline of hiring a new DC
Ruffin McNeill has been Oklahoma’s interim defensive coordinator for roughly five weeks now, and many of the same defensive issues have not been corrected or improved upon. Even before the McNeill promotion, it was expected that the Sooners would look to bring in a coach from outside the program as the long-term answer. Riley spoke about when that decision and potential hire could be made.
“I haven’t made any decisions on what we’re going to do there or not. My focus was after we made the change that we were going to get through this back half of the season and see where we’re at. I don’t know what we’ll do. I wouldn’t commit that we’re going to bring in anybody different right now or not. Right now it’s one week at a time, and we’re trying to win a championship right now.”
Riley on the culture of the defense
For as much praise and respect Riley’s offense has around the nation, the defense receives just as much criticism. It’s worth mentioning that Riley has not, will not and should not publicly throw his defense under the bus. Instead, he showed his diplomatic support in defense of the defense, with a little extra sauce in his responses.
And as far as the Big 12 is concerned, the conference is widely known for fielding some of the lowest ranked defenses on a national level, and Oklahoma has been trending towards the bottom of those ranks as of late. Riley was asked some tough questions about the poor defensive performances during the presser, including whether or not the Sooners have a culture problem on that side of the ball.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into that. By Big 12 standards we’re winning a bunch of games, I know that. You can put all those stats every which way you want, but go look up the Big 12 records in the last four years of teams and tell me which one you would rather be.”
Riley on the status of T.J. Pledger
Oklahoma found itself with only two healthy scholarship running backs on Saturday when it was revealed that true freshman T.J. Pledger was ruled out for the game. Riley provided an update for the status of the young Sooner tailback.
“I would say he’s questionable for this week. It’s not a long-term deal but we just got to see how he responds to treatment. He had a few days off there towards the end of the week after he got dinged up. We’re counting on that buying us a little bit of time, and certainly hopeful that he’ll be ready this week.”
Riley on the Kansas coaching staff
With David Beaty on the way out of Lawrence, most if not all of the coaching staff will presumably have to be replaced, including Lincoln’s younger brother Garrett Riley, who coaches tight ends and fullbacks. The head coach opined about KU’s expected staff moves following the season.
“As far as the deal with my brother, it’s never easy in a game like this, and certainly what they’re going through there. I don’t want to put words in (Garrett Riley’s) mouth, but it’s part of this business as we all know. He’s a good young coach, and there’s a lot of really good coaches on that staff. Regardless of what happens there here at the end of the year, those guys aren’t going to have a hard time finding jobs. That’s a good staff with a lot of good coaches.”
Full press conference links
Oklahoma’s starting MIKE linebacker also answered some tough questions about the defense from the media on Monday, but he didn’t shy away from any of them. While K9 acknowledged the areas in which the D needs to improve going forward, namely the pass defense, he was adamant about his teammates’ fight and their refusal to give up.
Kenneth Murray: “It’s pretty obvious, our pass defense is not up to what it should be.”#Sooners— John E. Hoover (@johnehoover) November 12, 2018
The recently named Biletnikoff Award semifinalist caught up with the media on Monday and spoke about his growth as a player and what his immediate plans are regarding his future in football.
K1 was his smooth, suave self on a cold Monday afternoon. Like Marquise Brown, Murray could also be playing his final football game on Owen Field this Saturday. If so, it’s been a real pleasure watching him do things other Sooners have never done before.
As previously alluded to, Riley remains hopeful about the potential of the defense and the improvements it can make with two games left of the regular season. Oklahoma may not control its own destiny as far as the College Football Playoff is concerned, but every major goal for the team is still very much alive.
Lincoln Riley: “There’s the makings of a championship-caliber defense in that room.” #Sooners— Ryan Aber (@ryaber) November 12, 2018
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