By Michael Kinney
NORMAN – For the hundreds of fans who lined up Saturday at Memorial Stadium, it may have felt a little different. For the first time since Oklahoma began its Meet The Sooners Day, former coach Bob Stoops was not part of the festivities.
For many of the fans who have grown up on OU football, not seeing Stoops signing autographs and taking pictures could have been a little strange.
However, for the players who were shocked two months ago when Stoops retired after 18 years as head coach, they have seemingly come to grips with the sudden change and have moved on.
A big reason why is how at ease 33-year old Lincoln Riley was in taking the reigns from Stoops.
“He’s been good to us, although we’re the little people now. It’s a little different,” OU QB Baker Mayfield said. “We quarterbacks talked about it. We each just have to be a little more responsible because there were some things that Coach Riley normally would have to deal with as a QB coach and offensive coordinator, but now he can’t spend quite the time working on us, so we need to take care of our business so he can work on either side of the ball and do his head coaching duties.”
Meet The Sooners Day ends with select players taking time to talk to the media. Every player got the same question about what it’s like having Riley as their head coach instead of Stoops.
“Anytime you bring in someone new (adapting) is just human nature,” senior Dimitri Flowers said. “You’re not automatically comfortable with that person. Overtime, that spring, Riley proved to be a great coach. Our record proved that he is a good coach. It’s just one of those things where all the players were bought into him after he showed us what he was going to do.”
Riley was asked if he feels any more pressure now that he is the man in charge instead of the offensive coordinator.
“Not yet, not that I’m not going to, but I don’t right now,” Riley said. “I feel the same amount that I did as the offensive coordinator. You feel that at this place. I’ve said it many times. It’s not really anything that needs to be said. As a coach, I felt it the first day I walked in the door here. I felt it when I came to interview here. You know about the history. You know about the expectations. I’m more focused on the great opportunity we all have and what you can accomplish here when you do it the right way.”
What hasn’t changed is the expectations that revolved around the Sooners. They enter the preseason ranked No. 8 in the coaches poll and are the top ranked team in the Big 12. Oklahoma State is No. 12.
Yet, the Sooners aren’t running away from those expectations. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown didn’t mince words on how special this team can become.
“I really just want to be as dominant as possible,” Brown said. “I want us to go out here and have the best year we can have as offensive line, which will help us be the best offense in the country. And also hopefully help us be the best team in the country. But expectations, above and beyond.”
Brown wasn’t done. From his vantage point, this Oklahoma squad has the potential to put the Sooners back on top of the college football mountain.
“I think this is the best OU team I have been a part of since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “I think the biggest difference is the physicality. In years past, we’ve been physical. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s different. Now we have guys out here telling us to stay up. Whether we are in pads or not, people are trying to take them to the ground. It’s never really been like that. The mentality is there. It’s all about finishing and being as dominant as possible.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com