We're only four weeks away from the start of the 2016 college football season, and the Oklahoma Sooners got things rolling on Saturday afternoon when they hosted their annual media day.
Head coach Bob Stoops, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley all spoke to the media while a select group of players were also available for interviews.
Here are five quick hits from a busy day in Norman:
Geno Lewis Impressing
With Sterling Shepard graduating and leaving for the NFL, the Sooners are in desperate need of finding a replacement for Shepard's consistent production at the wide out position. Luckily, Coach Stoops and the Sooners had a suitable replacement fall right in their laps. Former Penn State receiver Geno Lewis opted to transfer to Oklahoma for his final year of eligibility, and it appears he's impressing the coaches early.
"Geno's been a big, strong player for us," Bob Stoops said. "Everyday he's shown up for us consistently. You can tell he's been in it a bunch and has played a bunch."
Lewis totaled 90 catches for nearly 1,200 yards in his three years playing for the Nittany Lions, and now he'll have the chance to make an immediate impact for the Sooners.
Stoops: “Geno Lewis has been a strong player for us.” Says he, along with a handful of others, can return punts/kicks. #Sooners— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) August 6, 2016
Stoops: “Geno Lewis has been a strong player for us.” Says he, along with a handful of others, can return punts/kicks. #Sooners
“I know what I’m here for, I know what my mindset is," Lewis said. "I’m just trying to get better each and every day to help this team win.”
Lewis had the luxury of playing with an NFL quarterback such as Christian Hackenberg up at Penn State, but Lewis knows he's inheriting another solid gun slinger with his new team.
“After I was able to talk with the coaches and players I got Baker’s number and we talked for a little bit," Lewis said of his and Mayfield's relationship. "The passion that he has from being a walk on to now, you can just see the chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t take anything for granted, he goes out there and plays each and every day and you can see it in his play. I’m just thankful to have somebody like that I can go out to battle with.”
More for Mark Andrews
Tight end Mark Andrews finished last season with seven touchdowns on 318 yards receiving, but OU fans can expect the big target in the middle to be more involved in the offense this upcoming season after Coach Stoops said Andrews would have a bigger role.
Andrews has sure hands and isn't easy to bring down in space, and to top it off, he's fully aware of the rich football tradition at Oklahoma. Andrews said at media day that he tries to resemble former OU tight end Jermaine Gresham.
“He’s definitely a guy who was able to move really really well for a big guy and was basically a receiver in a tight end's body," Andrews said when asked about Gresham. "There’s a lot of good things I’ve seen from him and be able to learn. He’s on the chart board for the tight end stats that Coach Schmidt has up. That’s definitely something I look at and try to resemble.”
While fans have clamored to see him more involved in the offense, Andrews knows if he puts in the work at practice he'll likely get the ball in his hands more consistently.
“Obviously they know I want the ball, I think everyone wants the ball," Andrews said. "Coach Riley, he’s one of those guys if you perform in practice, you’re going to get the ball. So that’s what I’ve tried to do everyday in practice, work my butt off and prove to them I can play and catch the ball and make some plays for them.”
Joe Mixon taking on leadership role
Throughout most of Joe Mixon's OU career he's attracted criticism for what he's done off the field, but it looks as if the running back has matured a bit. For proof, you don't have to look much farther than his offensive coordinator's quote about Mixon at media day.
"Joe's fantastic. He's a fantastic player, he's a great young man.," Riley said. "He's one of our more valuable, flat out, players on the team because of the energy he brings. He is with our young players, he's got his arm around Abdul Adams all the time, helping him out, teaching him something about offense, or just something about college in general, or helping him grow up. I think Joe will be a team captain here one day, he acts like one right now. He's obviously a really really good football player and we think his best ball is definitely ahead of him."
Riley says people “better appreciate [Joe Mixon].” Says he expects him to be a team captain one day. #Sooners— Carson Williams (@CarsonWilliams4) August 6, 2016
Riley says people “better appreciate [Joe Mixon].” Says he expects him to be a team captain one day. #Sooners
Mixon rushed for 753 yards last season while totaling 11 touchdowns through the ground and the air, but look for Riley to find even more ways to get the ball in the hands of the former five-star recruit.
Tay Evans ready to step up
With the shocking departure of Dominique Alexander to the NFL, the OU defense was suddenly without a starting linebacker next to Jordan Evans. Only a few days into camp, it appears Tay Evans will be one of the players called upon to fill the void, and the sophomore from Allen, TX says he's more than ready for the challenge.
“My goal to pick up where we left off last season," Evans said. "We lost a lot of guys at linebacker and it’s my job to step in there to make sure we don’t have any fall off from last season. We’ve got to go up.”
.@DeanBlevins talking with OU linebacker Tay Evans #Sooners pic.twitter.com/RRuAm0FZ7A— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) August 6, 2016
.@DeanBlevins talking with OU linebacker Tay Evans #Sooners pic.twitter.com/RRuAm0FZ7A
Dede Westbrook embracing his new role
Much of the talk from the coaching staff centers around the idea that OU will make up for the loss of Shepard by spreading the ball around to more people on the outside as opposed to just one player. That being said, Dede Westbrook is the Sooners leading returning receiver, and after totaling 46 catches for 743 yards last year, Westbrook knew his time would come to be the face of the receiving corps.
"It’s kind of been that way my whole entire life, wherever I played football I was pretty much the face," Westbrook said. "But I knew coming into it that Sterling (Shepard) was going to be the face of the receivers, and now that he’s gone I have to step up and fill in his shoes so I was preparing myself for it last year, so I’m ready."
Westbrook also talked about the chemistry between the receivers and their quarterback.
“The summer has gone really well for us," Westbrook said. "The receiving unit, we’ve just all been really close but coming together with Baker and getting that team chemistry down and the passes down, we’re going to be really good.”