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December 28, 2011SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bob Stoops met with the media during the Insight Bowl Media Day today in Scottsdale. Stoops talked about his Iowa roots and previewed Friday night's matchup. Check out his comments and Scoop HD video of the press conference.
Q: Awfully close ties for Iowa. Your feelings facing the Hawkeyes?
COACH STOOPS: It is different. I was with the Iowa people last night at a function and with Kirk. He and I have so much to catch up on. We were the last ones to get into dinner because we were still outside talking.
I always have a great sentiments, just been very grateful for my experience and my brothers as well as Iowa. The great coaches like Hayden Fry, Bill Brazier, and guys like Kirk and Dan McCarney, Barry Alvarez or sort of like - I say is kind of like older brothers that really took me under their wing and helped me a ton.
And then, you know, every Saturday my wife starts the day off by yelling in the house to the kids "Go Hawks." So it is - there will be no yelling of that here this Friday, though. But that's kind of how what she yells around the house to the children during the day, leading up to the games, always "Go Hawks."
So it is a little different. But you just have to go against them for four hours.
Q: I'm guessing you didn't bring any black and gold clothes on this trip.
COACH STOOPS: A year ago we had the whole bus outfitted in Hawkeye gear when we came to watch them a year ago. My wife actually went out that morning and got all the kids and got me a sweatshirt. So there will be none of that this year.
Q: What happened in the last season?
COACH STOOPS: We ran up against a couple of teams that were really hot. We weren't so hot and got beat. And the tight, hard play - well, hard-fought game at Baylor, with a great player made a few exceptional plays at the end of the game to win it. And then we ended up winning the next game against Iowa State.
And then we lost to a very good Oklahoma State football team that has one of the best years in the history of their program. They beat us soundly at their place.
We had too many turnovers in that game. We were playing without quite a few starters in that game as well. So you put the two of them together, we weren't near good enough and they beat us quite well.
Q: They say a Bowl game is about the mental aspect. How do you feel this team is focusing on this Insight Bowl?
COACH STOOPS: I think they have been great. They have really worked hard before we took a break for Christmas. They worked hard the days we have been here. I have been pleased with how they have worked coming into the game.
Q: What have you seen from Iowa, offensively and defensively?
COACH STOOPS: A very disciplined, fundamentally strong football team, great offensive line like they always have, tough running the football. Vandenberg, the quarterback, I think is doing an excellent job for them. Big play guy and physical receiver in McNutt. Defensively, very sound, disciplined, they make you work to beat them, physical guys. Physical guys up front.
Q: How much would the 10th win mean to the team, to end on that note?
COACH STOOPS: A 10th win or always to win your last football game makes a difference, whether it is your 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, whatever it may be. They are all important.
Q: Can you talk about your defensive unit coming into the game. You have had now some Bowl practices and things that you always look forward to. Can you talk about what you hoped to get out of this game.
COACH STOOPS: The defensive side of the ball, playing against Iowa, we'll have to be extremely disciplined in our gap responsibilities. We got to be physical in defending and getting off the blocks. We have to tackle well.
Along with defending the run game come the play-action passes. So we will have to see those stay on top of receivers. You got to play a good, sound game defensively to have a chance to win.
Q: When you played at Iowa, did you know that you wanted to go into coaching when you were playing there for the Hawkeyes?
COACH STOOPS: When I played at Iowa, did I know if I wanted to go into coaching? I figured it out my senior year. I went to - you know how on campus they bring the companies in and you put together your r?m?nd you have a couple of job interviews? I think I interviewed with Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. And I came out of it just chuckling at myself. I said, you got no business doing that.
I knew right then. I said I can't do something else other than be on the field and be a part of it. Fortunately, Hayden Fry, Bill Brazier, my long time defensive coordinator and coach, you know, when I brought it up, would I be able to be a graduate assistant, they were happy I wanted to be, felt I would do well, and gave me the chance and gave me the start.
Q: You must have almost starved there. I saw you were a volunteer coach and graduate assistant?
COACH STOOPS: My mother never thought I would get a real job. I was five years as a graduate assistant and volunteer. In those days, you were allowed to be a volunteer assistant as well. I did some things through the foundation, is why I was listed as a volunteer with football and I worked with the foundation.
But in the end, it was well worth it. Through those five years after playing, I was with great people. You know the whole lineage of coaches that were there.
As I said, some of them were very much like father figures. Other guys were like older brothers. And they all really did a great job of taking not only myself but some of the other graduate assistants under their wing and we learned from the best. All those guys were true professionals in the coaching world.
Q: When Sunday mornings roll around, do you tend to peek and see how Iowa did? Do you follow them a little bit?
COACH STOOPS: I'm always looking and paying attention to what Iowa did each week.
Q: Your running backs, the two teams are in the same boat with running backs for the game, aren't they?
COACH STOOPS: Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, we also throw in Trey Millard once in a while. Our big fullback is also an excellent runner. So we are just - we will use all three of those guys in different ways.
Q: Travis (Lewis) just said he is healthier than he has been all year. What he has gone through trying to play through the injuries, he believes he will have his best game. How much does it help you to know he is healthy?
COACH STOOPS: Travis has fought through that broken toe the entire year and finally feels good. It takes that long to heal.
I'm sure it will matter to him. He has had excellent practices. It is a big deal to be able to change direction a little bit better, being a little bit quicker. I think that will really help him.
Q: How much do you get out of the Bowl practices for the guys for next year, the younger guys looking ahead?
COACH STOOPS: It always helps getting the guys a little - some guys that haven't played as much more snaps. It is more like a mini spring practice. You have some of those. Before we got out here, we had a few of those back at home.
Q: Their offensive line, how concerned are you with their running game even though they don't have their main rusher?
COACH STOOPS: I always believed the running game, regardless of the running back, is the guys up front, all their guys up front are still there. So I'm sure they will have guys that if there are scenes in space, they know how to jump in those holes and run it.
Q: Is it a fun game for you, Bob, in terms of schematics? You don't play a lot of teams like Iowa. Don't really challenge you deep every other play. Is it sort of a change - nice change of pace?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know about that. Everybody is a little bit different. For instance, through our league anymore, there are smart teams. For instance, Kansas State who is still going to run the football at least half the game or more.
And in a lot of those cases, you've got to be really good in defending the heavier run game. And Iowa presents all of that. A little bit different style in Kansas State in that there isn't the quarterback run game.
But as far as the tight ends on the field and as far as being physical, creating space, it's a type of game that creates different challenges.
So it is always exciting, I think, at the college level, the different schemes that you get from everybody really.
Q: Iowa comes into this game kind of upset minded. How do you keep your guys focused on playing their game regularly regardless of who the opponent is and avoiding that upset?
COACH STOOPS: I just talked about trying to win our 10th game, trying to win the last game of the year. It is no different each week.
You got a different challenge. It is pretty simple. We are coming off a loss in our last game.
Q: Can you talk about the challenges, Iowa's defense, they are pretty proud of it. It has played pretty well all year and the challenges they present for your offense and the matchup there.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Iowa's defense is very sound, disciplined in their structure. They don't do too many things, but what they do, they do it well.
Maybe give up a little more yards than some, but haven't given up points. That's what that does. You have to continually execute against them to be able to put the ball in the end zone and score.
Q: Any of the young guys in Bowl practice jump out at you? These 10, 12 practices you have had, guys that hadn't been playing?
COACH STOOPS: You know, quite a few of them. I think Franklin Shannon, a young linebacker we have been really impressed with. Quentin Hayes in the secondary has really, I thought, shown a lot in the last several days - or last few weeks.
Kameel Jackson I think continues to really show, and hopefully he is going to play more, can really do some things in this game.
Trying to think. There are so many to think of here. Those are just a few that just pop out.
Q: You announced a third junior college signee. Does this make any change in philosophy of bringing in talent?
COACH STOOPS: I don't get that. We have signed two and three guys and four guys before. Maybe we didn't a year before. But that's not a big deal. I mean, we have been here 13 years, and we've had many years where we've signed three junior college guys. I'm guessing, anyway. I don't sit there and count them.
But every now and then, we feel there is a certain need or a guy that can really make a difference, and we'll go after them.
Q: When you recruited JUCO, you only sign a guy you think you can come in and play immediately?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, otherwise I think everyone does. I think anyone who is signing a guy that has a couple years to play hopes they can come in and make a difference right away.
Q: Is it easier or harder to project how a JUCO kid will come in at Oklahoma and produce compared to a high school guy?
COACH STOOPS: I think it is a little bit easier in that they are a little further along in their development as far as how big they're going to be, how they play.
In the end, I think if you look at our track record of the junior college guys we have signed through the years, thinking back to Josh Heupel, Howard Duncan to Lance Mitchell to Pasha Jackson. They all pretty much - I think our percentage is pretty good. Who else am I missing?
Q: (Donta) Nicholson.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Donta Nicholson. We have had a lot of guys, ones we usually have had, have for the most part made a really big difference.
Q: For a while prep schools became more of a vogue. With the new academic standards, will junior college become even more important in the future because more and more kids will have trouble qualifying out of high school?
COACH STOOPS: Hopefully not. They will do their work in high school and don't have to go those routes if they don't have to.
Q: We know you don't enjoy playing your brothers so much. Is there any conflict when you play Iowa? Do you feel conflicted at all?
COACH STOOPS: I just had to recruit my wife to be on my side here the last few weeks. I said it earlier, she walks around the house every Saturday morning yelling at the children "Go Hawks." So she can't do it this week, though.
So, anyway, it is different because of my - I do, I have got a lot of close friends still there, a lot of great sentiments to everybody in the Iowa program and the opportunities it gave myself and my brothers, our whole family really.
It is different. Once you get playing, once you are on the field, you get in your mode and you do what you always do to try and win.
Q: Is it fair to say you have to do less scouting because you keep up with Iowa? You watch them on T.V. when you can?
COACH STOOPS: I wouldn't say that. It is still different than breaking down tape and really studying somebody.
Q: Is there any question mark there because they have had this running back that's played strong the whole season and then they lose them for this game? Is there any question of how their offense will run without him?
COACH STOOPS: Oh, sure. How will the other guys do? We'll have to see because there isn't a lot of tape on him. I said it earlier, they still have an excellent offensive line. When they create - if they create space, I'm sure they have guys that will jump in that space and make something happen.
So, you know, those are issues. Or you wonder - you have to consider will they throw it a little bit more than usual. We have to look at that.
So we will have to see how the game goes.
Q: Your team had national aspirations at the beginning of the season. Do you get a sense they are still looking at this game as they would if it was a BCS game?
COACH STOOPS: They are looking at it they do every time you play, you have to win.
So we've played football at Oklahoma for over 100 years. Isn't that right, Barry? And we have seven national championships and have played for it how many other times.
Every year you are not going to be in the national championship game, but you still have to try and win each and every game you play. That's what we are trying to do.
Q: Kirk, his son plays center for him.
COACH STOOPS: James.
Q: Brian, I guess, played for him a few years ago. Your boys aren't old enough to have to make that decision yet. Can you see where that would be a tough decision to make? Dan Hawkins wept through some bad times. And Bob Simmons with Nathan. It can be a tough situation.
COACH STOOPS: I think it can be really tough, definitely. I admire Kirk and Mary to the way they've - Brian did really well for them. And James is an excellent player for him here this year.
So I'm sure they've had times where it has been trying. But it has been - they seemed to have managed it better than a lot of people have. That's not fair to say. I don't know that anyone has handled it bad. I think it can create more stress or difficulties.
Again, family people, Kirk and Mary, they seem to have done well with it.
Q: Did it help that they were offensive linemen? As far as I know, a center has never lost a game.
COACH STOOPS: Offensive linemen generally don't have as much focus on them or limelight and don't quite have the - get the attention that maybe the quarterback or obviously the quarterback, running back, receivers sometimes get, definitely.
Q: You are not in the Fiesta Bowl, but are at the Fiesta Bowl. Same people running it. Same setup. Does this - is this Bowl game different, the Insight, as opposed to other Bowls? This feels sort of like a big Bowl game because of the setup.
COACH STOOPS: In the end, it is like I keep saying: We have got a chance to win our tenth game against a good football team that also has an excellent tradition in history, at least in the last 20-some years. And so that's how we are looking at it. Each game you play matters.
Q: Coach Blankenship said it took them six or seven weeks after they lost against Maurice Johnson before they felt comfortable. Did that happen to you with Ryan (Broyles)? Was it hard to get comfortable?
COACH STOOPS: Obviously, yes, along with Dom. Dom is a different runner than Brennan and Roy are. So I think the two of them, you lose your leading rusher and your leading receiver, things change. It is not the easiest thing to get over and to smooth out and to be as efficient as you were before they were hurt.
Q: There aren't many schools where people talk about national championships on a regular basis. What are the pluses and minuses of that? Of being in a place like that?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, if we don't win it, they are ready to hang me from the nearest tree. I'm kidding.
The pluses are that usually you are someone that when things go right, whether you get the right balance, you stay healthy, those kinds of things, you have a chance to actually do it. And we have been in four of them in the last 12 years.
And then the downside is if you don't win it, as I said, then it isn't good enough.
But generally the other good part of that is going back and forth, generally. Even though a bunch of these years we didn't actually do it, we still were Big 12 champions and still put ourself and had chances, too, to win it on the field.
Q: At places like Iowa, they are not talking national titles every year. Sometimes 9-3 season would even be embraced.
COACH STOOPS: A fair amount of times.
Q: Do you?
COACH STOOPS: Am I looking to trade jobs with Kirk (laughter)?
Q: Are there ever moments when you say that might be nice to be praised for 9-3?
COACH STOOPS: That's fair to say. But I'm not complaining. No one gets more disappointed or angry than I do when we don't win.
So that's the competitive nature in you. That's just how it is at some places.
Q: Thirty years, whatever it has been since you left Iowa, 25, 27 years ago, that's a long time. You still - I mean, it is a legitimate warmth you have for the place after all this time, isn't it?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely. And I think for good reason in that I still feel connected that way. I still have guys I played with still living there, relationships with Kirk and his secretary, Rita, John Streif, there are so many people that I know there that I remain, when I'm able to, to catch up with.
I go back now and then. My wife is from Iowa. We from time to time will go back to see people and to be there. So, sure.
Having been there when I was there, I was there ten years, that's a significant period of time. So I still remain and feel connected there.
Q: Where is Carol from in Iowa?
COACH STOOPS: Cresco, Iowa. Up in the northeast area near Decorah.
Q: (Question from offensive linemen Lane Johnson) How do you feel about the offensive line coming into the game?
COACH STOOPS: I feel good about everybody except the right tackle, Lane Johnson. If we can get him to move his feet better and find his linebacker he is going up to, we will be in good shape. Not let the linebacker run through like he did the other day in practice (laughter).
Q: Are you considering moving Lane Johnson to tight end?
COACH STOOPS: We might. We will just flip his number and make him 96 instead of 69.
Q: Are there any decisions you have to make, whether it is schemes, whether it's personnel, who you might sign, whatever, before Landry makes his decision? There is nothing pressing that can't wait until after he decides?
COACH STOOPS: No. It is all strictly on his feeling of what he feels is best for him.
Q: Do you think somebody like Andrew Luck doing - the decision he made and then how it works out so well for him, didn't win the Heisman but was the runner-up, had a great year, is here in the Fiesta Bowl, will that help guys with second thoughts saying coming back is not an awful decision?
COACH STOOPS: I don't think there is any question those guys all pay attention to why a guy may have stayed, how it has worked out for them, those kind of things. I think even before that, Sam Bradford, how it worked out for him.
He had it as bad as it could be and he is still the first guy taken. And Sam felt, all that happened, he was still mentally more prepared for what was coming at him the next year. So I think it is always - they pay attention. I think those guys pay attention to what guys have done, how it has worked out.