Allstate Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley Quotes
LINCOLN RILEY: Thanks, everybody, for being here. You know, it’s great to be here at the Sugar Bowl. My first time here. And it’s been very apparent to me why this is one of the elite bowls in the country. Everything has been first class. The City of New Orleans has been phenomenal with us. I’m really excited to play a great opponent, a great defense, and it should be a great night night. Go ahead with your questions.
Q. Lincoln, as a coordinator, you have been a guy that would like to play even if you just played the day before. Now you have had all of this time off, talk about trying to keep everybody sharp and fresh and ready to go as you tried to handle this month of inactivity or not playing a real game.
LINCOLN RILEY: It’s always a balance. It’s something that I think you’ve got to have your core principles on how you want to handle the time, how you want to balance it between, you know, resting your primary guys, working in the beginning your younger guys, and then starting to get your older guys back up to speed.
I think the key is %u2011%u2011 for each team, is trying to find that period of time where we can have them peak exactly at the right time. I know we felt offensively a little bit last%u2011year, after the game when we went back and revisited everything we do, maybe we peaked a little bit early. So, we made a few adjustments to not necessarily how we prepare but maybe kind of the time line.
So I think, you know %u2011%u2011 I think our guys have responded to it well. We have done a good job of continuing to get a lot of good%u2011on%u2011good work which keeps the practices up, and hopefully we have done a good job and we will peak night.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your quarterback play night against Auburn’s defense?
LINCOLN RILEY: We’re pretty confident in the guy we have. It will obviously be a huge key, it is every week for us, and especially against a group like this that is going to test you. They’re going to test us in every facet of our game. They have done a great job of stopping a run. They are really athletic in the secondary and they rush the passer, you know, as good as anybody in the country. So I mean, those three things tell you why they have done what they have done defensively.
So we will be tested. Baker will be tested, but if there’s any guy that will be ready for it, he’s the one. So %u2011%u2011 he has practiced very well. He has had a great run there at the end of the season. I think he has been able to maintain if not get better through these last several weeks and I’m looking forward to him playing that way here in a few days.
Q. Staying on kind of staying sharp, when you have got this much time, do you have a tendency to sharpen what you already do or do you want to ask anything to pique the interest of your players or how do you handle that?
LINCOLN RILEY: Probably the fair answer is a little bit of both. There’s definitely %u2011%u2011 you’re always tempted to do some new things in this but not do too much because we have done pretty well so far and we don’t want to get too far away from what’s helped us.
So, yeah. I think the new things always pique their interest a little bit, and that’s something that we do weekly anyway. So we have tried to almost approach the first part of it like a spring practice or like a fall camp where we’re just working to get better at fundamentals, developing guys, you know, bringing along some of the guys that were banged up throughout the year and then, as we have gotten closer, we try to keep it as much like a game week as possible so that they can get there in that mode or in that mode installation%u2011wise and trying to get them to peak at the right time.
Q. When you got on campus, Baker (Mayfield) was already there. But it seems like you two bonded about as much as a college coordinator and quarterback have. Did you sense that would be the case early when you got there?
LINCOLN RILEY: I didn’t see any reason that we couldn’t. But at the same time, as most of you guys know in here, we had a pretty heated quarterback battle going on at the same time. And so it wasn’t like I was overly close with him over any of the other guys. I think as time has went on, as he has become the starter, and then we have gone through just the normal things that a coach and his player go through, you know, that %u2011%u2011 mostly ups, a couple of downs, but just all of the twists and turns over the last two years, those things bring you closer. They make the trust level between us a lot higher. There’s more conversations, there’s more experiences together, and so I think that naturally has just kind of has taken its course, and I would say that’s where our relationship has grown the last two seasons as opposed to when I first got there.
Q. What do you think about what Dede and Baker have been able to accomplish as a duo this year and what have they done to develop such a great chemistry?
LINCOLN RILEY: It’s pretty phenomenal. As a coach, you try not to %u2011%u2011 especially with one more left, you try not to look back at that stuff too much. I think those will be things that look back on and appreciate, but it’s hard to ignore, to have two guys %u2011%u2011 you’re sitting there in New York at the Heisman ceremony and there’s only five guys up there in the entire country, and two of them are from our team, that’s a special moment, no question. And then obviously, Dede being able to win Oklahoma’s first Biletnikoff was a great moment as well.
And probably the things, like I said, that I enjoy the most is seeing the way that those guys have worked, the work they have put in behind the scenes. Those things don’t just happen. They’re two talented guys, but there’s a lot of talented guys out there. They have worked hard. They have both benefited from being surrounded by a lot of other great teammates and really good players and, you know, then they have a great level of consistency throughout this entire year that has been fun to watch and fun to coach.
Q. I just want to get your thoughts on Auburn’s defensive bunch, particularly Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams and what they do well against the run?
LINCOLN RILEY: How long do you have?
They’re really good. I’d say the thing that stands out to me is, again, you have got %u2011%u2011 you know, a lot of these teams where you play a good D line, there’s maybe like one great player and a bunch of other solid players. They have got two or three great players up front.
And the thing that makes them tough to me is, you know, if you have one guy that is it only great at rushing the passer, all right, maybe you can do some things against that or maybe one guy that is only great at stopping the run, you know. You can maybe scheme some things around them or try to get help in certain plays or certain situations; where these guys, they’re really good at both. And so that makes it a lot tougher to scheme and game plan for and makes it a lot tougher to play against. And they’re surrounded by other really good players on that D line as well.
So, I mean, they %u2011%u2011 they play hard. They’re really, really good at what they do. They’re both very versatile players. Both of them are guys that, in my opinion, will play for a while on the next level. So, you know, we have played some good D linemen here in the last few years, but they stack up really well with any of them.
Q. We talked about how young you guys are on the offensive line, but you come out of last year, a lot of questions about how physical this program was as a whole, but especially on the offensive line. Do you feel like you have proved that you are a more physical line and how much of this test could really put a cap on establishing yourselves heading into next season?
LINCOLN RILEY: I always believe that proving it is a week%u2011to%u2011week deal. We can be as physical as we want to be for nine weeks in a, row. But if we’re not physical night, then it doesn’t matter.
So, you know, we’re concentrating on trying to be very physical in this game. We know it’s going to certainly be a key. As you mentioned, we are playing a very talented and physical front, and obviously, our ability to run the football here, you know, over the last couple of months of the season has been very, very important to what we’re doing. It will be again.
And then we’ve also got to be very physical in the pass protection with these guys because it’s not %u2011%u2011 these guys aren’t just athletic guys that are going to run around you. They attack you and you have to attack them back or you have no chance. So, we’ve definitely improved in that area, there’s no question, our whole line. You know, Bill Bedenbaugh (Oklahoma offensive line coach) coaching those guys, they have done a great job. They’ve improved all year. We’re excited about them in this game and obviously really excited about them going forward here in the future with all of them coming back. So, they have been certainly one of the strengths of our team, and we will absolutely lean on them in this game.
Q. You have been a very prolific passing offense this year, and obviously mainly through Dede. They have been very good defensively at keeping the top on the coverage and not having very many long plays. Can you speak to the challenge in trying to accomplish what you have done all year against a defense that has been very proficient in not allowing deep passes?
LINCOLN RILEY: I think the key in that will be our balance. We have always said and have always believed that, you know, defenses can only take so many things away. And, you know, everybody is going to come in with a plan. You know, most of the time, they’re always good plans. But you have got to be able, first, to assess what are they giving you, what are they trying to take away, and then your guys have to be good enough to, whatever they are giving you, to be able to execute that.
So, we have been able to do that here the last several weeks of the season. We don’t ever sit there and say that we have got to throw it deep or we have got to run it 50 times or we’ve got to throw it 50 times. I could care less about any of that. My main concern is and our main concern is, whatever they present to us, whatever they give up, we have got to be able to take advantage of that. And if we can do that, then we will be able to move the ball.
So, you know, Kevin Steel is as good as it gets. We will see a lot of different looks, I’m sure, and we will have to be able to do a lot of things well to play the way we want to play.
Q. Lincoln, Coach Stoops and Joe addressed the media for the first time about the incident. I’m curious about practice. Joe has always been one of your better practice players, and yet the weight of the world was on him for a few days. Could you talk about how he handled that at practice and how practice went as all of that was going on?
LINCOLN RILEY: You know, the first thing I would say on that is, you know, I was %u2011%u2011 I don’t know if “relief” is the right word, but somewhere in that, you guys %u2011%u2011 you know, everybody across the country finally got to see the guy that I have seen since the day I walked in the door at his press conference.
And, yeah, he was %u2011%u2011 he was really down those first few days. There’s no question about it. I mean, who wouldn’t be? But his teammates were great about picking him up. And I think there’s a little sense of relief on his part of finally being able to talk to you guys and be able to express to the world how he really felt. So, I think he has been a little bit better up here. Again, I think his teammates deserve a ton of credit for picking him up. And he is excited to continue to work through it, and he is very excited about playing this game.
So, it has been a difficult situation. And we all try to handle it the best we can. And Joe has done a great job of just being who he is and being a great teammate and being more worried about all of the other people as opposed to himself, which is kind of the norm for him.