It's been a rough offseason for college football fans.
Across the country, it seems as if we've learned the ins and outs of legal procedure more than how Trevor Knight is going to carry his Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama into the 2014 season. Ed O'Bannon and autonomy have become bigger terms than spread offense and playoffs.
The offseason has been especially burdensome in Norman, complete with transfer waivers, a Title IX investigation and a season-long suspension for a star recruit. OU fans are more than ready for the actual games to begin.
The players are as well. Perhaps what gets overlooked in the excitement of fans is the excitement of the players. Coaches and players share a love of the game that goes deeper than that of fans. After all, those who actually participate in the game give up more than one Saturday a week to the sport.
“I'm ready to hit someone else in the mouth,” offensive tackle Daryl Williams said on Monday. “Just ready for Saturday.”
What's easy to forget is college football players spend more time banging against one another in practice during the offseason than they do against opponents in the regular season. That's harder to do than you'd think, as competition sometimes flies in the face of the goal of team unity.
“It's definitely been a grind since winter workouts,” Williams said. “Summer workouts with Schmitty (OU strength coach Jerry Schmidt) and then going through two-a-days and bonding through that time. It's been a huge grind.”
Now, that grind is over for the players who have been go against teammates in practice for months, and for the fans that have waited around all summer for the return of the great game.
Everyone's excited, but it's a different kind of excitement between the fans and the Sooners.
“Fans are excited to get out there and tailgate, watch and cheer for their favorite team,” defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said. “I'm excited I get to hit someone different. It's different levels and I finally get to see someone else. I know Daryl is tired of seeing me and I'm tired of seeing him. Our whole offense is tired of seeing our defense and they're ready to play somebody else.”
The off-field issues for the Sooners this offseason have only added to the excitement of the upcoming season. Quarterback Trevor Knight called the start of the season “a relief” and added the team hurts for the players that won't be joining them on the field this season.
“You obviously want the best for those guys and it hurts to see it go on the opposite side of that line,” Knight said. “You hope for the best for them and whether or not it works out for them this year, you stay in their back and stay positive with them and hopefully things will work out in the future.”
However, the excitement that comes with the start of a new season could be wiped away with a loss against Louisiana Tech, or even just a lackluster performance against an overmatched opponent. Starting fast will go a long way toward relieving a lot of anxiety surrounding the Sooners.
“I think it's really important for me and our program to play sharp,” Knight said. “We want to start this year on a high note and build on that each and every week. You set the bar high from the beginning, you can only build on that and that's what we want to do next Saturday.”
The season is finally here and for the Sooners—and their fans—it wouldn't have been good if the wait was any longer.