One hundred forty-three days was how long it had been since Oklahoma was back on the practice field, but the Sooners officially began preseason camp Friday morning.
Despite the fact the Big 12 conference has not announced the format of its season as all conferences have made adjustments because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was back to work for OU.
The Sooners were allowed to begin camp Friday because their opener against Missouri State was moved from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29 last weekend, allowing OU to start before the previously scheduled Aug. 7 date.
“You could feel that in the atmosphere today,” said Lincoln Riley in an interview with SoonerSports.com. “Guys just eager to be out here, very excited. Maybe even more than a normal opening of camp. They’re always fun, but this one had a different feel to it.”
OU didn’t bring its players back to campus until July 1 for voluntary workouts, but Riley said there were zero negative noticeable effects with summer conditioning. He said the players did a good job of staying in shape at home and being ready to come back to Norman and hit the grind.
Of course, this camp is like none other before it when it comes to the safety protocols that must be followed because of COVID-19. Whatever OU has been doing has clearly been working. The Sooners have not had a positive test in four weeks and have zero active cases.
As for how masks and things like that could alter practice, that’s just sort of what everybody is going to have to deal with for this season.
“It’s more about keeping the face covered,” Riley said. “And what we do kind of in between, we’re not changing a whole lot about our practices. We’ve gone for seven days now in the OTA period, and you know, even in that, we’ve done team drills, guys up next to each other.
“And as everybody knows, we tested again and had no positives, so we feel like what we’re doing is working. It’s not as much about what we’re doing as far as the drill, it’s limiting unnecessary times where guys are not socially distant and then everybody keeping their face covered.”
Switching to the on-field product, OU has seemingly been on the cusp of breaking through for a while. Five consecutive Big 12 championships and three straight berths in the college football playoff, but OU knows there’s another level to achieve.
It’s not the first 11 on offense and defense that will tell the 2020 story. The goal remains for OU to live up to its #WeTooDeep moniker and show it has the championship level depth necessary to make a legitimate chase for No. 8 (national championship).
“I mean, I would say there’s more talent out here,” Riley said. “There’s more good body types. It looks like we’ve got a lot of contributors on this field and a lot of guys that could potentially have a lot of big roles for this team. So, it’s exciting. And I feel like, I don’t think there’s a position right now that we’re not gonna have a lot of competitive depth.”
Something that has been seen throughout this week in NCAA and NFL are players opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns.
As of now, though, Riley said his squad is at full strength and everybody is ready to roll.
“No players sitting out,” Riley said. “And as far as medical history, it’s something we pay attention to with all our guys but obviously, that’s something they won’t let me get into.”