The Oklahoma Sooners had last weekend off after contact tracing protocols forced the team’s hand. Now OU’s trip to Morgantown has been pushed back to Dec. 12. In the meantime, Lincoln Riley is tasked with preparing his Big 12 title contending squad to face Dave Aranda and the Baylor Bears this Saturday, however, a last-minute surprise was announced on Tuesday. In an unusual turn of events, the team has turned to Bob Stoops — the winningest head coach in program history — to lend a coaching assist in an effort to help reinforce the staff amid the latest spike in COVID cases.
"I'm back."@CoachBobStoops, probably.— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) December 1, 2020
https://t.co/XhOdfeJeYP | #OUDNA pic.twitter.com/G6SAfOFKhG
Starting junior safety Delarrin Turner-Yell clarified that during practice, Stoops hasn’t necessarily focused on one particular position group or unit, rather he’s moved around to help coach all areas of the team. Riley later expounded on his former boss’ presence this week and left open the possibility of the legendary OU frontman coaching the Sooners from the sideline on Saturday.
Lincoln Riley isn't joking. He says Bob Stoops has remained an institutional staff member and he can coach Saturday if the game goes on as planned.— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) December 1, 2020
This is obviously awesome news, and if in fact Bob Stoops makes his return as an emergency assistant coach this Saturday, you can bank on Oklahoma winning by a million (and also on a visor being thrown at some point).
Riley on how COVID has affected the team this week
Despite not having seen his own players in nearly a week, Lincoln Riley believes there is still a chance the season’s final home game will be played this Saturday. On Monday, OU players and the coaching staff were allowed back into the football facility following standard testing protocol. For now, the game is on, but during his Tuesday presser meeting, Riley discussed how this late season spike has affected the team.
“So we’re probably a little bit of prisoners of some of the success that we had early with COVID, in that at least until recently such a large part of our roster was still eligible to be tested. So that’s the way it goes. It’s hit us. Everybody’s kind of had to deal with it at certain points. This has been the hardest it’s hit us, but if our resolve is strong enough, the leadership and guidance from staff, everybody, then I believe this is something this team can overcome.”
Riley on cancelling Senior Night festivities
In a normal year, the final home game is typically reserved for recognizing a team’s seniors with special individual announcements. The day of celebration is commemorated with the players’ families in the spotlight. That being said, during a pandemic, things have been and will continue to be much different. Riley talked about the difficulty of cancelling the events originally planned for this weekend and what alternative measures could be taken in the future.
“It’s something we’ve obviously been thinking about for the last three or four weeks. After talking to some of our kids, their families, all that, we decided we’re going to cancel the senior day festivities. I think for a few reasons, obviously there’s a million reasons this year. Not being able to have families on the field. Not all families being able to travel to be there for it. Not being able to do it in front of a full stadium, which is not the most important thing, but I think that is a factor. [...] We are definitely in plans to, whether it’s a spring game or another home game at some point in the future, we’re going to come back and honor these guys and their families that have played their last game.”
Riley on if the culture on defense has changed
Oklahoma currently has the second-highest graded D-line in the Power Five, according to Pro Football Focus. In just the second year under Alex Grinch’s ‘Speed D’ philosophy, the Sooners are playing as well as anybody in the nation up front. Riley was asked if there’s already been a culture shift take place within the program to make this a reality, or if that change is still developing.
“There’s no question we’ve progressed a lot. No question about that. The way our guys are playing right now and producing, and the quality of players we’ve been able to recruit and attract. Do you ever sit there and say something’s fully changed? I don’t know. I do know we’re headed in the right direction. We’ve made a lot of progress. We can recruit players. We can recruit any defensive lineman in America right now because there’s proof. Not just one year of proof, it’s proof that there’s a major jump in the first year and even the second year (under Alex Grinch).”
Full press conference links
Junior H-back Brayden Willis made his return to the field in Bedlam after missing five consecutive games due to an undisclosed injury. Fresh off an impromptu bye week, he and the rest of the team are raring to play the final two contests of the regular season.
"As a team, we've just kind of moved past it... now we gotta get ready for the next game and that's what we're gonna do. We're excited to play this next game and can't wait to get back up there and see West Virginia."— Ryan Chapman (@RadiosRyan) December 1, 2020
Brayden Willis on the #Sooners mindset after last week.
Here is DTY’s full quote on Bob Stoops’ role as an assistant during practices this week:
“He didn’t jump in and try to take over or anything like that, but he did play his role.” He later added, “(Stoops) was just around kind of helping out everyone at practice. He wasn’t just helping out just a specific position group, he went around helping the team as a whole.”
Riley mentioned that senior DL LaRon Stokes may not be available this week, but having last weekend off helped the former Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year inch closer to a possible return.
Lincoln Riley: DT LaRon Stokes still might not play this week, but the week off did benefit him. #Sooners— John E. Hoover (@johnehoover) December 1, 2020
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