The NFL has banned the Oklahoma drill from its practices, leading to natural speculation that college football could one day soon follow suit. That doesn’t concern South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp at all.
He doesn’t even know what an “Oklahoma” drill is, he claims.
“I have no idea what an Oklahoma drill is,” Muschamp said.
As a onetime defensive coordinator at the University of Texas, Muschamp still steers clear of all thing Sooner-associated it seems, but almost every school in the country does some version of the drill and many brand it as their own. At South Carolina, it’s called the “Cock drill.”
“Oh, now I know what you’re talking about,” Muschamp said at the reference to “Cock drill.”
Former Oklahoma head coach Bud Wilkinson is credited with inventing the drill in the 1940s, hence the name. When Wilkinson’s teams won 47 straight games from 1953-1957, the drill exploded in popularity and expanded across the country.
However, the NFL asked its teams to stop the practice — along with drills called “half line” and “bull in the ring” — during its spring meetings this year. That request was in response to league data that showed a high rate of concussions early in training camps, when the Oklahoma drill is most often run.
“We saw a certain area at the beginning of training camp where we felt we could make greater improvement,” commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN.com, “and I think removing some of these drills across all 32 teams is the right way to do that. We also believe by prohibiting some of these drills, that will happen at the college and high school and youth football levels, which we believe should happen.’”
Muschamp said he believes the drill is safe for players.
“I saw what the NFL’s statement was, and we will continue to work with our medical staff and do what is the safest way for us to have a very physical football team,” Muschamp said.
In most modern variations of the Oklahoma drill, including the one South Carolina uses, a blocker and tackler line up across from each other in a three-point stance and a runner tries to run behind the blocker in a 3-yard wide chute.
“It’s a drill that teaches offensively to finish a block, to get your hands inside, to play with pad level, to do all the basic fundamentals you do on every single snap in a football game,” Muschamp said. “Defensively, same thing, great pad level, great explosion, teaches you to get off a block and make a tackle. It teaches a running back to finish a run, to run through contact. The basic fundamentals of what you would say happens on every single football play goes into that drill.
“It’s man-on-man and lining up and whipping somebody’s ass. That’s what it all comes down to.”
There are various versions of the drill.
“The first thing when you say the Oklahoma drill, what is that? Because everybody has a different perception of what that is,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Oklahoma with two men as battering rams 10 yards apart, I would never do that. I don’t think that’s football. I don’t know what you define as the Oklahoma drill. I don’t know how to say whether we do it or not. We are as safe as we can be.”
The Bulldogs have live tackling at practices three to four times in the spring and two to three times in the fall, Smart said.
“Just like football evolved, offensively, defensively, special teams, everything changes,” Smart said. “So has our belief in tackling. And I think that will continue to be that way. Everybody’s looking for a better way. I think you’re constantly looking for a better way. Some coaches would argue that you need a lot of contact to get where you need to go. Some coaches would argue you need a better athlete to be able to tackle a better athlete, so you go out and recruit better.”
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer and formerly a professor of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt, spoke to the SEC’s football coaches on Tuesday.
“I felt it was important to introduce to our coaches what is going on in football around us,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We just asked him to highlight their decision-making at the NFL level.”
The SEC will not make any mandates about practice drills at this year’s meeting, Sankey said.
“Not today,” he said.
“If they make a rule about it, we’ll follow the rule,” Muschamp said. “If there’s medical evidence that shows that it’s a harm to your players, then certainly we are going to take it into consideration.”