By Michael Kinney
Other than Mike Stoops, no one at Oklahoma was more in the eye of the storm the past 10 days than linebacker Curtis Bolton.
With rumors of him getting into a physical confrontation with Stoops at halftime of the game against Texas then walking out on the team, the senior’s character had been called into question by some.
Bolton addressed the situation publicly for the first time Tuesday after practice and denied many of the allegations that had been reported about the halftime incident.
“It kind of blows my mind… At the end of the day a reporter is not going to report something if they don’t trust their source,” Bolton said. “The fact that that story got out, the reporter obviously felt like it was somebody close to the locker room or in the locker room that would drop a story like that. This is an intense sport. Obviously, things are heightened in Texas week. But for someone to drop that there was this big fist fighting the locker room, just blows my mind. Not even from my end, but just from this team. It makes the team look bad. I could care less if people think I fought my coach. My coaching staff knows what happened, my teammates know what happened.”
What did happen?
“At the end of the day there was no huge argument, there was no huge fist fight,” Bolton said. “I was a little frustrated with how we were playing. I was a little frustrated I didn’t play in the second quarter. We got in the locker room, I got my checks through my coaches, things got heated in there just how they always do. A guy like me, sometimes I just need my space. I was getting a little to riled up in there. The crazy thing about is me and coach Stoops didn’t personally exchange a word in the locker room. So it’s crazy to me someone would drop that (story). Coach Stoops was pissed off with how we were playing. He has every right, he was the D-coordinator at the time and we weren’t playing good, we weren’t playing up to the standard. That’s not the problem I had. My problems were more internally. I just needed to get some air and the next thing you know people see me walking out of the locker room pissed and all this I quit on my team. I just wanted to nip that in the bud where it stood because I care about this team. I love this team.”
Bolton says he didn’t quit on the team
“I’m not going to walk out on them. I needed some air. That’s all it was. I needed some air to lock in. I think I came out in the second half and played pretty good personally. I love this team. I’m not going to quit on it,” Bolton said. “I didn’t spend four years on the bench to work my tail off to get a starting spot in my senior year and walk out in the Texas game. I’m a leader of this team. I could have handled it better. Of course, that’s just reflection. I’ve got handle situations like that better. But it’s not about me anymore. I have to set an example for this team. At the end of the day, this story where me and coach Mike are in a fist fight in the locker room is just completely untrue. The fact that it was out there kind of pissed me off.”
The temperature of the team
The Sooners are looking to put all the drama of the Texas loss behind them as they host TCU Saturday in Ft. Worth.
“They are ready to go,” Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “We had a really snappy practice on Monday. We began to try to solve some things for the game coming up. I thought the kids came out after getting a couple of days away from us and us from them, they came out with some pep in their step.”
Are the Sooners buying in?
Less than two weeks on the job as the Sooners defensive coordinator, McNeill was asked if the Sooners are buying what he is trying to install.
“Gameday is a part of the test,” McNeill said. “But for me, it’s a lot of tests before that. And not just because of what’s happened since I’ve been blessed to be at Oklahoma, we’ve been testing one another. They know how I feel about them, I know how they feel about me and us as a staff. The biggest thing like boss (Lincoln Riley) was talking about was just making sure everybody understands it’s we, us and ours. In those three words, there is no I. We’ve been talking about that for a while. The kids are grasping that. You see it coming.”
With only six games left in the season, McNeill isn’t trying to overhaul the entire defense. He does want to make the players more accountable.
“I haven’t had to do that much,” McNeill said. “The kids are willing to do whatever. We talk this way, ‘It’s not the call, they’re the call.’ The players are the call. They know that. Whatever we call, if it’s just a base call, they’re the call. That’s putting ownership back on them. I think the kids appreciate that.”
Keeping it simple
“Coach Ruff is pretty much trying to keep it the same,” linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “Not trying to change too much in the middle of the season. But he has been able to keep it simplified for us and let just go out there and fly around. The main thing with him has been preaching effort, fundamentals, and discipline.”
Murray likes how the defense has looked in practice
“I think we’ve been looking good,” Murray said. “I think coach Ruff is putting together a great game plan. I feel like all the guys have been flying around at practice, so I think we’ve been looking good, making strides to become better at what we need to become better at. Just looking forward to getting out there Saturday and playing a great game.”
What’s up with Bookie?
Through six games, Brendan Radley-Hiles (aka Bookie) has collected 28 total tackles from his spot in the secondary. Many may have been expecting more, but McNeill says he is on pace for a freshman.
“I think Bookie, for a first-year player, at this level of football in the Big 12, and the level we play, has really handled himself well,” McNeill said. “I think you’ll see constant improvement; A lot of times expectations are put on certain players and people. Bookie has handled it well and I think he will keep handling it the older he gets.”
New direction under McNeill
“At the end of the day, they know we have talent. It’s not the talent that’s hurting us. It’s not the coaching that’s hurting us. It’s not the scheme. The scheme hurts us sometimes. But it’s not the scheme that hurts us overall,” Bolton said. “We just have to find a way to put all three of those together. And play a complete game. I think the change in coach Ruff getting the DC job and them not bringing in someone new, I think it was more of a respect thing from coach Riley. He has a lot of respect from coach Ruff. I think it stems from trust. I trust that man. I trust his direction with this team, with this defense. If we can continue to trust each other as players. I think the confidence will continue building.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider