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December 28, 2017

D.J. Ward

Pasadena, California

Q. Do you impart a message to the younger guys, based on -- can you be a sounding board?
D.J. WARD: Struggles throughout the first year, first two years. I just try to get in their ear and tell them it comes with the territory. No one is trying to get -- or anywhere for that fact. Get along with it and learn lessons and just keep on moving.

Q. Have you ever thought about it's not going to work out? Does that ever enter your mind?
D.J. WARD: I'm not a quitter.

Q. What's it like playing defense against this offense in practice? Is it preparation?
D.J. WARD: Oh, it's great, going against the best offense in the country every single day. Makes us better. Just the different challenge they present with us every single day is something different. It's just amazing how efficient they are. It really keeps us on our toes.

Q. What are the wrinkles?
D.J. WARD: Physicality. Offensive line is one of the most physical I think in the country. Even the receivers, the receivers are just, you know, supposed to be -- I think pretty physical, blocking the perimeter, things like that. I think that's something people don't see that much.

Q. The RPO, how does the defense deal with that? I'm sure you've had to play against it numerous times. What's your strategy?
D.J. WARD: You just have to keep working because you have to be honest. You have to play the run. These teams nowadays, they can run the ball and they can pass the ball. So you have to play it honest. That means playing to run hard first and then try to get out and play the pass. You might be a little late to it but better safe than sorry, I guess.

Q. Are you looking forward to this challenge because it is so different than what you guys have seen the last two years?
D.J. WARD: Yeah, I wouldn't say it's too different but always looking forward to the challenge. It should be a good thing to see.

Q. How different is it, when you say you said you don't think it's too different, how different is it and what is different about the Georgia offense?
D.J. WARD: We have teams that have tried to be real physical before, come down, run the ball. I would say just have to prepare like any other game and execute and we should be fine.

Q. Who has tried that on you the last couple years?
D.J. WARD: A couple teams that I think like to run the ball, TCU. They are a run-heavy team. Texas, maybe not this past year, but previous seasons they have been real physical wanting to run the ball. So you know, it's something we've seen before but it's definitely -- I'm pretty sure they have new wrinkles for us. We'll have a plan for it.

Q. You guys historically have played well against this kind of team. It's spread it out, throw it around teams that give you trouble. Does that give you confidence in this game?
D.J. WARD: You like to look back on that but it's a team we haven't faced before and new challenges. So we will see. All the things before, that's in the past. We are just looking forward now.

Q. Do they do a lot of things scheme-wise, formation-wise? Or are they less worried about out-scheming you and more interested in just beating you?
D.J. WARD: Oh, it's a smart team. They have a bunch of sets and different personnels and things like that. It's not what a lot of people say, just them running the ball at you between the A-gaps. They have different looks for us.

Q. Running backs you've seen --
D.J. WARD: I think the back we have is pretty solid. Those guys are talented just as much as we have but I think we face the same as a three-headed monster that we have, they have.

Just really hard runners. You don't see that every day. Like these guys, they will not go down with arm tackles or one single guy. You have to get two guys or just want to make the tackle.

Q. Are they different styles of runner or interchangeable?
D.J. WARD: I think interchangeable. They both look like hard, tough guys to bring down.

Q. What's your favorite Baker Mayfield story?
D.J. WARD: Favorite Baker Mayfield story, there's plenty of them. There's so many more that, you know, just being on the team that we have, it's just -- I don't know. I probably -- I can't disclose it.

Q. That other people don't normally see or are at the games or with the teams.
D.J. WARD: He's a gamer, playing games, challenging people. Things like that. I remember early in the season, he challenged me in Madden and I'm a decent Madden player myself and I had to skunk him.

Q. Did you win?
D.J. WARD: Oh, yeah, he didn't score. I think 21-0. I think he threw about two picks. I out-schemed him.

Q. What team did you play with?
D.J. WARD: I'm a Broncos fan, so I think I used the Broncos. He's not a big Madden player, so I don't remember who he is. I'll give him that. He doesn't really Madden like that.

Q. Is there anything you see, whether you're watching a game again or you see on film or practice, what is it that's so different about actually facing him?
D.J. WARD: You just never know what you're going to get. The way he plays on Saturdays and the way he practices; you can be good in pressure and all of a sudden he steps you will and he rolls out and he's all over the place and throwing a bomb 50 yards down the field. What you see on Saturday is just like what he is on Monday through Friday.

Q. Inaudible.
D.J. WARD: I think he's just, every time he goes into practice, he just works on his craft every single day, sharpens everything. Just works on every little intricate detail and it's showed over the years if it goes from deep ball to intermediate passes to knowing just when it tuck it and slide, every aspect of his game has grown.

Q. How much have you heard in these last three weeks or so about how the OU defense is the weak link in the playoff and that kind of thing?
D.J. WARD: Honestly I haven't that much about it. I don't pay much attention to the news or anything like that. I just kind of focus on what's going on in our meeting rooms and things like that.

Q. So when he tells you -- what do you think about that; that, wow, can they stop Georgia and don't look like the other defense?
D.J. WARD: I like it hear it. It's motivation to help us go out there and play harder.

I guess one of my coaches like to say, we have a chance to go out there and change the narrative, so hopefully can go out there and do that.

I guess got a thick skin, so I just kind of brush it off. I'm just happy I have an opportunity to go out there and just play again and like I said, change the narrative.

Q. Is there a historical thing you think about at all? Oklahoma has been on this precipice a few times in the last decade. Do you ponder that at all?
D.J. WARD: Not really. Every team is unique. I think this team is really special. Hopefully just, you know, make the most of our opportunity.

Q. Is there awareness that it's been a few years?
D.J. WARD: Oh, yeah. We know our history. We definitely know our last one was a while ago, so we try and make it happen here now.

Q. Do you have any good stories about the Baker, Lincoln relationship, how they are around the football facility, practice, anything? I know you're on the defensive side. Anything come to mind?
D.J. WARD: Not really. Just seeing how close they are. It's almost just like, you know, almost like brothers, on the same wavelength all the time which helps. You can see, just on the same page. Helps them play, or helps Baker play and helps coach make his play calling easier. Like they can just look at each other and do a certain head nod and say, okay, they have got something cooked up for us.

Q. Is there a recent play where you saw them do something and they went for something crazy or anything in practice?
D.J. WARD: Yeah, going against them all the time, you think you've got a clue of what they are doing. You think they will probably do this right here and then Baker kind of stops, looks to the sideline, he's good to check, whatever and I don't know, there's something we didn't expect at all to happen. It's like, wow, like nothing was really said, not a bunch of signals. They looked at each other, head nod, and that was it.

Q. Is it almost a tradition in practice where this is going on? This is a regular thing where they are checking stuff telepathically and it translates to the game.
D.J. WARD: It's just a regular occurrence. I guess they just practice it themselves. It's just another part of the game.

Q. Was that immediate?
D.J. WARD: They have definitely been working on it. Now it's just you don't even notice it but yeah it's definitely been worked on.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Georgia's offensive line as a unit. What do you see from them?
D.J. WARD: On film I see a good offensive line and a good, cohesive group that works together well. I haven't seen many flaws. Of course really solid in the run game. Solid in the pass game. I don't see many mistakes from them. So it must be a complete different offensive line from the year before.

Q. Their left tackle is 6-2, and you're a guy -- a 6-8 guy. How does he do it, very small.
D.J. WARD: I guess being small myself, playing my position, he must be really technically sound. What I see on tape, real physical guy. You know, doesn't let his size like hinder him at all. Just a hard player and must be a hard worker in the weight room because whatever I watch on tape, I see him moving guys off the ball. Whatever his stature may be, it doesn't affect him at all.

Q. A lot of people have the assumption that Georgia -- do you take that as a chip on your shoulder that people don't think that you guys can live up to the offensive standard?
D.J. WARD: Yeah, we hear that story. I've been saying it before, we're going to change the narrative. We're going to be the reason for more of our victories and more three and outs, turnovers, things like that. Just bigger impact. I think we're really riding off a high wave right now off that TCU win. We're showing that we can play a defense and just continue that.

Q. Do you think you have something to prove? Do you feel defensively you're overshadowed so much by the offense?
D.J. WARD: We have to play our best ball. We're just going to go out there and do that and put a full team effort together, defensively, offensively, special teams, things like that.

Q. You have a unique view of Baker and Lincoln's relationship. What do you see out of that relationship that maybe is unique to the average relationship between player and coach?
D.J. WARD: Guys like to say how close they are with their coaches and stuff like that, but when they say close, they are really close. Like I said before like brothers. They are just on the same wavelength, knowing what each other is thinking, things like that.

Q. What do you see with Tyler?
D.J. WARD: He's a whole different headache. You have to play it honest. You could just relax for a second just thinking, oh, he's just going to kind of tuck it and run and all of a sudden he'll scramble out or he'll just take off and just be gone and then try to rally to him and just can't catch him. Whole different story.

Q. How is he used in scout?
D.J. WARD: Don't really see him during scout team sessions, no.

Q. What is he like, transferring in --
D.J. WARD: It was exciting. Just to have a new weapon like that, just, you know, whenever you wanted and kind of excited to see his development over the next season or two.

Q. One of the reasons why Coach Stoops was going to step aside, everything was running well in the program -- Coach Riley wanted to put his stamp on things. When you look at the transition there, clearly it went well but what are some areas where Coach Riley put his stamp?
D.J. WARD: Not too much. A seamless transition which I think was really good on Coach Riley's part. Like you said, Coach Stoops left the program in great condition. Coach Riley took over and just been rolling smooth ever since. Of course he put his twist on a couple things here and there, practice schedule, maybe different kind of intense ties, things like that but sort of the same.

Q. Do you feel like he made the effort to reach out to the defensive players more?
D.J. WARD: Oh, definitely, he made that a point. As soon as it happened, the news came, he had a meeting with us, the defense, letting us know that, Hey, don't think that I'm just the offensive coordinator. I'm your guys' coach now, too. You can come to talk to me and I'm going to be just as involved with the offense and defense equally.

Q. What was your initial reaction?
D.J. WARD: I was surprised but then also at the same time I was happy for him. Had a great, long career. I was happy for him when he was family.

Q. Do you remember where you were and what that moment was like?
D.J. WARD: I was at home, just got done with a workout. I seen it on Twitter. I guess it broke out before -- a couple minutes. I was coming to the facility pretty much after that and have a meeting about it.

Q. Do you remember what Coach Riley, what the first thing was he said to the team?
D.J. WARD: Just be ready to work. Don't expect a lot to change. It's going to be the same program. Expect to win Big 12 Championships, national titles.

Q. But national titles were discussed right away?
D.J. WARD: Yeah.

Q. You've beaten SEC teams pretty much every year. Do you think there's still a lack of respect for the way you play the game and the way Big 12 plays around the country?
D.J. WARD: Yeah, I think so. I guess it's just what the narrative is and that's why we're going to go out here and try to change it and make it a different story. I heard the whole Big 12, SEC thing before, and our record against the SEC is pretty good. Just in general, not even about us, just the whole conference, whole SEC and Big 12, trying to prove that Big 12 can play physical football. Guess that's about it.

Q. Is the narrative because of the scores, people see every week, what the scoreboard looks like in the Big 12 or in the Playoffs, there hasn't been success?
D.J. WARD: I think our offense, just really high-powered, stellar. That's on a weekly basis who you see. Every week is probably 40, 50, 60 points. SEC, probably 20, 30, here and there. I guess it just comes with the territory.

Q. Why do you think that is?
D.J. WARD: If I could answer that, I would probably be in a different position. I don't know. Those coaches have headaches and it's difficult. I don't know what it is that's so different. Just, yeah, we know we like to spread the ball around the field left and right, but can't pinpoint the exact reason.

Q. Does it bother you that there's that perception, the SEC, physical and Big 12, not physical?
D.J. WARD: Yeah, because if you play football, it's physical either way, regardless of conferences are division, all that stuff. You play football, it's physical.

Q. Have you started any wedding plans yet?
D.J. WARD: End of the season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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