SAN ANTONIO – Safe to say this wasn’t how Brian Odom thought his first press conference as a defensive coordinator was going to come about, but safe to say anything in the last month isn’t what people had expected.
Odom will be coaching linebackers at USC once Wednesday night is in the books, but he’s all-in for one final ride at Oklahoma coaching the defense for the Sooners against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
He has spent the last three seasons coaching inside linebackers for the Sooners. But when former coach Lincoln Riley stunned everyone and left for USC, Odom had a tough choice about his future and decided to follow along.
That was a tough choice. Coaching for OU in the bowl game, not at all.
“I don’t think it was really ever a decision. Just as long as it was worked out between both universities, and as long as they allowed it, then I was all in,” said Odom on Sunday afternoon. “I never hesitated about doing this. You know what, I’m here to be able to go do a job and do it for the locker room and for these guys sitting right here. But there was never any kind of hesitation on my part, and with that being said, I’m excited about doing it.”
Odom said he started talking to every defensive mind he could think of in getting ready for this one. A couple of clear goals – reduce the stress of the players who are still with OU and an opportunity, albeit for just a limited time, to show people what he can do in this role.
“Be yourself. Be yourself. Let your personality come through,” Odom said. “A lot of it was just kind of – they know me. They know the preparation habits that I have, and trust your preparation.”
Fields’ last hurrah
Mention a lot of the coaches coming back for one final game in Odom, Jamar Cain and Calvin Thibodeaux. It’s also, obviously, going to be the final game for a lot of Sooners as well.
Someone who has come to epitomize OU in recent years in Pat Fields. The two-time captain has the option to return in 2022 because of the COVID year, but has said repeatedly this is his last go-around.
“I just appreciate the university so much for just helping me grow and develop as a man,” Fields said. “And I think the biggest thing I can’t emphasize enough is like the family feel that we have here, and I think Coach Odom hit on it earlier whenever he spoke, but Coach Grinch, Coach Cain, Coach Thibs, Coach Odom, Coach Manning, all those guys I consider them family, and I think everybody who’s been through the Speed D era with them considers them family because every single day they’ve challenged us, they’ve pushed us, they’ve made us uncomfortable, but because of that, all the older guys can appreciate how much we’ve grown and we’ve developed as men.
“So you know, just going out in this game last with all my guys, with my coaches who – I consider Coach Odom, that’s my guy, that’s my coach. Same thing with everybody else; I wouldn’t want to go out any other way. I think we’re going to make it one heck of a game and one heck of an experience.”
Who is leaving, who is staying, one of those questions was answered by cornerback Woodi Washington by announcing he is returning to OU in 2022.
Washington is three years removed from high school, so he could have left for the NFL Draft. And, of course, he could and can transfer whenever he wants.
But it’s not now.
“No, I’m definitely coming back next year,” Washington said.
Washington said he’s excited about the prospects of playing under new head coach Brent Venables, but his mindset right now was to get through the Alamo Bowl and finish 2021 strong.
Johnson on the rise
The craziness of the last month did allow for some staff members to make their presence known. Will Johnson knows what it’s like to be a Sooner, playing for OU from 2015-17.
He’s been back as a defensive graduate assistant, and he’s played a major role in getting the defense ready for the Ducks.
“Will is one of those guys that you knew he always had it in him, but his growth from year one to year two has been – I mean, it’s been pretty substantial,” Odom said. “The places that Will does a really, really great job is the one-on-one.
“If he’s sitting there talking to a kid, talking about technique, or if he’s talking to a kid watching film with him. He’s really, really good as far as technique and his knowledge of the scheme is outstanding from the back-end’s perspective.”
“You know, being able to go against Caleb Williams, I’ll just go back to spring ball, and one of our linebackers named Shane Whitter. Shane is one of the fastest guys on the whole team. Shane was playing a position where he would be responsible for the quarterback in a quarter one zone read. Caleb outran him to the sideline, and I was really confused about — I thought Shane wasn’t giving great effort because Caleb beat him to the sideline.
“Come to find out, Caleb Williams runs about 21 miles an hour, so he’s obviously a threat when he carries the ball. He’s got a tremendous release.
The thing I do like about Caleb, though, is his energy and his leadership ability from the quarterback position and just being able to be a likable guy, and a lot of times you can kind of measure that when my own son goes up there and he goes to practice and he goes and — handshake or dap up my 12-year-old son. He doesn’t necessarily know that that’s my son, but that’s kind of who he is. I think he’s a special one.” – Odom on when he knew freshman QB Caleb Williams was special