An Interview With: Head Coach Bob Stoops
COACH STOOPS: Thank you on behalf of the University of Oklahoma. I want to say we want to thank all of the people involved with the Sugar Bowl here, the committee has just been incredible to us, the entire city, the New Orleans Saints facility and the Marriott, where we've been staying at, everybody's just again been outstanding in every way, in the way they've taken care of us and accepted us. And I'm really proud of the way our players have handled themselves through the week. They've worked hard in meetings and on the practice field. They've handled their business off the field in a very positive way. Enjoyed this great city for about five, six days. Anxious to play a great Alabama team. I think everyone would agree %u2011%u2011 in my eyes, they're still the best team in the country. Here they are, they've been the best team in the country for three years, up to the very last play of the regular season. So a great, great team. We recognize that. Coach Saban and his staff have done a great job in the way they've developed their team. So we know we have a big challenge, but very excited about the challenge. Our team is excited about the challenge of it. And we've worked hard to put ourselves in the position, hopefully, to win the game tomorrow.
Q. Bob, recruiting obviously always evolves, and seems like today there's all talk about recruits like bells and whistles more than they do tradition and things. Here you are in a BCS game, in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, one of the biggest games in college football. In your opinion would this be a big benefit for you down the road in recruiting?
COACH STOOPS: Sure it is. I think in the end some players may look at bells and whistles a little more than they do overall tradition and history, but there's still a good number of them that do recognize the opportunity to play in these kind of great games, and they realize we've done it a lot. So there's a little bit of everything in recruiting. And there's still a lot of players that recognize the tradition and history of what you've been doing more than maybe the color of your helmet.
Q. You mentioned the challenge ahead of you, this team being still in your mind the best team in the country. Do you play as a coaching staff on the underdog role at all? Does it help in any way to talk to your team and say it's us against the world, that kind of mentality? Does it help in any way?
COACH STOOPS: I don't see that, not at a place like Oklahoma. That isn't something that we've ever %u2011%u2011 I don't know how to do that, to be quite honest with you. That's nothing %u2011%u2011 that's not one of our motivational methods. So we're about what do we do right, how do we do things the right way to give ourselves an opportunity to win, and we emphasize that. And the other stuff I can't say that somewhere in the back of some kids' minds they might not have heard something one too many times and it triggers something. I can't speak to that. But it's not a card that I play. Again, I'm not real %u2011%u2011 I don't know how to play that card.
Q. I know you don't like ranking anything, but if you could put Alabama in a class in terms of how good they are compared to what you played since you've been at Oklahoma, how good is this Alabama team?
COACH STOOPS: I think everybody would say they're as good a football team as we've played in 15 years. How can you not? Like I said, they're one second away from playing in a third straight National Championship game. So they're a great, great team with great talent and across the board and, again, very well coached.
Q. I want to follow up on a couple of those other questions. You said Alabama has been the best team in the last three years, elite in the SEC. Are you thinking about the opportunity, like you said, not only for recruiting but that Oklahoma can play with the best in the best conference in the country?
COACH STOOPS: I'm not sure what your question is.
Q. I'd like to know how %u2011%u2011 are you guys thinking about that going into this game that this is %u2011%u2011
COACH STOOPS: Thinking about what we need to do to win just like we do each game, what are the things you do well, what are the things you've got to stay away from, how do we play smart and do the things that we're used to doing to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game. That's it.
Q. I know you were going to take the whole week before naming starting quarterbacks for the game. At what point will you let them know, and will you share with us how they practiced this week and how much will game plan factor into your decision here?
COACH STOOPS: They've practiced really well, just like they have through the year. They're very supportive of one another. And so that's something that we'll talk to them about going into the game. But they already know how we intend to play them.
Q. I was wondering, Eric Striker seems to live in the backfield. How much are you guys trying to get him back there and kind of disrupt what AJ McCarron can do throwing the ball?
COACH STOOPS: Eric Stryker has been a great spark for us all year. He's very quick off the ball and does a lot of great things. So he's always a factor in how we try and play, and hopefully he can make some plays tomorrow getting in the backfield and being disruptive. We do our best to turn him loose as much as we can.
Q. Coach Saban mentioned about the relationship he has with your family going back to your father. Wonder if you could touch on that.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it's been talked about a lot here this past month. But Coach Saban used to come through our school recruiting, and my father %u2011%u2011 it was very common for him to have different coaches stop by the home and eat dinner with us in our little bitty house, fit one more person in. He had a relationship with a lot of assistant coaches, and he knew Coach Saban quite well, as did my uncle Bob. My uncle Bob that I'm named after was also a high school coach there in the Youngstown area that he would %u2011%u2011 Coach Saban would stop in and either have a game of gin or have some fun with. So and then I would go visit Coach Saban, I remember, with my uncle Bob, my dad at different times when he was at the Browns, would go up and watch him practice, sit in his meetings with his defensive backs and those kind of things, and that's where it kind of started. And then I remember he and his wife Terry invited my family over after a Michigan State%u2011Iowa game %u2011%u2011 my brother Mark was playing %u2011%u2011 over to the house after the game, just for a rest before they had to drive back home to Youngstown. So he's been a friend that way for a long time. And in the last several years we've gotten together different times just to share ideas on defending people or that kind of thing.
Q. On that same subject, heard a lot of sayings about what you can learn from a guy playing cards with him. I wonder if your uncle ever talked about that experience, just what kind of guy he is?
COACH STOOPS: No, Nick's, again, a great guy. And like he just said up here, he goes %u2011%u2011 my uncle will be mad that Nick didn't say that he ever won; that Nick always said he beat him. Anyway...
Q. I assume a lot of programs that are successful share a lot of the same traits. I'm curious, knowing Nick as you do, how similar are you guys as coaches in the way that you approach your program and approach coaching?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know how to say that. I haven't been %u2011%u2011 as much as we have been together at different times, I've watched him practice, but when you're not there on a daily basis, it's a little bit hard to compare. I think a lot of our principles in how you play with being physical, with being tough, with trying to win with defense first, but those kind of things are some %u2011%u2011 I think some things, generalities that I look at that I think are very similar. And I think, too, watching in the way they practice, and I've been able to see that, that we both practice in a similar way in going good against good and as much as you can to not get a false sense of who you are, to really push yourself. Those kind of things I think are similar in a lot of ways.
Q. Historically you've not shied away from naming a starting quarterback. Can you kind of describe the competitive advantage maybe of not doing that this week?
COACH STOOPS: I think it's fair to say through the season when you watch these two quarterbacks, we kind of go to some plays a little bit more with one guy than we do another, so why give someone the advantage of practicing those plays more than another set of plays, and it hopefully has made them have to work a bigger package on what we like to do with each guy. So some plays are the same. But, again, some plays we gravitate to more often with one guy than we do another.
Q. Can you talk about what C.J. Mosley brings to the table and is he one of those guys you always have to know where he is?
COACH STOOPS: Definitely. I think C.J. Mosley is as fine a football player as I've seen in my time here at Oklahoma in 15 years, and that's the truth. Just an absolute perfect football player when you look at the physical abilities he has and competitive nature. He just plays so hard and the talent and the physical, how physical he is. There's times I marvel at it. You have him blocked and he shouldn't make the play, and there he is taking on another block and making the play or making it bounce to someone else who does make the play and it shouldn't happen that way. Other people would be blocked and the guy would get ten yards. He's a great player, and you have to be aware of where he is at all the time.