Takeaways: Defensive players, Kingsbury discuss the week of prep so far
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and a number of defensive players were made available to the media after Tuesday's practice to discuss this week of practice heading into the contest against Oklahoma this weekend...
Several players haven mentioned, both on Monday and Tuesday, that the practices early on this week have been much more physical than they usually are by design. Kingsbury on that:
"Just for a Monday, changed some things up. While Monday is (usually) more of a run-through pace, we just really practiced, had some physical periods. I felt like we kind of needed to get back to kind of a training camp type atmosphere."
-Kliff on how he thinks his players have responded to that so far this week:
"I think (well). We've had physical practices. I think they were embarrassed. I know they're embarrassed. I know they have a great opportunity on Saturday to kind of get rolling again. I hope we take advantage of it. But, I think they've had good energy the first couple of days."
-I asked Kingsbury if Pat Mahomes has been practicing so far this week. He has been, which Kliff hopes will help him play much better than he did last Saturday:
"He's been a little bit limited, but he is getting work in, more so than he has in the couple of previous weeks, so hopefully that translates to the game. Like I mentioned after the (West Virginia) game, I felt like the lack of practice caught up to him a little bit. Hopefully this helps."
-Justin Murphy will sit out the first half of the game against Oklahoma after being called for targeting late against West Virginia. As a result, Kingsbury and O-line coach Lee Hays have had to try some different combinations with the unit so far this week. Kliff's thoughts on how the O-line has done so far this week:
"Luckily there are some guys with some playing time. It's not like we're going to have to play a completely new guy. They've gelled okay. Murphy will be out in the first half, and we'll try to get him back in the mix. But I think it's been solid so far."
-I asked Kingsbury what he though the O-line needed to do to improve here in the later half of the season:
"Just continue to get better as the competition gets stiffer. You've got to trust your technique and fundamentals and not kind of go rogue when it does get tough. There's tough fronts in this league with different looks, different blitzes, really good defensive linemen, and you've got to trust your fundamentals with those guys."
-Kliff noted that they'll likely solidify the O-line combination they want to go with for this weekend on Wednesday afternoon. It sounds like they could slide Baylen Brown out to a different spot and have been trying several different looks so far to see which one will gel the best.
-The head coach on Oklahoma's offense and what sticks out to him about that group:
"They just do such a great job of protecting the football. Lincoln (Riley) really mixes up his screen game well, great running backs, great tight end, dynamic receivers, and I just think he's found a really nice niche using his quarterback on play-action stuff. Nakeds, boots, some quarterback run game, some screens. They're very efficient, and they protect the football."
-Kliff asked if their gameplan would change defensively much with Samaje Perine out for the game. That would be a no:
"They've got a bunch of running backs. Mixon is as good as anyone in the country. Then I'm sure they've got some behind him, so I don't think that affects it too much. They can always plug somebody in and be very effective."
-Kingsbury noted that both Derrick Willies and Dylan Cantrell have been practicing this week:
"They did. They're both working out. It's going to be a game time decision on both guys."
-With Cantrell, Kingsbury noted that they'll pad his hand up with some foam or rubber of some kind as well. If he feels good, he'll play. But if they feel like they can't protect him this week, he won't."
-Keenon Ward hasn't practiced much this week, so it's likely he won't play again this week. Kisean Allen did practice today and will play this weekend, though.
"He runs tough. He loves the game. He's not scared of it. Every day out at practice he's smiling, and that's what you love. He's got a joy for the game, and I think he'll continue to get better. I hope that we can get him more touches and see what he can do."
-Johnson in if he thinks practice has been more physical this week:
"Definitely. We've had a lot of pads popping, defense running to the ball nonstop, fighting to get the ball out, and just making sure we're wrapping up when we're going for the tackle as well."
-I asked the safety what it is that makes this week different for the defense than other weeks of practice so far this fall:
"Just focusing on getting to the ball, mainly. Staying in your gaps, and then after you know what you're doing, after the ball declares, just running to it and making sure we're wrapping up."
"Just bouncing back and showing what we're really about. We know that wasn't our best performance, and we've yet to show our best performance this year, so hopefully we'll do that this Saturday."
-We've heard guys say all fall that they didn't think this defense has had their best game yet. I asked Johnson what it would take to get that best performance:
"Doing your job on each play. Not being selfish by getting out of your gap and messing up someone else's read. Just do your job and we should all be fine."
-I asked Nunez about how practice has gone so far this week:
"It's been pretty intense. We've been getting after it, working really hard to make sure we bounce back from that loss," he said. "We've got to keep working towards being consistent, cause there's no excuses for us missing gaps or not doing our assignments. That's what we've been working on the last two days, just making sure we're completely consistent in every way, keeping each other accountable, and keeping the morale of the team up with everyone staying positive, moving on from last game."
-Jenkins' thoughts on the West Virginia game:
"It was a rough week. It was just embarrassing. We've got to come out here and work, try and get better, and get ready for this next opportunity with Oklahoma coming to our house, so we just need to be more consistent and hold each other more accountable at this point."
-The linebacker was asked what it as that went wrong against WVU:
"We didn't fight back. We didn't bring the amount of energy that we need to bring. We're working on it this week. We've just got to improve, have everything right, and just be ready for Oklahoma."
-Jenkins feels there are only two ways each player on the defense can operate moving forward:
"Either we can man up and win the rest of these games, or we can not fight back and we're gonna get the same result as last week. A lot of us are making our minds up that we're just going to go out there, try to get better and win them all. That's what I hope everybody else is trying to do, go out here and win the rest of these game."
-So, what does Jenkins think this defense needs to do a better job of specifically?
"Just hold each other more accountable, have way more effort when running to the ball. We've just got to hold each other more accountable and work harder. You might be there, but you can always do more. If we just stay in our gaps and do our jobs, we're going to improve a lot more if we just go out there and do our jobs and tackle."
"I feel like we all have to respond. We knew we messed up Saturday, and we know that wasn't the standard as a team," he said. "So, we're out there playing physical. We went out here again (today) physical, and I'm pretty sure we're going to do it again tomorrow. We're ready for it. We're just going to be ready for Saturday, cause we know OU is not gonna bow down. It's not gonna get any easier, so we're ready for it."
-Fehoko's thoughts on the first two days of practice so far this week:
"I think Coach Kingsbury has done a good job of really getting onto us about how importantly we need to step up our game, and not just players-wise. All around the facility," he said. "From the ground up, I feel like everyone has just bought in a whole lot more. I say that, because if you look at our practices, I feel like there's more of a --everybody is out there to get better and be out there. People want to be out there, so I feel like that's the biggest improvement for us so far."
-So, in response to that, I asked Fehoko if he thought there were players that hadn't bought in before now:
"Yeah, I mean you go through the first stretch of the season, it's more jitters than anything that brings people out there, and when you get into these last six games, you see the character and who wants to be there. As of now, I think the team is -- hey, we're three and three. We've played some really good opponents, Arizona State, Kansas State, and West Virginia. All three great teams. But this last stretch isn't going to get any easier. I think it's time for us to buckle down and play our best football. I feel like we haven't played our best football yet, and that's the positive."
-And again, as I asked several other players, I asked Fehoko what they needed to do to play their best football:
"As of now I think it just has to come down to both mental and physical buy-in. I feel like sometimes as a team, physically we're there but mentally we're not. Sometimes mentally we're there but physically we're not. Having an 11 o'clock game this past Saturday, 90 degrees, guys mentally might not are going to be there. I think that's one thing, just being able to come out together as one and say hey, whatever environment we're given, whatever the circumstance we have laid out for us, let's just go do it."