NORMAN — In his first year as Oklahoma’s head coach in 2017, Lincoln Riley led OU to a Big 12 title, a No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff and a final No. 3 national ranking. On Friday morning, year No. 2 of the Riley era got underway with a two-hour, 20-minute practice at OU’s rugby fields.
The practice was the first of 25 scheduled on-field workouts before the Sooners open their season Sept. 1 at home against Florida Atlantic.
Riley, whose Sooners went 12-2 last year, said Friday’s session, with temperatures in the 80s, went about as expected.
“It was really good,” he commented immediately after the practice. “Great energy and enthusiasm; they were really chomping at the bit to get out here. I’d say it was a typical first day in terms of execution. The young guys were figuring it out; a lot of rust with all of our guys. We’ve got a long, long way to go, but it was a good start.”
Asked about the quarterback battle between Austin Kendall and Kyler Murray, and what he’s looking to see from both guys during camp, Riley stressed the importance of keeping things simple and not overreacting.
“Probably not trying to do too much,” he answered. “Those guys have repped a lot around here. They know what we’re doing, (but) they still have to get a lot better at it. But probably just playing within themselves and the way they carry themselves when they make a mistake. You can’t sit there and think, ‘One mistake’s going to kill me,’ or this or that. You’ve got to be able to play through the ups and downs, just like they’re going to have to during the season. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.”
Preseason All-Big 12 offensive lineman Bobby Evans echoed Riley’s sentiments about Friday’s practice.
“I think it went well. There was a lot of competition out there today,” said Evans. “I think our defense looked really good; they looked hungry. I’m excited. We were all just ready to get back out here and do our thing.”
As well as Friday’s workout seemed to go, junior defensive lineman Neville Gallimore said he and his teammates know a lot of improvements have to happen before the Owls come to town in four weeks.
“It was a good start,” said Gallimore. “Obviously we’ve got a long way to go and we have a lot of opportunities to prove ourselves. There are a lot of things we need to clean up and a lot of steps we have to take to see results. But this is Oklahoma and we understand that in practice we’re going to go up against the best. We’re going to get the best out of our offense and they’re going to get the best out of us. Guys understand that this is only Day 1.”
Riley added that Friday’s workout had a little bit of a different feel for him than last year’s opening practice.
“I feel a little more settled. It’s not moving quite as fast at me, I would say.”
With a smile, he added, “(Unlike last year) I remembered (at the end of practice today) that I was the one who needed to blow them up, break them down and make announcements.”
Riley and the Sooners will be back on the practice field Saturday.