Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard has a good case as the Big 12's best offensive lineman, and this week he took some time out with ESPN.com to talk about his spot in the middle of the Sooners line as well as this weekend's game against Kansas State.
Note: Portions of this interview were cut for length.
What kind of energy do you feel like the team has entering a pretty anticipated week?
I feel like we got lots of rest last week and a long weekend off, so we definitely brought a lot of energy into this week of practice, and we’re excited to play our first ranked opponent and a great team in K-State. We’ve got a really positive attitude in practice and toward the game. That’s just kind of one great thing about the team this year. We all have a great attitude and enjoy each other, so there’s a lot of positive energy.
What do you feel like you can prove this weekend?
It’s our first conference game, so one of the things we wanted to do was get off to a good start. I don’t feel necessarily that we have something to prove, but we want to come out and play sharp, play well, play crisp and play clean. It’s one of the things where you want to come out and give your best performance in your conference opener.
We hear so much about the way Oklahoma plays at home, why do you feel like that is?
I think we just have some of the best fans in the country. With 85,000, it gets pretty loud. It’s a great place to play. We got the natural grass, we don’t have turf anymore. We’re just very comfortable here and we get a lot of support from our fans. Other than that, once the whistle blows for the first play, it doesn’t matter where you play. It’s football. There’s something to home-field advantage.
Is there a sense of invincibility at times when you’re at home?
No (laughs). Not once we got embarrassed by Texas Tech last year. If anyone on this team had that feeling and was around here for that game, that notion went out the window.
What specifically needs to be better for you guys on the line?
The biggest thing we’ve got to keep building on is the physicality in the run game and the physicality in pass protection. Those are the two biggest things we’ve got to work on every single day. We’ve got to open up the holes for Dom and Damien and those guys and we need to give Landry time. We’ve got all kinds of superstar wide receivers, and it’s ultimately on our shoulders to let those players make plays.
What do you see when you look at Kansas State’s defensive line on tape?
I see talented guys. They’ve got quick hands, they’re quick-twitch guys who can rip inside real quick, use spin moves, use flip moves on the edge. Then they’ve got big, thick defensive tackles who really clog up gaps and clog up blockers in the run game, so they’re very talented on the defensive line and very talented at linebacker. We’re getting ready to play the best competition we’ve played, and we’ve just got to get prepared in practice for that.
What players stuck out to you?
The ends. No. 42 [Meshak Williams] making a lot of nice plays. When you drop back to pass, he’s a really good pass-rush guy. The guy who jumps off tape, though is [linebacker] Arthur Brown. He’s got a great motor and you can tell how hard he plays. He’s got great technique when he tries to shed blocks and shed linemen, getting under guys. He’s really the best defensive player we’ve seen on tape so far. He’s definitely a very talented guy.
You’re the only team that really handled K-State in the regular season a year ago. What are you expecting this time around?
I just expect to come out and play our best, but I expect them to bring a lot of energy. They’re a team that’s very good on the road, they always focus. They’re very disciplined, they don’t make mistakes and expect you to beat yourself. So, we’ve just got to come out, play disciplined, play hard, execute and it should be a good game for us.