Sort of the like a hit movie that just hit theaters, if you don’t want to know about the plot, this is a blog you should avoid until you’ve seen “All-Access, Training Days with the Oklahoma Sooners.”
The one-hour special, divided into two 30-minute segments, debuted Tuesday night on ESPN and will reair 23 times — Part I (12 times), Part II (11 times) — over the next 10 days, leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener against Tulsa. Some thoughts about the special:
* The most emotional segment is a team church service in the Red Room when the Sooners remember teammate Austin Box, who died in May from a mix of painkillers. The shot of tears running down Landry Jones‘ face while a Box video is being shown is very moving.
* The most entertaining segment is the shark sequence. The defensive backs call themselves “The Sharks,” feeding on wide receivers. The receivers, of course, fire back in a heated but friendly competition every day in practice.
* One of the best lines is one of Bob Stoops‘ young sons telling a receiver: “If the ball hits you in the hands you’re supposed to catch it.”
* Freshman tight end Nila Kasitati before the first practice leads the team in the Haka — the rugby War Dance. It’s a condensed version of New Zealand’s “All Blacks” rugby team’s pre-game dance you see in the movie “Invictus.”
You get a good look at the physical, demanding day-to-day grind of playing Division I football. But it’s the offbeat footage that’s most entertaining. A good example is true freshman offensive lineman Derrick Farniok trying to dance before practice the second day. Jones’ calls it “about the worst I’ve seen.”
* Safety Tony Jefferson on defensive coordinator Brent Venables: “You can see the veins stick out on his neck.”
* Linebacker Travis Lewis on Venables: “You can see foam come out his lips, like a snarling dog.”
* Behind the scenes footage is priceless, ranging from Stoops lecturing the team on not violating rules or how to handle being ranked No. 1; the offensive linemen going bowling; Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills playing the video game FIFA soccer; a segment on the horses Boomer and Sooner that live in Sapulpa; and players doing Bob Stoops imitations.
* O-line coach James Patton lecturing two linemen during a drill. “We couldn’t break a Rice Krispy between you two guys. All we’d have to do is add milk.”
* Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright: “Are you a One-A-Day vitamin? I get one play a day out of you.”
The only negative for a reporter like myself is the media used to get this type of access years ago before college football coaches shut down watching practices. I miss those days. Not only did you get to see which backup players were close to being ready to contribute you saw more of the players’ personalties.