Oklahoma football: Sooners want to start season strong and keep pedal down

New Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley wants his team to get out of the gate fast and with authority when the season gets underway a little over a month from now.

He wants to see the Sooners get back to the way of the Oklahoma teams of old and play with greater physicality and be more aggressive in the defensive side of the ball.

A year ago, OU built momentum and got stronger as the season progressed, but the Sooners did not play with the same sense of urgency, purpose and accountability at the beginning that they did at the end. The result was two decisive losses in their first three games and a 1-2 record before they managed to pull together and get off of the schneid.

This time around, the Sooners aren’t waiting until Sept.  2, or even the start of August preseason practice to get started.

Under Bob Stoops’ coaching reign strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt typically eased the players into an eight-week preseason training routine, allowing the players to gradually ramp up their conditioning and giving them some grace time to work out the offseason cobwebs.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield says things are much different this preseason. The Sooners recognize that to start the season strong, they need to approach their preseason training schedule the same way.

“Schmitty cranked it up on us (this summer),” Mayfield told Oklahoma City Oklahoman OU beat reporter Brooke Pryor, “but that’s how it should  be.

“I think the guys on the team agree that its the hardest start to a summer that we have ever had.”

Said Riley at Big 12 Media Days last week: “I think the big thing is to start faster. Offensively, we’ve got to be better, especially in the red-zone area early in the season.”

The tougher summer workout schedule is part of what Mayfield and his teammates are calling a season of accountability.

“People know what’s expected,” Mayfield said. “People are holding each other accountable, and we’re getting the best out of everybody (this summer).”

The Sooner players are transforming words into actions this summer. They are wearing practice shirts with the letters “ATL” on them. The “ATL” acronym has a dual meaning. It stands for Atlanta, site of the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship, as well as an abbreviation for “Attitude,” “Toughness” and “Leadership.”

If the stepped up summer training schedule is any indication, the Sooners are taking the 2017 season more seriously and with greater urgency than was the case this time a year ago.

Don’t expect Oklahoma to sputter and misfire in the early going this fall. The memory of last September is still very fresh in the Sooners’ minds, and that should be enough the course of history this time around.