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December 24, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're going to welcome the Oklahoma defensive side with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, defensive end Neville Gallimore and linebacker Kenneth Murray.
Coach, we'll start with you. Give us an opening remark on how arrival and bowl preparations have gone so far for the defensive side.
ALEX GRINCH: Obviously, thrilled to be here in Atlanta. The weather is turning today, so it wasn't fun getting off the plane, seeing the rain.
Excited to be here. Obviously, tremendous matchup. I'll say it over and over again. To play championship football in December is so rare. It's happened in this program quite a bit over the years. For us as individuals and this 2019 group to find ourselves here on Christmas Eve, getting a chance to practice for a meaningful game, it doesn't get much greater than this in our sport.
So obviously thrilled to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach. Players, talk about what it's been like in Atlanta so far. Is this your first time here? Have you been here before? Did you have any fun last night at the Battle for Bowl Week event?
NEVILLE GALLIMORE: This is my first time being in Atlanta, apart from just flying through the airport. It's been a lot of fun so far. Definitely, guys have welcomed us with open arms and last night was pretty cool too, the football field. It was a good time.
THE MODERATOR: Kenneth, I told the guys earlier, I think that's the biggest comeback we've had in the football feud. Does that bode good things for OU?
KENNETH MURRAY: We've got this saying, they're not in until they're officially in, talking about the offense, getting into the end zone. So we never give up. You know, Speed D, we got a three-and-out, take-away mindset. Coach Grinch will attest it.
It's been fun being here. Obviously, being in Atlanta, this is my first time being here, so I had a lot of fun last night.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it for questions.
Q. Coach Grinch, how much does the defensive game plan change with Ronnie Perkins' absence this weekend?
ALEX GRINCH: Well, it's kind of been part of our story this year in terms of the defensive back Tre Norwood lost for the year. We had an outside linebacker -- these aren't household names, but they're in our building -- Jon-Michael Terry, outside linebacker, out for the year. Caleb Kelly was a linebacker, missed the first ten weeks of the season for us.
It's kind of been part of our story in 2019. What that looks like and feels like is we talk about game planning every week and probably too much is made of that. But we stick to what we do defensively. We feel like what we ask these guys to do on a week-to-week basis, regardless of opponent, puts them in the situation to be successful.
And what it requires is everyone to step up. Roles change when you don't have every guy I just listed. And the expectation is for guys to play at a high level and for us, as coaches, to put them in the position to do so.
But you're able to do that when you're not a defense of week, when you're not constantly scribbling on the board to come up with an answer. You've got a chance to have some cumulative reps, maybe a guy that didn't have as large of a role early in the season or at some point during the course of the season. When someone goes down or you're without an individual, they've executed those techniques and fundamentals just as much as maybe the starter. Just obviously not on gameday.
The stage gets bigger, we understand that, but all of us have to step up our game when you're not at full strength.
Q. Coach, obviously, you're no stranger to explosive offenses in the Big 12.
But speak to the challenges of trying to defend LSU and Burrow and what makes them so special.
ALEX GRINCH: It's an elite group. I think, obviously, tremendous skill. I think, certainly, the best offensive line. I think they were named the best offensive line in the country. The quarterback is the Heisman Trophy winner. The receiver is a Biletnikoff Award winner.
So, obviously, couldn't have any more respect for an opponent that way. How they attack you, their coaching staff does a tremendous job. So it will be certainly a challenge for us.
You mentioned you see spread offenses and those things weekly kind of in our conference. But what you don't want to be is naive and say, okay, because we've seen X, Y, and Z, that execution on our part all of a sudden gets easy.
So, no, certainly we couldn't respect an opponent more. They've done a tremendous job, and it's going to be a major challenge.
Q. Coach talk about what you're able to do if Delarrin Turner isn't able to play. And just kind of the development overall at the safety position. I know you've talk a lot about the depth issue that you have there.
ALEX GRINCH: We've played a few guys there over the course of the season. It hasn't been a position of major rotation. We've rotated more on the defensive front than on the back end.
But, no, it will be multiple guys assuming some different roles and those things, which is something that we're comfortable with, something that guys have done, but not necessarily on Saturday as much.
So tremendous opportunities for those individuals. Roles change, and I'm excited for them. What's important, also, is in those -- the individuals around them, the guys sitting to my left, they'll do their part to ensure that we're not circling names after the game in terms of where we were deficient. It won't be because of them.
So we've got a good group, and we'll have a confident group at all positions, including the safety spot.
Q. As you talk about your game plan, how does LSU's uncertainty at running back affect that plan? You may be facing a committee approach instead of their star back.
ALEX GRINCH: I don't think their scheme is going to change based on that. Obviously, they have a weapon in the backfield that does a great job in the run game, runs downhill. He's quick. He's a weapon in the pass game as well. Use him in a number of ways.
So I can't speak for them in terms of the impact, but certainly you see other numbers on film doing similar roles that way. So I don't think that their scheme will change much based on availability that way.
We don't anticipate two different game plans, whether or not he plays.
Q. For all three of you, you guys have been through this a lot. You've been to the playoffs. What does that experience do for y'all each and every year? Has there been learning experiences? I guess the same with you, Coach. You've been around a lot of big-time programs where you've played in big-time games. How do the learning experiences go into how you prep for a game of this magnitude?
THE MODERATOR: Kenneth, start with you.
KENNETH MURRAY: Obviously, we've been in the playoffs a couple different times. I know for me, definitely learning experiences, definitely take a lot from those three games that I've been in.
So I think it's going to be extremely critical for us to use that experience to our advantage for this game. I think we've been in a lot of big games as a group, and I think it's just going to be extremely critical for us to just stay true to us and understand that if we just do our jobs, our jobs are enough to get done what we want to get done.
THE MODERATOR: Neville?
NEVILLE GALLIMORE: Just to piggyback off that, definitely a growing experience. We have an identity as a defense. Again, it just goes back to having that trust in the guy next to me and having trust in our coaches that they're going to put us in the right position as possible.
Obviously, in the past, definitely you learn from those situations. You overcome them. You try to find ways to be better and you've just got to trust your coaches and trust your guys and just make the most of our opportunity. And here we are again having an opportunity to make the most out of it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach.
ALEX GRINCH: I hope for these guys that they would draw from that. That's something that I know these guys will look back on at some point. Obviously, this isn't a week to reflect and all of those things, but think about the stages that Nev and Kenneth and a lot of these guys have played on in their time at Oklahoma, which obviously speaks to what Oklahoma is.
But also for us -- and I'll speak from a coaching standpoint -- is it's so critical that your preparation is your preparation. How we prepare -- and these guys can attest to it -- what our practices look like now, compared to when we played South Dakota. Our practices now, as compared to fall camp number 4.
What you, as a coaching staff, what you believe in is what you believe in, so the focus obviously remains on us. So you either believe that or you don't.
But in any event, that's -- a critical element of things is being on some of these stages is: The stage is the stage, but the preparation is the preparation. And we look forward to having a great practice today.
Q. For Neville and Kenneth, for those who haven't covered you all year, can you boil down in what ways has Coach Grinch made you guys a better defense? In what ways have you made yourselves better as a defense throughout the year?
THE MODERATOR: Neville, start with you.
NEVILLE GALLIMORE: I feel like from a mental standpoint, Coach Grinch, his expectations are so high, we really appreciate that because he's always trying to find ways to get the most out of us and kind of putting us in uncomfortable and stressful situations.
That helps us build as a football player but also builds our character. Just we go through it every day in practice, and literally I feel like that kind of puts us in the best position because we know the moment's never too big for us.
Any situation that you put us in, we learn to rally with each other and just kind of trust the process, trust the work that we put in, and, again, just having that mentality that there's a job that still has to get done.
Being a part of this program, it's required for you to be at your best and have the all-out effort no matter what you're going through. Having that consistency, no matter what the situation is, who we're playing or what day it is, how your body's feeling, it's a blessing to be out on that field.
So you understand you're not going through that alone. Knowing that it's -- again, it's a part of the process. If you really want to achieve the goals you want to achieve as a player and as a competitor, you've got to fall back on the habits you created. He instilled that in us.
THE MODERATOR: Kenneth?
KENNETH MURRAY: I think Coach Grinch and the rest of the defensive coaching staff have done a great job of just getting across to us. For them, it's really, on a daily basis, something that maybe at other programs, they don't hear a message every day. But every day, we hear a message from our coaches that pretty much sets the tone for the day.
I think -- as players, I think we've done a pretty good job of taking that and running with it and being able to apply that on a daily basis. I think that's really what's helped us become who we are right now.
We've went through some ups and downs this season. I think overall, it's just staying true to who we are and just listening to our coaches on a daily basis is what's helped us get to the place that we are right now as a defense from a mental standpoint and, also, from an on-field standpoint.
Q. Coach, I was going to ask you about taking over for this year, the mentality. Those two guys kept talking about mentality over in the other room. Is that something you just had to instill? The first thing you had to do was kind of make them believe?
ALEX GRINCH: Yes. One, they could believe. But you've also got to give them something to believe in. The one thing as a coach, you can go up and be rah-rah and say we're going to do X, Y, and Z and get them excited to take the field for practice. If there's not depth to it, if it's not something that they can draw from in the moments of adversity, if it doesn't coincide with the plan to allow them to execute at a level that you expect them to execute at, you can say, okay, well, the bar's real high. The expectation is to play at an elite level. Now go.
You've got to make sure there's substance to it. We show these guys kind of the game plan for the year in terms of what calls we executed in spring are going to be the same calls we executed in the season. And what that meant was if you can master this, what fall can be. So that's just one example. But there's got to be substance behind it.
Confidence is a great quality, but it's got to be real confidence. When you get on this stage, when you get this deep into it -- and obviously some of the moments that we had over the course of the season as you're trying to play championship football -- there has to be something you can really draw from in those moments.
Not just simply, again, a rah-rah deal to hopefully create a mentality. There's something behind that. Ultimately, what's behind that is the competitors to my left, guys that kind of bought into a vision.
From a coaching staff standpoint, they talked about the message. It's making sure that the message and the output kind of match in terms of what we're asking these guys to do on a week-to-week basis and, obviously, on a daily basis.
Q. Neville and Kenneth, LSU described your defense as probably the fastest one they've seen all season. I'm curious as to if you guys feel that that's an identity you've developed and, if so, how?
KENNETH MURRAY: Most definitely. I think one of our goals this season was to have one of the fastest defenses in the country. So I think that's something that's been presented to us by our coaches and that's something that we truly try to embody.
I think when Coach Grinch first came in, he talked about straining to the ball. I think early on in the process, we found ourselves straining to the ball and not really understanding that if we strain to the ball, it really can become a weapon and really become our identity.
I think through our time, going throughout the summer and stuff like that, we truly figured out that straining to the ball is something that can be a weapon for us, can be something that's positive and it's something that we do with a purpose.
So I think we take a lot of pride in flying around to the ball. Then when we don't fly around to the ball, it's something that we hear about from our coaches. So I think that's what keeps us accountable.
THE MODERATOR: Neville.
NEVILLE GALLIMORE: It goes back to being comfortable, being uncomfortable. Like Kenneth said early on, it's one thing to strain, but we didn't really have an understanding. But now we just kind of are at the point where we understand the success and the energy and passion that's shown when you've got 11 guys flying to the ball.
It's one thing when your fast guys are doing it, but even being a D-lineman, it's a sense of pride that comes into playing at a high level consistency, and that goes back to Coach Grinch and all the defensive coaches just kind of instilling that that's not -- that's not just something you do; it's a requirement.
Again, that's one of the goals that we had. We wanted to have the fastest defense. But it's one thing to talk about it. It's something that we stress. The standard and the expectation that our coaches have are going to be extremely high, and the biggest focus is either to match or pass that.
Any time there's a situation where it's below that, again, we get addressed and we've got to do our best to meet that standard. That just goes back to our preparation. This all started way before a lot of people realized.
It goes back to it's about us and how we can have an impact in every way possible. Straining to the ball is something that doesn't require talent or anything, it's just your want, your effort, your understanding that you have a job to do.
No matter what the situation is, you selling out, you giving it all can compensate for a lot of things.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports