Skip to main content

Why Perrion Winfrey, Other Oklahoma Players Were Frustrated and 'Mad as Hell' About 2021

Alex Grinch employed gimmicks across the defensive front that didn't utilize players' strengths, and liberal substitution patterns too often kept the best players on the bench.

All it took was one rep at the Senior Bowl for Oklahoma noseguard Perrion Winfrey to realize he hadn’t been allowed to reach his potential during his senior year at OU.

Winfrey revealed that and more this week on his appearance on “The Oklahoma Breakdown” podcast with former Sooners Gabe Ikard and Teddy Lehman.

“Me and IT (Isaiah Thomas) ran a stunt. It didn’t work,” Winfrey said on the podcast. “I come to the sideline (and) the Jets coach was like, ‘Don’t be running no games. Games are for people who can’t dominate a man one-on-one.’ So then I go in again and I just run through a (blocker’s) face and get a (tackle for loss). Come back to the sideline and he’s like, ‘You see what I’m talking about? You don’t need to run no games. Games are meant for people who can’t dominate a game.’ “

LISTEN: The Oklahoma Breakdown With Ikard and Lehman

Winfrey went on to elaborate that it was those “games” — gimmicks for the defensive linemen like stunting and slanting and twisting, ordered with startling regularity by then-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch — that hindered his development at OU.

“I feel like we just weren’t allowed to showcase our skills throughout the whole season,” Winfrey said.

“I believe Grinch was a great coach when it came to trying to fine-tune our mental (approach) and trying to get us prepared for the game,” Winfrey added, “but I also feel like we weren’t playing to our strengths. We had me, Nik Bonitto, Isaiah Thomas and Jalen Redmond all on the same D-line. There’s no reason why we’re not attacking people 24/7. There’s no reason why we have to run stunts in games.”

Winfrey — a junior college transfer from Iowa Western who had two good seasons at OU before opting out of the Alamo Bowl before showing off for NFL coaches all week in practice at the Senior Bowl and then was named the game’s MVP — expounded on the frustration he felt during the 2021 season.

“Nik Bonitto is mugging 95 percent of the game — in coverage! — instead of screaming off the edge,” he said. “They got … me at nose. There’s a whole bunch of things. I could go on and on about it.

“It was just confusing because it was like as a defensive coordinator — I got respect for Grinch — but you’re supposed to mold your defensive scheme around your players. You’re not supposed to try to force a scheme on players that it doesn’t fit. As a great defensive coordinator, you must see what you have and put forth enough to help them. Not try to mold them around your scheme, because as you see, it wasn’t working.”

Perrion Winfrey and Brock Purdy

Perrion Winfrey and Brock Purdy

“We were all so frustrated this year because we knew what we were capable of. We were going — it was like a four- or five-game span where we didn’t get a sack. Or a TFL. Just seeing stuff like that, we were truly frustrated the whole year. So I feel like that’s probably why the defense didn’t play how they did in the year before, just because we were so frustrated and I guess fed up in the fact that we wanted certain calls in and we weren’t getting the things that we wanted to. We weren’t playing the way that we wanted to because of those things.”

And that wasn’t all. Grinch’s insistence on building depth across the defensive front by playing backups throughout the game — and rotating out his starters — was a massive source of frustration.

Winfrey, Bonitto and Thomas are all headed to the NFL Scouting Combine next month, and it’s very probable that Redmond will join them next year. Yet, they essentially shared snaps all season with their backups.

“The only other thing that was pissing us off was the rotations,” Winfrey told Ikard and Lehman. “When I want to get out of the game, let me tap my head and come out. You don’t have to take us out every three plays. We were trying to tell them, ‘I need to get into a rhythm. I’m going in for three plays and then I won’t see the field for like two drives.’ Then, I’m going back in, my legs cold, hips tight. Let us get hot. That’s how I play the game. Once I get hot, ain’t no cooling me down.”

He also explained why Lincoln Riley bolting for USC like he did, and the evidence that Riley reportedly had been angling for an exit for months, just didn’t sit well with the team.

“At first, I was mad,” Winfrey said. “I was mad as hell just because like, I don’t know, it just made everything like, it just made like everything weird — our sendoff, I guess you would say. Everything just didn’t feel right. It felt like that’s not the way our season was supposed to end. I just felt like we were too talented to lose two games. It was just a lot of emotions going (on) inside my body. I was truly mad for about a good week. I’m not gonna lie. I was mad for like a week.”