NELSON EXCITED ‘TO BE PHYSICAL AGAIN'
Oklahoma senior linebacker Corey Nelson appeared at OU's Caravan event in Plano, Texas, on Wednesday and was asked what about the coming season excites him the most.
“Just being able to be physical again,” Nelson said. “Being able to have that physical defensive line and that physical linebackers, and having a very, very strong front seven.”
Late last season, facing the Big 12's high-powered spread offenses, Sooner coaches opted to regularly play with only one — and sometimes zero — linebackers, replacing them with extra defensive backs.
The results weren't great; opposing offenses tallied eye popping yardage and point totals against Oklahoma. The Sooners won 50-49 and 51-48 shootouts against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, respectively, but were obliterated by Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl.
This spring, though, co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said repeatedly that linebackers would play a greater role next season, even saying his system had done that unit “an injustice.”
“That's something I'm really excited about and that's what I'm looking forward to this season,” Nelson said. “Just a very, very exciting outlook on what the season holds for us.”
STOOPS LAUDS BIG T
Toby Keith made an appearance at the Dallas caravan. He wasn't on the schedule and didn't even take the stage, but Stoops took the opportunity to tell OU fans that “Big T” kept open his Bricktown restaurant Tuesday night for the Sooner softball team to celebrate.
OU won the Women's College World Series on Tuesday night, then a group of 200-300 players, staff, family and fans convened at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill.
“They have 2-300 people, keep their cooks there, have a big celebration,” Stoops said. “Just Toby and the girls singing. They'll never forget it.”
Keith said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione called Tuesday and asked if it was possible to use the restaurant in the event of a national title. So Keith said he called his restaurant manager when Keilani Ricketts hit a three-run home run in the third inning and said get ready.
“It was the most exciting part for me,” Keith said.
Supporters made a gauntlet for the team to run through with the NCAA trophy. When the Sooners ran through the gauntlet, they sprinted to Keith. “I wasn't in the gauntlet,” he said. “They came got around me 360, bounced around. Jumped around. Then they raced to the stage and sang ‘Red Solo Cup.'”
STOOPS: ‘IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH'
Stoops assured fans that though OU in the last three season has won 32 games, one outright Big 12 title and one co-championship, “It's not good enough.
“Listen, I get it … it's not what we're used to. I am the one who, as the leader, set that standard. No one out there wants it more than I do.
“So we've done some things and are hopefully making some changes to getting us back to winning 12 and 13 games and winning the national championship. That's what we're about.”
KRUGER WISHES M'BAYE WELL
OU basketball coach Lon Kruger admitted being caught off guard by Amath M'Baye's decision to leave school with a year of eligibility left, but said he wishes the departed forward the best.
“It's just part of it,” Kruger said. “It was a little bit of a surprise.”
Kruger said if M'Baye had been projected as a potential first-round NBA Draft selection, it would've been a “no brainer.”
“Now he's not projecting like that,” Kruger said. “But we still hope it works out well for him. That just makes more minutes available for someone else. You just have to pick it up and move on.”
M'Baye averaged 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Sooners last year, his only active season in Norman. He transferred from Wyoming before the 2011-12 season, but had to sit out a year due to transfer rules.
BY JASON KERSEY AND BERRY TRAMEL