DALLAS — Oklahoma's three Big 12 Media Days representatives — seniors Aaron Colvin, Gabe Ikard and Trey Millard — aren't oblivious to the harsh criticism levied at their team by former Sooners over the past several months.
“Sometimes it can get to you, but you can't feed into that negative energy,” said Colvin, an All-Big 12 cornerback last season. “You can't bring it into your own game or your own team because it'll destroy it.”
Since the Sooners' embarrassing 41-13 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M, many former Oklahoma greats haven't held back when asked about the program they love. Colvin, Ikard and Millard all admitted being a little hurt by the criticism, but added that it has motivated them to play harder in 2013.
“They have their own opinions; I'm sure past players had opinions of them when they played,” Millard said. “You've just gotta play with a chip on your shoulder. Especially when some of them were saying that we were soft and stuff. ... I take that personally and just try to prove that's not how I am as a player or we are as a team.”
Spencer Tillman, a Sooners running back on the 1985 national championship team, ripped OU on Twitter after the Cotton Bowl, writing the team looked “disinterested and soft” and that it was “time to clean house.”
Roy Williams was an All-American safety on Bob Stoops' early teams and is regarded as one of the greatest players in program history. He said in an April interview that OU had lost its “dog mentality,” then took a jab at the team's popular in-stadium pregame video, adding, “You can't claim that there's only one OU if you're not playing like it.”
Most recently, Brian Bosworth — a two-time Butkus Award winning linebacker in the mid-1980s — said OU's defense has “lost a lot of our bite” in an interview with the Tulsa World earlier this month.
“We don't listen to any of that stuff,” Ikard said. “Those guys have the right to say whatever they want to say. We know how hard we work here, all the time we put in. I assure you that they didn't do anything more than we did.
“We're going through the same system as they went through. Maybe we haven't had the results they had, and they wanna pin it on that, they can say what they want to.”
Of course, it's not just former Sooners down on the program. Colvin and Ikard were the only two players selected to the media's preseason All-Big 12 team, a surprisingly low number of OU representatives on a squad usually full of them.
Oklahoma will break in a new starting quarterback this season, and also must replace seven starters from a 2012 defense that allowed an average of 43 points and 581.25 yards over its last five games.
Even Stoops has admitted that last year's 10-3 record and co-Big 12 championship — shared with a Kansas State team that beat OU in Norman — wasn't good enough. He's consistently said as much, and showed his displeasure by firing three assistant coaches in February.
“We needed to win 12 or 13 games instead of 10,” Stoops said Tuesday. “Ten isn't good enough and co-champs isn't good enough. We're trying to overall do everything in our program a little better. Hopefully we'll coach better. Hopefully our players have worked harder in the offseason to be more prepared to make plays when they can make them. That's what we're trying to do.”