NORMAN — Oklahoma football fans don’t hear much from Jerry Schmidt.
“Sometimes I just tell things the way they are and people don’t like to hear it,” Schmidt said with a smile.
A request was made for “Schmitty” to appear during the Sooners’ Media Day on Saturday afternoon inside the Switzer Center, and Bob Stoops’ longtime strength coach obliged, explaining in detail why he believes the 2014 Oklahoma football team could be destined for big things. That excitement mostly stems from two factors: team leadership and the Sooners’ impressive group of newcomers.
Schmidt repeatedly praised sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, junior receiver Sterling Shepard and senior offensive tackle Daryl Williams in particular, but said there is a guy like that in every position group.
“You’ve got to have great players, but you have to have great leaders set the example of what you want,” Schmidt said. “Those leaders have to be your hardest workers. It hasn’t always been that way. It’s been good but it hasn’t always been across the board.”
Schmidt’s eight-week summer workouts have become notorious over his 16 years in Norman under Stoops. Current and former players alike have described the intense, grueling program as something that sets Oklahoma apart from other programs around the country.
Those workouts also represent a noted rite of passage for incoming freshmen.
Schmidt said this year’s freshmen class has impressed him; so much, in fact, that he integrated the freshmen with upperclassmen much sooner than he does in a typical summer.
“Normally I start them out by themselves as a group and then graduate them into working with our upperclassmen,” he said. “About a week-and-a-half, two weeks into it, I put most of them with the upperclassmen because that’s how mature they were and physically they could handle the stuff we were doing. Our upperclassmen really invited them in.”
Possibly the most notable newcomer on Oklahoma’s roster this season is highly touted but troubled wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who transferred from Missouri after being dismissed in April.
The former five-star prospect joined Oklahoma’s football team in early July. When he began summer workouts, he was in “terrible shape,” Schmidt said.
“He was in the trash can quite a bit,” Schmidt said. “To me going into it, I thought this guy is going to be a pain and throw our whole karma off as far as leadership and all that stuff. He responded to it. … He said, ‘I’m gonna get there coach.’
“Sometimes guys like that have kinda cruised through because they can kinda get by on their talent.”
Shepard, who has emerged as the inexperienced wide receiver group’s clear leader, confirmed Schmidt’s assessment of Green-Beckham’s physical shape when he first arrived in Norman.
“When you come to Oklahoma, it’s a lot different than most places,” Shepard said. “He had to work a little bit harder when he came here. He was kinda hurting, but he got the hang of it, and when he got the hang of it he was just fine.”
Now that the Sooners are three days into fall practices, Schmidt’s day-to-day interactions with the team have decreased substantially. He said things didn’t change all that much this summer, despite amended NCAA rules that allowed the coaching staff to supervise summer workouts.
“What makes me successful is the power that (the coaching staff) gives me,” Schmidt said. “It’s good for our players to get away from the position coaches and vice versa. It’s good for them to get away from me now, because I’ve been a pain in the (butt) for about eight weeks.”