As will be the case for the rest of the week, the main story entering the day for the Oklahoma Sooners was the availability of Ronnie Perkins, Rhamondre Stevenson and Trejan Bridges. The trio has served its six-game suspension, but Lincoln Riley was still mum on their status for Saturday’s game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Riley did, however, give his own perspective on playing in Lubbock. You can check out the full presser here.
“Their skill sets are pretty different,” he acknowledged, “but the comparison to me would be — 1. They’re mentally ready to play at a young age as far as not only picking up the offense but handling all that comes along with playing football at a university like this. There’s just a lot to it. Marvin handles all of his business off the field. He’s very, very dependable even at a young age and kind of feels and kind of like he’s been here for a long time, and guys who give you that feeling normally are able to contribute early. So that’s probably the biggest similarity — they both have a good feel for the game. They’re both tough, competitive kids. They both know that they belong. There’s a lot of — kind of from the psyche standpoint — there’s a lot of similarities.”
Riley also gives Mims a gold star as a punt returner.
“As a punt returner, a lot of the same things,” he added. “We gained a trust in him as time went on. Punt returner is one of those things where you can tell pretty quick if a guy wants to do it or not. Everybody says that they want to, but few people on your football team actually want to be the punt returner. It takes skill, but it also takes a lot of guts. It takes somebody that wants that opportunity, and he showed that. He showed a dependability for catching the ball, making good decisions back there, and honestly after the catch and with the ball in his hands he’s actually been better and more advanced than we would’ve guessed in that he runs fearless, he gets vertical and has outstanding speed and quickness.”
“I don’t know many fronts that would lose a high draft pick — I think we lost four other seniors on the defensive line last year — and like you said, you start the season without arguably your two most talented defensive linemen and still be able to produce they way our guys have.”
“I think it first speaks to the character and the drive in that room of our players,” added Riley. “I give our defensive linemen right now the most credit right now because they’ve been the ones to go make the plays, to take the hard coaching and not let the expectations or standard drop in any way because somebody else might not be there.”
After also crediting Calvin Thibodeaux and Jamar Cain for their efforts in this regard, he made sure to touch on the recruiting and development aspect.
“I think we’ve hit on some guys from an evaluation standpoint and been able to develop some of these guys. We’ve talked about Isaiah (Thomas), but Jordan Kelley I think is another great example of a guy that’s really continued to develop and get better and better. Marcus Stripling’s coming on and doing some nice things. Jon-Michael Terry’s really developed through the years here. He was our defensive player of the week last week. There’s just a lot of positive vibes there, a lot of hard work, a lot of competition. We’re not paying attention to who’s not there. We’re just going an playing at a level that we expect to play regardless, and that’s a great mentality for us to have.”
Like many of us, Cliff Brunt of the Associated Press was curious as to the factors at play in the emergence of TJ Pledger. According to Riley, it has largely been a matter of comfort.
“I think he’s just gotten opportunities and he’s just getting settled in”, he stated. “He hasn’t played a whole lot of ball here yet — certainly not in a lead back-type role. I mean, not anywhere near that. And then all of a sudden, bam, you’re the guy. And then he wasn’t able to play the first game and missed a lot of time on top of all that. So he’s just kind of getting his feet underneath him. He’s starting to understand it, kind of get in a rhythm. I think he’s gaining confidence in himself, the (offensive) line, trusting what he’s seeing. You just see steps each week, and he’s got a toughness and an attitude to continue to work and get better. I just think all of those combined have got him headed in a very positive direction.”
For the final question of the afternoon, Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman asked Riley to touch on the importance of Oklahomans in the program. While his answer definitely started as one would anticipate, he eventually brought up an important and often overlooked element — their ability to teach other players about OU’s football tradition.
“It’s important, and maybe just central parts of our team. We do recruit nationally. There aren’t many places we don’t go and won’t have a shot at a player, but there’s always still an importance of having a presence from your home state. A lot of these guys grew up watching this place, seeing all of the great players and the great teams that have come through here. Their families did. I think that’s important. I think it helps teach maybe a player from out of state — who doesn’t know as much about our history when they get here — about the place and the expectations.”