Changing perceptions?: Tweet by former OU player scrutinizes program's image
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
11/23/11 at 2:30 AM
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NORMAN - At least one former Oklahoma player - one of Bob Stoops' all-time favorites, in fact - thinks his team's loss to Baylor last Saturday is a reflection of how things have changed within the program.
After Robert Griffin's touchdown pass to Terrance Williams gave the Bears a 45-38 victory over the Sooners, Brody Eldridge posted some pointed criticism to his Twitter account.
"That's what happens when you change everything about the program and let ESPN come in preseason and turn a humble program into an arrogant one," Eldridge tweeted.
His reference was Stoops' decision to allow ESPN cameras into the start of training camp, four days of all-access footage that resulted in an unprecedented look into Stoops' program.
Eldridge's point is that players getting a little too full of themselves contributed to the end of a 39-game home winning streak (ninth-longest in NCAA history) and the end of a 20-0 record versus the Bears (most wins against a conference opponent without a defeat of any team in the nation).
"That's Brody's opinion," Stoops said Tuesday. "I don't believe that's correct. I don't think we're any different than any other team we've had. And if it is, it isn't because ESPN was here for four days three or four months ago."
Eldridge soon tweeted he was wrong and said he loved his team. But by then his message had gotten out.
The Sooners began the year as college football's consensus No. 1 team, but a lackluster showing at home against Missouri knocked them out of the top spot. They were favored by 30 points against Tech, but lost 41-38. They were favored by 16 against Baylor and now have been eliminated from national championship contention.
OU has to win Saturday against Iowa State and then win on Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State (No. 2 in the nation last week before losing at Iowa State) to win its eighth Big 12 championship under Stoops.
Eldridge was part of an unprecedented three consecutive Big 12 championship teams.
He came to OU as an unheralded defensive end prospect out of tiny La Cygne, Kan., in 2005 a month after the Sooners lost to USC in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. He redshirted that season for an 8-5 Sooner team that Stoops later identified as having felt entitled. Eldridge moved to tight end, then shifted to fullback (he was All-Big 12 there in 2007), then back to tight end before playing guard and even center in 2009. Now he's in his second season as a designated blocker - an H-back or tight end - for the Indianapolis Colts.
Eldridge embodies Stoops' favorite qualities: toughness, humility, selflessness, a hard-nosed, blue-collar, team-first mentality.
"It comes across to me as a prideful guy that cares about our program who was as rough and tough a guy as we had, and that's what he wants to see," Stoops said.
Players spoke about Eldridge's sentiments after practice on Monday night, addressing questions about whether Stoops' program had grown arrogant or even soft.
"Brody's all about being quiet and not being like out in the open," said junior center and co-captain Ben Habern. "I think he just, probably in his mind he didn't like it because he was just thinking it gets your mind off what the whole point of two-a-days is, preparing for the season and going hard and all that kind of stuff. He probably thought it had gotten our minds off it and basically thought, 'They (ESPN) are here because they think we're gonna win the national championship' and all that stuff."
Stoops was asked if he was at all worried that some of what Eldridge suggested might be true.
"No," he said. "Just because they were here for four days didn't change our program. Maybe what everybody says about (players) all year might turn a humble kid into one that isn't. But you (local media) guys are writing about 'em every day and talking to 'em. Just because someone was here for four days didn't change us."
Stoops said fans needn't worry about players' on-camera actions during the program, particularly the "sharks", the group of defensive backs who danced and showboated and mugged for cameras and talked playful trash on their offensive teammates.
The same Sooner defensive backs who have been susceptible to giving up big plays all season.
Stoops acknowledged a bit of clowning, but said the players weren't clowns.
"Got a bunch of young guys, young kids on the team that are like other young people around the country," he said. "We showed a lot of maturity in a lot of ways (on the show). Again, what, just because a guy has something funny to say, that's a problem?"
Strong safety Aaron Colvin, a sophomore, was one of the most animated players during the preseason show. But he's also been one of OU's most consistent defenders. Colvin also said Eldridge's original sentiments were misguided.
"I don't think we have any arrogant guys," Colvin said. "We're trying to play with a swagger and we're just trying to have fun out here. That's what we tried to imply this year. Before the season even started, we said, 'Let's play with a swagger, let's play with an edge all the time.' So that's what we were trying to do. It just so happened to be that ESPN was there, the cameras were there to watch us do that.
"We're 18 or 19 years old. Some of us just got out of high school. I mean, there's still some immaturity, I guess you could say, if people want to say that. But I don't think of it as that. I think of it as we're just trying to have fun, come out here and compete."
BIG 12: IOWA STATE (6-4, 3-4) AT OKLAHOMA (8-2, 5-2)
11 a.m. Saturday • Owen Field, Norman • TV: FX-35 • Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Changing perceptions?
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OU's Jamell Fleming (right) and Javon Harris celebrate a big play earlier this season. Bob Stoops says arrogance is not a problem for the Sooners. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World