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December 27, 2018

Lincoln Riley

Miami Gardens, Florida

Q. Where are you just two days from the game? Has it been a long process for you?
LINCOLN RILEY: No, it is. It's a long process. Excited for the game to get here. You kind of hit this point in any of these bowls, probably especially a playoff, you're just kind of ready for it to be here. We've prepared well, confident in the way our team has approached this entire month. We've had a great week here so far. Can't wait for Saturday night.

Q. No issues last night with the (indiscernible) for anything for you?
LINCOLN RILEY: No, we were all good. Had a great night.

Q. They had a special menu for you?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, yeah, we had no shellfish for me, so we did some steak and some salmon. It was good. Luckily they've got a lot of great things on that menu.

Q. They've got some great passing. Does that make it not as big a difference who plays from a passing standpoint?
LINCOLN RILEY: I think that's fair to say. It looks like Jalen has really developed as a thrower, as well. Certainly it makes them even more difficult to defend kind of regardless of who's out there. Looks like they're comfortable running the full offense with both those guys.

Q. Talk about coming back to this position so many times; not that it's a must, but how big would it be for this program to kind of move on to a championship scenario?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, I don't know if finally. This program has been in a lot of championships. But yeah, I mean, sure. It's really tough to get here. It's great being here, but we expected to win the first two that we were in, and we expect to win this one. And so we've always approached it that way. We know we're playing a great opponent just like we have here the first couple of times that we've been in these playoffs. That's what they're about. We've been really close. And certainly we want to finish the deal, but not for -- not for what's happened in the past, just for this team right now. What's in the past is in the past, and this team right now has a chance -- as good a chance as anybody, and we want to take advantage because we do know how hard it is to get here.

Q. For you as a coach, you start out as a coordinator, then you're a head coach, how much has this program learned -- you learned about being in this situation, in the playoffs?
LINCOLN RILEY: You've learned a lot. I mean, even like a day like today, you don't do this at any other bowl game anywhere. I mean, this is -- there's just some different things that go with these playoffs, the buildup. Seems like the entire country is focused on two games for about 30 days. There's a lot of attention, a lot of buildup, a few different things that you have to do as far as handling it. I think our team is ready. None of this is new for us. The schedule, the early signing day, all that we talked about back in Norman is still a big factor and handling all that, and I think we're more equipped to do it than we've ever been.

Q. How confident are you in Hollywood's ability to play?
LINCOLN RILEY: Well, we'll see. We'll see. Those things are what they are. He's battling, so we'll see where he's at Saturday.

Q. When people hear Hollywood Brown, I think they assume Hollywood, California, not Florida. What has he meant to your team?
LINCOLN RILEY: Oh, he's meant a ton. I mean, his growth has been as much as anybody I can remember in such a short amount of time. I mean, keep in mind, last year even about halfway throughout the season, he was a reserve for us. He was a two. Really took off the second half of last year, has gained confidence. He's continued to practice hard, practice fast, plays that way. Been very coachable, and he's just continued to get better and better. He's been one of the more explosive players in the country now for about a year and a half, and it's been a huge part of our offense.

Q. Is he overexcited or how do you account for a kid who's coming home, playing at home in a game this big? How do you handle something like that?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, he's certainly excited to be here. We've got a couple of guys from the South Florida area that are certainly happy. We don't play a ton of games over here, and so to be back home for them is great. But he's been in big games, kind of like the team, I think he's ready to handle it.

Q. Is that going to be special for the team to practice at his high school?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, yeah, I think they'll enjoy that. They've been hearing about how great it is, so yeah, there's a lot of back and forth. Texas high school football, Oklahoma high school football, California high school football, Florida high school football, we've got so many, but there's a lot of back and forth on the team. They've had some fun ribbing each other about that, but yeah, what a pretty cool memory for that kid to be able to come back here towards the end of his season and practice at his high school.

Q. With Marquise emotionally dealing with his injury between then and now, trying to get good to play, not just to play in the playoffs but obviously the game means a lot to him being where it is, how has he emotionally handled that process?
LINCOLN RILEY: I think it's been fun. I don't know if it's added anything extra. I mean, he was going to rehab and push as hard as he could anyway to be in this game, whether it was played here or on the moon. I mean, it's -- I think he's excited about playing at home, but I don't know that it's had a big factor on his rehab or his approach to it. I think he's motivated for this team and wants to help us win a championship.

Q. Obviously you've had a lot of success, but what helps (indiscernible)?
LINCOLN RILEY: Oh, just a collective effort of a lot of people that's made it work. A great offensive staff here these years, a great staff that hung in there when the transition happened between Bob and I two years ago now. We've had a lot of great players, a lot of great support from the administration. It takes a lot of people. But just the meshing of these people that we have has worked. So you've got to give credit to everybody.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
LINCOLN RILEY: A moment of doubt? I mean, I thought we could be good. I think as we started to get going there about midway through that first year, you started to see what we were capable of, and then each group with new players each year has been able to build on it. So it's been a good run.

Q. What impresses you most about the way Coach Saban goes about his business?
LINCOLN RILEY: Probably how he recruits, and he seems very -- their program is very steady. He seems, at least from the outside, I don't have an insider's view, but it seems like he's got a pretty steady demeanor. Their program reflects that, a lot of consistency within that program. But I mean, at the end of the day, they've got really, really good players because they recruit well and they've been able to recruit well for a long period of time, and those strong signing classes have stacked upon each other, and then on top of that, he's got a really good staff there. The guys are well-coached. They have all the ingredients to be a really good football program, and they've done that.

Q. He had a dalliance in the NFL, here, in fact. As somebody who's a young guys rising in the profession, is that something you look at and process at all, or does it mean anything to you in any way?
LINCOLN RILEY: No, just because I don't have -- I don't have firsthand knowledge of it. If he was somebody I was close with or a confidant, maybe, but there's a million things that go into making it work at Alabama or the Miami Dolphins or LSU or wherever you're at. No, I don't read too much into it.

Q. You've talked recently about how the excitement surrounding this program now, how there's a higher level you see OU football going to. Is Alabama part of that picture as far as what they've done, is that kind of what you see for OU until the future?
LINCOLN RILEY: I mean, I would never say anybody exactly because I think each program is in a different scenario, but you can't ignore the success that they've had and how consistent they've been. And so I think there's a lot of things that they do in their program that are outstanding that I think any program in the country would want to do or try to have the same type of success or setup. But at the end of the day, each place is different. Each place has different resources and a different part of the country, kind of has their own path to success. We're just trying to be the best Oklahoma that we can be, and we think this thing can get a lot better.

Q. Do you have any relationship with Coach Saban?
LINCOLN RILEY: No, not much. We've met at these playoff functions here the last few years. Before the press conference in Atlanta, they stick all four of us in a glass room for like an hour. I'm not really sure what the point of that is. It's actually kind of fun. We get a chance to talk with no cameras or nobody else there. I got to speak with him a few times there, but that's really the extent of it.

Q. Sometimes programs when they say Alabama (indiscernible) is that something you try to steer away from or do you embrace the fact that you're playing a program like that?
LINCOLN RILEY: We certainly have a lot of respect for Alabama, but we don't really care who we walk on the field with. That's always been this program's mentality regardless of who's been here.

Q. A lot has been made about the quarterbacks in this game, but maybe the running game is being overlooked a little bit. That's something that's been so balanced for you guys. How important is that in this game, having that same pass-run balance, going over 300 yards in both departments like you have?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, it's definitely important for us every week. I don't know it's any more important this week than it always is. It's always a huge part of our offense. We always believe in running the football, helping that set up the rest of our game. It's been a big recipe for success for us. We're going to have to be able to do both well. These guys are certainly good enough defensively that that's going to be an important key and something that we're excited to get a chance to go do, but that's no different for us than any other week of the year.

Q. Speaking on that defense, what has stood out most to you about Alabama's defense?
LINCOLN RILEY: Really good scheme and really good players. You know, I mean, one of the best defensive lineman that you'll ever play against and very good other defensive linemen, as well, without a doubt. I mean, they're good everywhere. They don't have many holes, got great players, draft picks all over the place. Obviously coached up extremely well. It'll be a fun challenge for us.

Q. How much when you look at your offensive line and games you've had, big games, how much has their intensity as individuals kind of helped carry you guys through?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, it's been important. They expect to play well even against great teams and in great environments, and they do have an intensity and edge that you need to win and play well in these games. Yeah, we certainly played pretty well in some of those settings. We'll need to do it again here Saturday.

Q. Is that something that's kind of been passed down a little bit? Do you see like Orlando to maybe Drew to Ben Powers --
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, I think that's fair to say, and a lot of these guys got in that situation when they were young players. Orlando and Drew were freshmen when we were here the first time playing. They've probably learned a lot, and then have been able to pass it along to our guys and our young guys have done a good job of responding and kind of building and learning from that.

Q. I know you talked about how much you enjoy the run game; has it been, since you've been back with Bill, has it been fun to kind of take in that part of the offense maybe a little bit more?
LINCOLN RILEY: Definitely, definitely. We spend a lot of time on that. We have a lot of fun with it. We spend a lot of time trying to get our guys in the best position. But yeah, definitely I've enjoyed it. Between Bill and Jay and Kel and Shane, we've got a good group in there that's got a lot of experience and a lot of good ideas flowing through the room.

Q. You guys have a lot of success recruiting DB's from outside your area. Is that because it's harder to find guys in the Midwest, good athletes that want to play on defense, or is it those are guys you haven't targeted for some reason?
LINCOLN RILEY: No, I think just targets. Really our recruiting area right now is the entire United States. We've signed a ton of kids off both the East and West Coast here in the last few years, so they honestly kind of all feel like our home areas in a way. So, they are just some guys that we targeted that we felt fit what we wanted and that we were able to bring home.

Q. Do you feel like over the next couple years talent level on defense is going to be improved based on some of the guys that you got --
LINCOLN RILEY: Yes. Yeah, definitely.

Q. We know Kyler is really talented, but (indiscernible)?
LINCOLN RILEY: I felt like just with the way he had played in high school and what I had seen that he would have a pretty good football mind, but you could tell he understood the game. He was raw when he got to us in a lot of ways, but the natural talent, both physically and mentally, was certainly there. There was a lot to work with. He's got -- he loves the Xs and Os, the back and forth of it, and he's got a great feel for it. Probably appreciating his knowledge and natural feel for the game to go along with the physical abilities that everybody sees.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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