The Oklahoma defense isn’t getting ahead of themselves.
Entering the 2021 season with massive expectations, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch preached a commitment to preparation and being excellent every single day in practice.
As the Sooners prepare for their first game of the season, hosting the Tulane Green Wave this Saturday, the leaders of the defense are echoing Grinch’s calls for consistency leading up to game day.
“I think it’s kind of just like, process over outcome,” newly minted captain Pat Fields said in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “That’s like the big thing that Coach Grinch harps on.”
Fields said that Grinch turned to a legendary NFL linebacker on Tuesday to inspire the team to stay committed to preparation everyday at practice.
“He played a video yesterday in our defensive meeting and it was I believe Ray Lewis, and he was talking about a lion,” Fields said. “And like a lion, he enjoys the process of hunting.
“A lion isn’t going to go after a wimp-leg gazelle. He’s not going to go after a wimp animal, he’s going to go after the best prospect… it’s kind of like that mentality of loving the pursuit of things. And I kind of think that’s the big thing with us as a team.”
One thing that’s helped the defense stay focused is that they haven’t even played a snap of meaningful football yet, rush linebacker Nik Bonitto said.
“We still have the hype and all that stuff,” said Bonitto, “but we can just tell that every day in practice we still practice with a hunger. We haven’t done anything, we still have a lot to prove.
“Everybody across the board I feel like has a big chip on their shoulder this year.”
The depth on the defensive side of the ball has been a talking point all offseason long, and that should help the players maintain high levels of focus at practice.
Along the defensive front, if anyone has a bad day at practice, they could easily get snaps taken away from them on Saturday’s as other players look for a breakthrough of their own.
Sophomore corner D.J. Graham said the competition has especially helped the defensive backs stay sharp, a position group that Grinch said needed more consistency from the younger guys yesterday.
“It keeps you grounded and it humbles you,” Graham said of the depth at corner. “For me, I definitely think I need to be more consistent. They say all the time that a consistent player’s way better than a player that’s up and down.
“When our young DB’s all become (consistent), the corner room is going to take off. And not only the corners, but the (entire) DB room. I think once that happens, we’re going to take off and everything’s going to become so much smoother. And that’s when you’re going to see not just one young DB playing, but you’re going to see a whole rotation of us because we’re all interchangeable.”
This Saturday will provide the first opportunity for the defense to take the field and hit an opponent, but constant growth throughout the season, much like last year, will be the key in reaching their true potential, Fields said.
“(We’re) just loving the process of practice,” Fields said. “Loving the grittiness and attacking every day.”
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