Another sign the SEC era is upon us: Sooners’ practice-field trash talking

Another sign the SEC era is upon us: Sooners’ practice-field trash talking

The Sooners say Brent Venables is allowing more trash-talking on the practice field in preparation for the SEC.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Apr 14, 2024, 6:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Apr 14, 2024, 6:00am CDT

NORMAN — Da’Jon Terry figures that OU football is ready for the Southeastern Conference. The nose guard can tell it on the practice field.

The trash talking is a dead giveaway.

“Yes sir. A lot of trash talking,” said Terry. “There’s a lot more trash talking in the SEC, I can say that, from playing there. There’s a lot more trash talking. They been getting after it on the field.”

And that’s fine with Terry.

“I like trash talking,” Terry said. “Everybody been trash talking.”

Terry is an expert on Big 12-to-SEC transitions. He signed with Kansas out of high school in Meridian, Mississippi, then two years later transferred to Tennessee. Two years after that, Terry transferred to OU. He’s been Big 12 to SEC, back to the Big 12, and now with the Sooners switching conferences on July 1, it’s back to the SEC for the sixth-year nose guard.

Terry made seven starts for the 2022 Volunteers, then four starts for the 2023 Sooners.

Those ‘22 Volunteers upset Alabama 52-49, and their attitude drew the notice of Bama star linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, who labeled the Vols the trash-talkingest team in the SEC.

“Definitely my guys at Tennessee,” To’oTo’o said. “They can talk some trash. Them guys at Tennessee like talking trash.”

To’oTo’o is not making it up.

Last summer, Volunteer offensive tackle Gerald Mincey used Instagram to announce that Tennessee “we funna whoop that ass,” talking about Georgia’s visit to Neyland Stadium in November. Georgia eventually won 38-10. 

The previous season, former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge used Twitter to suggest that Georgia’s Sanford Stadium is “not that loud and definitely not intimidating.”

Down South, that’s as uncouth as declaring that somebody’s mother wears combat boots. By the way, Georgia won that showdown, too, 27-13.

But that’s the culture in which Terry was imbedded for two years, and that culture has migrated to Oklahoma, either via osmosis or carrier pigeon or Da’Jon Terry.

“Business is business when you’re on the field,” Terry said with a laugh. “You have your fun off the field. But when you’re on the field, everything is business. I feel like that’s what separates a lot of e programs.

“So yes, I definitely feel like an SEC environment, like from the coaches to the players, everybody’s bought in.”

The Sooners say spring practice has been more fiery than in the past, and Terry’s biggest disciple appears to be Jayden Gibson.

“Definitely,” said Gibson, who labels himself the king of OU trash talkers, and why not, since he’s a wide receiver, traditionally the position that produces the biggest mouths. “I feel like this year, it’s no secret, man, we’re going to the SEC, and the type of football that’s being played is different. I feel like even Coach V (Brent Venables) realizes that and just allowing us to go at each a little more is only going to make us better.”

Gibson recalled a conversation in winter workouts when the entire team came together to discuss the attitude going forward. That more vocal emotion was in order and for no one to take offense.

“Feels like, hey man, if we can’t talk trash with each other, then be in the locker room loving each other, then we don’t understand what we’re here for,” Gibson said. “We don’t understand the opportunity that we have, bro.”

Such an attitude doesn’t set well with certain generations, like mine and maybe yours. Such an attitude is counter to the ideals of all the pioneers who set up sport as something virtuous and pure, even though it never was and never should have been. Such an attitude probably doesn’t matter, since the sporting world is full of Tim Duncans, who listen to maniacal chatter with stoic glares, then win five NBA titles; full of Johnny Unitases, who famously listened to passionate pregame speeches, then responded, “Talk is cheap.”

But such an attitude is the reality. Probably was the reality in Soonerville even before the SEC advent and is even moreso now, since attitude has been the SEC fuel of the last 15 years.

Terry calls it a “dog mentality … I feel like it’s a different mindset, because you know you gotta work for everything you get. When I was in the SEC, everybody’s mindset was like that.”

Gibson knows that trash talking will turn off the more genteel among us. But he says the results are tangible. 

“People don’t want to hear, but that talking trash, getting your brother mad, getting ‘em upset, that only makes us better,” Gibson said of teammates. “That only makes us play harder in practice. It means something.”

Then Gibson went straight out of SEC central casting. “Makes it mean more,” he said. “I feel like that’s a positive, man. That’s the thing I’ve been wanting to come out on this team for a long time. Because there’s a lot of guys who have a lot of tenacity, a lot of heart. We all love each other. We’re all family here. Ain’t nobody taking a spark. We all want to be great. Definitely been an increase for sure.”

Gibson said fellow receiver Deion Burks is a partner in crime. Burks seems to have as much charisma and charm as any Sooner but apparently can trash talk with the best of them.

Burks transferred from Purdue in January, so he can’t compare past OU cultures. But he likes this one.

“Man, yeah, I love it,” Burks said. “Like it to happen everywhere. Having guys on the same field just being passionate about the same sport. Willing to get better and be great. Going to have a lot of guys be passionate about their position, but when we get in the locker room, I feel like it’s nothing but love. I think it’s a great thing.

“It’s just the standard we’re trying to uphold. BV (Venables) make a standard. We compete every day. We’re coming in trying to win. It’s a standard we’re trying to uphold. Our love for the game, as well.”

Trash-talking is a little bit like the spiritual side of sports, in which some believe divine intervention is routine.

I’m not too sure. Sort of like the story I’ve told before, about my late friend, OU historian Ed Frost. Ed’s father, Clancy, was a newspaper publisher in Hobart who always told his son that “God was on the side of the team with the biggest tackles.”

Football has changed, of course, and you might change that phrase to God is on the side of the team with the quarterback who can throw 35-yard squareouts.

Still, trash talking likely does have some effect. Not on the receiving end, since if you’re thrown off by verbal intimidation, you probably haven’t reached the college football level anyway. But the initiating end, the tosser of talking bombs, probably has an emboldening effect. Probably does fortify the emotions for a physically demanding game.

“Man, it’s football,” said OU sophomore linebacker Sammy Omosigho. “Football’s going to get chippy, it’s going to get physical. Dudes are going to talk, but at the end of the day, we’re all brothers. All on the same team. Same name on our chest.

“Man, we’re just trying to be great. Last year, we came up short. Can’t have that again. The physicality and competition is even higher this year, so we’re trying to be better. That comes with a little more trash talking, more physicality, but it’s all for the greater good of the Oklahoma Sooners.”

Gibson said it’s all about mentality. Football is a brutal game; we all know that. But he claims it’s as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge.

“That’s a big thing I stand on, bro,” Gibson said. “You gotta have the right mentality out here. You can’t come out here acting soft, you can’t come out here acting timid.  If you’re going to come out here, let a dude just push you, nudge you a little bit, you’re going to do that on the (game) field.  You’re going to let a dude push you, judge you. What’s the opponent going to do?

“Gotta keep it professional, obviously, We’re keeping it professional. We’re keeping it loving out here. But at the same time, it’s football. It’s going to get chippy, it’s going to get hot, man, and if you can’t bounce back and look at the guy across from you and say, ‘that’s still my brother,’ then you don’t need to be on the team, bro, and everybody that’s here is in accordance. So we don’t even worry about it.”

So the trash talking will slow on the spring practice field, and through summer workouts, and through August camp, and in September games at Owen Field against Temple, Houston and Tulane.

Then comes September 21, when the Sooners make their SEC debut, against — you guessed it — Tennessee.

For once, those with sideline passes will have the best vantage point. Football sidelines offer the worst views in the house, but what you see that Saturday at Owen Field might not be nearly as interesting as what you hear.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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