After the longest offseason in recent memory (both literally and figuratively), the Oklahoma Sooners have finally made it to the first Game Week of the 2020 college football season. Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the social turbulence unfolding around the nation, the past several months have provided OU’s program with a number of novel challenges. Despite all of that, Lincoln Riley and his team have maintained course.
This Saturday, Sept. 12, Oklahoma opens the season against the Missouri State Bears, led by head coach Bobby Petrino. On Tuesday, Riley made it clear that the Sooners would no longer be releasing coronavirus testing data to the public moving forward, citing a competitive advantage one way or another as the primary reason.
Lincoln Riley says OU won't be releasing football COVID testing data moving forward because of "competitive advantage." OU has decided to start treating these things like injuries when it comes to public disclosure.— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) September 8, 2020
This does not change the fact that OU will test its student-athletes three times a week per Big 12 Conference rules throughout the season, nor does it mean that the proper protocols won’t be followed. All this means is that Oklahoma will not provide the media nor the fans with the number of active cases the team is dealing with. That information will instead be monitored and recorded by professional health care officials, while the rest of us will simply have to wait until game time to learn about any potential scratches from the lineup. Even then, the specific reason for any absences will likely be kept under wraps.
The move is receiving a bit of blowback (which is understandable), but the Sooners aren’t alone in doing this. I feel like this doesn’t have much of an impact (if any) on the competitive balance in ANY matchup, and it basically just serves to create a needless PR issue. Having said that, Riley has typically been above board with this kind of thing, and he’s created far fewer negative headlines than *points in the direction of Stillwater* other coaches around college football, so perhaps he deserves his share of leeway.
Oklahoma is far from being the only school doing this, by the way. Lots of schools haven't reported ANY testing data this year citing privacy laws that don't actually require them to withhold this information.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 8, 2020
During Tuesday’s press conference, Riley addressed this hot topic and more in a virtual meeting with media members. Also, redshirt junior OT Adrian Ealy, redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler and sophomore TE/H-back Austin Stogner answered questions about the upcoming season.
Riley on suspension updates and player opt-outs
Before Oklahoma’s trip to the CFP Peach Bowl semifinal last season, WR Trejan Bridges, DE Ronnie Perkins and RB Rhamondre Stevenson were all served suspensions for a violation of rules. Those suspensions were expected to carry over into this season, and up to this point there has been no official word announced on the matter. Also, DL Jalen Redmond is reportedly set to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Riley discussed the status of each of these situations on Tuesday.
“The three guys that were previously out (Bridges, Perkins, Stevenson) — no new update on that right now. It could come at any point, but certainly no new update on that right now. And I think I’ve addressed with you guys how we’re going to handle that as a team as far as any guys’ decisions to play or to not play, so we’ll leave that up to the individual.”
Riley on his excitement for the offense
Despite having to replace a first-round draft pick at WR, a second-round pick at QB, and a starting RB, there is a lot of talent left in the offensive cupboard — namely along the O-line — that should have fans feeling optimistic about what this year’s group can accomplish. Riley shared his feelings about his offense going into the season.
“I’m excited to see them play. I’m definitely excited about our front. We’ve got a chance to have a really good group there. Like we’ve said many times, there’s a great combination there. Lot of experience, lot of guys that have played a lot of snaps, some young talented guys that are hungry to get in there and are certainly in the mix. We’ve created a very, very competitive situation there. So I’m excited to see how those guys perform and how they continue to come together as a group.”
Riley on what he wants to see from the young RBs
With Trey Sermon having transferred to Ohio State, Kennedy Brooks choosing to opt out of the 2020 season and Rhamondre Stevenson likely serving a multi-game suspension stemming from 2019, the youth in Oklahoma’s running back room is going to be challenged in a way that wasn’t expected when the offseason began. Guys like T.J. Pledger, Marcus Major and Seth McGowan will need to step up to give the Sooners a balanced attack offensively. Riley spoke about this situation and what he needs to see from the group.
“I just want to see the continued growth that we’ve had and what we’ve seen on the practice field. When I watch us practice, I see a lot of very capable, very talented backs running behind what’s got the chance to be a very good offensive line. I’m excited for those guys to get their chances, just like I was excited for Rodney Anderson to get his first carries or anybody else that we’ve had here. I think these guys are going to be really good players. There’s nothing like going out there and cutting it loose and experiencing it, but I think we’ve got several guys that’ll play very, very well.”
Riley on the team’s unified stance against racial injustice
Recently, the OU football team marched in a show of solidarity against the racial injustices that have headlined the newsfeeds this summer. #Unity is the program’s unifying message that demonstrates their stance in the fight for equality as a collective. Riley talked about how important it is for the players to use their voice and platform for greater change within their community and beyond.
“I think it’s a great thing. You know, everybody can take off on their own interpretations of this stuff, and there’s not anything in life that you can’t find extremist or people that maybe put something in a negative light. This, for our team, is about people caring and taking care of one another, and that’s one thing our team has been unanimous on. [...] (This issue) is important to all of them, whether it’s a black player or a white player or whatever. Or a white coach — we’re all sensitive to it, and it’s important to all of us. Certainly glad the conference has gotten behind it. The only message our team wants to have is that we believe there can be unity. We want there to be steps taken. [...] If anybody takes it for anything more is not understanding what we as a team are trying to promote.”
Full press conference links
Redshirt junior offensive tackle Adrian Ealy was named a Second Team All-Big 12 selection in his first year as a starter in 2019. Looking back on his career at OU, he’s been around some of the biggest names to ever spin it at Oklahoma, such as Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, in addition to his time blocking for Jalen Hurts. On Tuesday, Ealy spoke highly of Spencer Rattler’s leadership qualities.
Adrian Ealy: Says #Sooners starting QB Spencer Rattler has the traits of a great QB and leader.— Brandon Drumm (@BrandonDrumm247) September 8, 2020
All eyes were on Spencer Rattler in his first media press conference since he was named the starting QB for Oklahoma. One of the things he touched on was what he learned while backing up Jalen Hurts in 2019. Preparation is one of the biggest factors for success as a quarterback, and Hurts’ preparation was up there with the best of them.
At 6’6, sophomore TE/H-back Austin Stogner is going to be the tallest target on the field more often than not. Not only does he have excellent height, he’s bulked up 30 pounds since he arrived on campus as a true freshman. Look out for him to become one of Rattler’s favorite options this fall.
OU TE/H-Back @austin_stogner on gaining weight from 1-yr ago as TR FR to now as a much beefier 265 lbs: 'Came in about 235 and up to 265. Coaches did great job wanting me to make sure I could move. I’m late-bloomer & it’s progressed to where it is now.' #Sooners @NEWS9 @NewsOn6— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) September 8, 2020
Lincoln Riley is ready to get this thing going. Sooner fans are ready to get this thing going. Let’s roll.
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