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December 28, 2017
Q. Do you get tired of sort of having to defend the Big 12's honor?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Definitely tired of it. I don't know where that narrative came from. I mean, the offenses we go against, they do a lot of different things. They stress you in different ways. It's just I feel like it's a good match-up for us, Big 12 against the SEC.
Q. Do you think nationally in terms of the respect level the Big 12 gets, is that on you guys to do something about that to change it?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I mean, we're not really worried about how everybody sees the Big 12. We don't care, honestly. We're going to go out there and do our thing.
Q. Your success against the SEC, does that give you any confidence?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Oh, yeah, definitely, we've done it time and time again. I don't know why it's still a topic of conversation that we're not physical enough. We've done it countless times. But that's the nature of the beast. We're ready to play, though, and show what we can do.
Q. Do you think you're actually better equipped to play against a team like this?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: At the same time, I don't think SEC teams have scored that much in years, so I don't think that's a problem. I don't think they're going to try to bear down on us. I don't think they're built for that. I don't think that's the makeup of the SEC, so I don't think that using those games as an example even makes sense because those teams are not built to be --
Q. There's a lot of focus on how you guys are going to defend the power running game from Georgia. Are you interested to see how Georgia is going to defend Baker and that offense because they haven't seen anything like that, either?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Well, I mean, yeah, I'm definitely interested to see it because I haven't seen Baker get stopped yet. Since I've been here, Baker has been a primetime player. He's going to make plays. I don't think you can actually stop him, you can only hope you can slow him down.
Q. Talking to DJ just now, I had forgotten about all he went through early on with the spleen situation. You've been through your fair share of battles. We talked about that yesterday. Do you appreciate a dude like DJ?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Oh, yeah, for sure. DJ is a solid worker. He doesn't complain. He just comes to work first. Every day he just works harder and does his job.
Q. Are you two examples that you can use for the younger guys to show, look, the road is going to get bumpy but you've just got to persevere?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, I try to use what happened to me just to tell those guys not to compensate for -- that it looks better, and just do everything in your power to control what you can control.
Q. I know you're going to get asked a lot of questions about this quarterback that you're facing being a freshman. When you watch him on tape, what are maybe some of the things that stand out, and does he look like a freshman? Do you think he plays like a kid who's relatively new to college football?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I watched every game that he played this season. I watched him get better every game. By the end of the season, he's playing with a lot more confidence and didn't look like a freshman anymore.
Q. When you look at their -- the way they play offense is going to be a little different style I would imagine than what you're going to see in the Big 12, not that they're good. They're good, but they're not doing what the Big 12 stuff does. Is there anybody in the Big 12 or is there any team that you've faced this year that you can sort of say, okay, they're a little like this team, they're a little like that team?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Not in the Big 12. If I compared them to anybody that we played this year, it would be like UTEP or somebody like that, downhill running. In the Big 12 the running game is more horizontal. Even when Georgia runs it's not the same, it's more downhill, it isn't like stretching it sideline to sideline. So it's a little different.
Q. There's a simple idea that maybe they're not doing quite as much, they limit what they do in the passing game to a certain degree; again, they're really good, so that's the biggest problem, but does that help you guys at all in some way that you're not seeing some of the variety that you're getting in the Big 12 and those type of like spread-the-field offenses?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: It always helps when there's less variables to worry about, less thinking, just going out there and physically getting it done.
Q. But you've still got to stop them, and those backs are really good, right?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: They're really good. That's the style of play. They line up, and they know what they're doing.
Q. Again, this is kind of an obvious question, but what do you see out of Michel and Chubb and those running backs? You see some really good running backs in the Big 12. Where do those guys sort of fit into that?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I think those guys are really talented backs. They're elite guys. They run really hard. They're really tough, really talented, really explosive. I think those guys could play anywhere in the country.
Q. What are your thoughts on Caleb and how he's advanced this year, his sophomore year, a lot of times -- he played so well as a freshman, so much is expected of him this year, played well, but where do you see his improvements as far as being a leader and just expanding his game as a sophomore?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Oh, he just became such a vocal leader on the field. It just feels good to have somebody who knows what's going on and what the offense is trying to do, also. Caleb, he just helps so much. He's like another coach on the field. He watches just as much film as me, so we're both film junkies. Out on the field, we just try to like make as many plays as possible.
Q. Do you have any observations on Baker and Lincoln and why they work so well?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I just feel like they know each other so well. I don't think that there's a closer relationship between a player and coach. Those guys, every time I see one I see the other. It's a good relationship. I think it just makes it easier.
Q. So you see them together all the time in the facility or around --
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: All the time. All the time. You know, when you're that comfortable with your coach -- I'm comfortable with my coach, but those guys are like -- it's almost like a big brother relationship. It's really fun to watch.
Q. In practice what is it like? Do they get into it at practice at all?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: It's like watching them at practice is like -- you just see them doing signs to each other and doing checks and saying, I don't like that -- like every time I see them on the sideline, I think, oh, tough crowd, and I know what they're doing. They just have this -- I don't know, way that they communicate.
Q. Almost telepathic?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah.
Q. When Striker left, we were asking who was going to be him looking forward, and he mentioned you. Now that you're leaving, who's going to be you?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: (Indiscernible).
Q. For sure?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, for sure. That's the guy that's going to be the leader of the defense. He's already (indiscernible) right now. You can see he's going to keep getting better every year.
Q. Does he do things that you can't do?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, for sure.
Q. How so?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Like in pass coverage, I remember y'all saw that freakish interception at the Texas Tech game. He's just a freak athlete. He's just going to keep getting better.
Q. People are keyed on in the running backs in this match-up, but I think people may be overlooking the young quarterback if you're not careful. I know you said you've watched him on film. What jumps out about him?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: He's confident, you know. He doesn't play like a first year. He's out there and he's real decisive. He's out there, like he doesn't have any nerves, not like a lot of other people.
Q. What about their offensive line? I'm sure you wouldn't be aware, they really weren't a good unit last year, and this year tremendous improvement. What stands out to you when you look at their tackles in particular?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: They're very physical, very physical guys. We're going to have to really use our leverage against these guys.
Q. Given your situation (indiscernible)?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, it's really impressive to see a freshman go out there and play that well. I'm looking forward to playing him. He's a really good player.
Q. What goes through your mind -- you guys beat Oklahoma State, typical Big 12, this is the way they win games, not enough attention maybe is paid to you guys on defense.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I mean, look, like Oklahoma State, they scored a lot of points on us, you know. Everybody has this and that to say about our defense, but we win games. We win games, and our defense makes plays when it needs to. Those offenses in the Big 12, like they really stress you in a lot of different ways, you know, and I feel like you've got to just -- you've got to live with some of the bad in the Big 12 as far as like statistically. But like we're fine. We're not worried about that stuff. People can say whatever they want about our defense, but we're ready for this game, and we've been preparing for a long time. We're playing a different style of offense that's pretty cut and dry. You've just got to be there, you've got to make the play.
Q. No matter how this game turns out, has Georgia seen anything like you guys' offense?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I don't think anybody in the country has seen -- unless you've played us, our offense has so many weapons, and it's being conducted by the best player in the country. So I don't think there's really a way to prepare. You've just got to hope you can slow them down a little bit.
Q. Does it brother you that there's that perception that they're physical and you guys aren't?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I mean, it's funny to me, like we're playing football. We're not just going to let people like run down our throats. Like at the end of the day, you're going to adjust. We play teams that run very horizontally sideline to sideline, so we're going to play sideline to sideline and play horizontally, you know, and if a team is running at us, we are going to play vertically. I don't know why people think we're just going to get ran all over. It's not like rocket science to us. You know, just change the style of play.
Q. Are you guys entering -- do you feel like an underdog in this game?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, for sure. Like even now, people still like are saying that our defense is this and that, we're going to get ran all over, and everybody in our room, we're all laughing because we know what we're -- we know what we're about to do. We know how we've been preparing.
Q. You mentioned obviously the Big 12 offenses put up a lot of points, but what about that Ohio State game when you guys held them to 16; is that more indicative of what you guys do when you're out of conference and going up against these other teams?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, if you look at all of our non-conference games, teams didn't really put up a lot of points on us.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Well, he has a lot of confidence. He started playing with a lot of confidence at the end of the year. I like him. Towards the end of the year he started making some big throws, started playing with a lot of confidence, started even running, getting some yards on his feet, you know. It was just cool to watch him progress this year, watching him on the film.
Q. Last year (indiscernible)?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I feel like it's pretty -- those are the same caliber type of guys, two NFL guys in that backfield. They're really big. I saw -- I got to see some of them yesterday at Disneyland. They're really nice-sized backs.
Q. With those running backs, have you talked with anybody that's faced these guys? I mean, it's not just two of them, there are four of them, that have talked about just the stable that keeps running at you?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I mean, yeah. They have a lot of good backs, you know. But so does OU, you know. We're used to it. We have Abdul Adams, Trey Sermon and Rodney Anderson. Those are three really good backs that could be starting anywhere in the country. We go against them all the time, so we're used to playing a bunch of great running backs.
Q. You mentioned that you guys (indiscernible)?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Same caliber guys for sure. They're both really nice sized and explosive, very explosive, and do a lot of different things in the running game, two different style runners but still both very explosive.
Q. Those running backs get a lot of attention, but it's the guys in front of them that seem to make a big jump from last year to this year. Can you talk about what you see from them on film that allows them to get where they are as kind of a no-name group?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: They play really low, very aggressive, really good pad leverage. I actually like this group a lot. I've gotten to break down like everybody on the line. Yeah, they're just a real physical group. They play really low. They're very nasty. It's really fun to watch their group. They really play in sync, also.
Q. Isaiah Wynn is a 6'2" guy and he's second-team All-American. You go against a guy in practice every day that's so much bigger than that in Orlando. What is it that allows a guy to play tackle and do something like that at 6'2"?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I mean, some would say he's undersized, some would say I'm undersized. I don't think that matters at all. I don't think measurables matter at all. It's all about skill and how much art you play with. I don't think him being 6'2" matters at all. I'm not going to downplay him just because he's 6'2", just because I go against a 6'8" guy. I watched him on film and I watched him shut down a bunch of guys, so I'm not at all going to just like overlook him.
Q. I was talking to the defense and they said that you guys changed the narrative, your offense versus just defense, and you guys against the Georgia offense are kind of a forgotten match-up in this game. Does that kind of put a chip on your shoulder a little bit?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Oh, yeah, for sure. People have been talking about us for years now, you know, talking about our defense is not physical enough, and every year we go play an SEC team and we win and we win by a lot. We're really done talking at this point. We're just ready to go play.
Q. How much of that is skewed by the Big 12 has been so wide open --
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Oh, yeah. In the Big 12 you're going to be stressed in a lot of different ways. We're not complaining at all. It's the nature of the beast. I think it's just a little misleading looking at it on paper.
Q. You know what a good defense is when you're out there.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, for sure.
Q. (Indiscernible). What's that like for guys?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: It can be stressful, but you've just got to keep playing and you've got to know your offense is going to put up points, too.
Q. How do you adjust to -- you haven't really seen an offense like this because the Big 12 is so heavily on spread, even Ohio State, Kansas State is a quarterback run game. Is that a challenge for you guys, that you haven't faced a scheme that's all that similar this year, at least in my opinion?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: No. They have a good offense. I think we play somebody similar to them in UTEP. I don't know, maybe the talent is a little different, you know, having those great running backs that they have. But I mean, they're handing the ball off, and they're going to run the ball, and we just have to play assignment football and just play physical. It's not like -- it's not anything crazy. It's not like they're just stressing us and there's like 100 different things they can do. They're just going to hand the ball off and run. We've just got to stop it.
Q. So UTEP kind of gave you a taste of that?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: For sure.
Q. You had that defensive meeting with I think maybe players only; was that after the Iowa State game?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, for sure.
Q. Was that a turning point for the defense, or do you feel like it happened after the Oklahoma State game?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: I would say Iowa State was a turning point for the whole team. We didn't really look at it as the defense was playing better. I just feel like we started playing more complementary football. After Iowa State I feel like that's when we started clicking as a whole team.
Q. Did Oklahoma State (indiscernible) as far as your defensive performance or did you feel like it was a situation where you ran into a really good offense?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, Mason Rudolph, he's a really good quarterback with great receivers around him. We knew they were going to make a lot of explosive plays. It was just our job to limit him and make the plays when we needed to, and we did. Baker finished it, and we got the win, so like we can't complain.
Q. Do you remember talking about winning national titles?
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO: Yeah, coach Riley didn't want to just come in and win the Big 12, he didn't want to come in and have a winning season. It was National Championship talk. From the first day we started summer conditioning, it was all over our shirts, it was all over that building. It's been the same since day one.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports