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Oklahoma Sooners Football Press Conference Notes: Fall camp is here!

Lincoln Riley and Alex Grinch met with the media on Friday to kick off the start of fall camp.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma Spring Game Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long offseason, but fall camp has officially commenced for the Oklahoma Sooners. On Friday, Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch met with the media to address the top talking points and answer questions about this OU team in 2019.

SoonerScoop’s Eddie Radosevich pretty much summed up the dynamic between Riley and Grinch perfectly. It’ll be mighty interesting to see how this tandem plays out over the course of this season.

Riley on player injury updates

As far as injuries are concerned, Oklahoma has been relatively fortunate this offseason. Unfortunately, the few hits the Sooners have taken have mostly come on the defensive side of the ball. In April, senior LB Caleb Kelly and redshirt freshman DT Jordan Kelley were both sidelined with lower-body injuries, and senior DL Kenneth Mann was limited in the spring. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman OLB Jalen Redmond has been working to overcome a blood clotting issue since before last season began. Lincoln Riley provided status updates for his players during the presser.

Caleb Kelly and Jordan Kelley are still recovering from the procedures that they had earlier this year. Both are doing extremely well, but certainly too early to speculate on anything that involves this season. Limited here early in camp, Kenneth Mann had an injury here in spring that we’ve been working through. He’s made great progress but will be limited here early in camp.”

“(Redmond) he’s done well all summer. We don’t anticipate any limitations with him. He’s done well, progressed well, and give a lot of credit to him and to our medical team and strength team for having to work together through that.”

Riley on how Alex Grinch balanced his criticism

If you’ve listened to defensive coordinator Alex Grinch speak for five minutes, you realize he’s a no-nonsense kind of coach who doesn’t beat around the bush when assessing his players. Over the summer, he was critical of Oklahoma’s past defenses, and the current unit’s performance. Parts of what he had to say were taken without proper context, but it was enough to stir a bit of talking-season controversy. Riley has been vocal about his trust in Grinch, and shed some light on how the former Ohio State co-DC operates behind the scenes.

“You can’t be scared to talk about the elephant in the room. You’ve got to be real, and you’ve got to be honest. […] I think that’s who (Grinch) is. Number one, I think our players have gotten to know that and understand that. I think they also see the work that’s put into what he and our defense are doing. The passion on the field, the passion in the meeting room, the history of success. It works because they know it’s going in the right direction.”

Riley on his goals for the defense

Last season, Oklahoma ranked 101st in scoring defense, 114th in total defense, and 120th in turnovers forced. Needless to say, those numbers must improve under the new defensive leadership. Riley discussed his goals for the D moving forward.

“Two things I would say is turning people over. There’s nothing that can change a game quicker than that, and every defense in America is capable of doing that. And then I know I’ve said it a lot, but just the consistency. Great units, great players, great teams do it all the time and rarely have those down days. We’ve had flashes of great defense every single year that I’ve been here, but we’ve also had the ups and downs that have plagued us, and so we’ve got to become a group that plays with the same mentality, the same effort level, the same execution week in and week out.”

Riley on naming the starting QB

As was the case this time last season, Riley has yet to name a starter at quarterback. If you recall, Kyler Murray wasn’t designated the starter until 10 days before the 2018 season opener, so it could very well be another few weeks before that position is made official on the depth chart.

“I think you get a lot more accurate snapshot of where these guys are really at as camp unfolds. I would prefer to (name a starter during camp), because then you’re able to get it out of the way. You’re able to start to focus your reps in on a starter. Then the team knows, and everybody knows, and you can move on. But I haven’t always done it that way. My first year at East Carolina we didn’t name one until the first game. I’m not super experienced, but I’m experienced enough to know I darn sure am not nailing it down right now.”

For the record, if Jalen Hurts isn’t the Week 1 starter, that will be major, major news.

Following Riley, DC Alex Grinch also addressed the media. Here are a few of the more noteworthy nuggets from his podium session.

Grinch on the defensive backs

A number of players took the field at multiple positions throughout last season in the Sooners’ secondary, and most of that experience has returned to this year’s team. Grinch was asked about how he’s approaching this situation and the things he wants to develop throughout fall camp.

“The more bodies that you have, not just competing for starting spots but competing for roles, certainly is an important element of things. We didn’t take a lot of stock into what’s taken place in the past. That’s the responsible thing to do. You know, (we kept an) open mind for those guys, a fresh start just like we expected them to have an open mind with our coaching staff. Then you add the younger group, the incoming freshmen into that competitive mix. So there’s probably more questions than answers at this point as we go into fall camp.”

Grinch on his publicized criticisms of the defense

Just as Riley was asked about during his portion of the press conference, Grinch was also asked about his comments and evaluations of Oklahoma’s defense and how he balances being honest with his players and getting them to buy into what he’s teaching.

“You can use motivation a number of different ways. Obviously we err on the side of being positive, but that certainly is one. I think just as competitors, you’re trying to kind of dig at their soul in terms of helping to keep them motivated as to why a day in April is so important to our success.”

Grinch on defensive linemen shedding weight

During this offseason, several defensive linemen reportedly lost weight in order to be better conditioned for Grinch’s ‘Speed D’. OU’s DC was asked about the concept behind re-focusing the defense’ priorities and the results that have come from this transition.

“It may be a little overstated with some of the guys in terms of weight loss. I would say the 320-pound defensive linemen in this era of college football better still be able to make a play in space. You want big guys, but you want big guys that can run. […] Certainly what we’re trying to accomplish like everybody else is big speed — as much as we can possibly get. But to put on girth, again I use the term ‘fool’s gold’, sometimes that can be one as well as coaches. If we’re just big, it’s easy to get big. It’s a lot harder to have big guys moving around and making plays in the backfield.”

Full press conference links

Lincoln Riley

Former five-star QB recruit Spencer Rattler was asked how his fall camp will look compared to the older quarterbacks. Lincoln Riley, while high on the true freshman, is keeping expectations at bay.

Alex Grinch

Alex Grinch understands that the past handful of seasons with poor overall defensive efforts is not representative of the illustrious history of Oklahoma Football. He’s definitely walking into a potential firestorm as the DC, but he sounds ready for the challenge and isn’t shying away from the high expectations.

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