Orange Bowl notebook: Joe Mixon’s awkward return, Baker Mayfield’s swag and more
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The biggest spectacle of Tuesday’s Orange Bowl Media Day was the 50 or so reporters circled around a small high-top table waiting for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, whom the Sooners were making available for the first time since he was charged with misdemeanor assault after punching a woman in the face and breaking several of her facial bones.
Prior to the player’s arrival, an Orange Bowl media relations staffer informed the group of reporters that questions for media would be "football only" or they would be asked to leave. It was later clarified that the Orange Bowl staffer was speaking out of turn. That only inflamed an already awkward situation.
After Mixon arrived, he was asked if he was sorry about what happened (with the incident) and replied: "I won’t answer that."
Mixon was asked if he planned to address what happened in the future.
Mixon: "My lawyer will."
At one point, Mixon was asked if he had "any regrets at all to anything," and he replied "No."
A lot of other reporters stuck around the Mixon scrum a lot longer than I did. It seemed apparent that Mixon and his lawyer anticipate a civil suit. Sooners AD Joe Castiglione later told reporters that legal concerns were why Mixon wouldn’t be able to field questions about the incident today.
I’ve attended many media days over the past 20 years covering the sport. This was the most unusual. Since Oklahoma held off until now on making Mixon available, it added more heat to an already combustible situation, and because the Orange Bowl PR staff didn’t seem to anticipate the dynamic, it got even messier.
Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander is a product of his strong beginnings
One of the bigger crowds awaiting a Clemson player was around Mackensie Alexander, the Tigers’ standout cornerback. The loquacious DB, who blanketed Oklahoma star wideout Sterling Shepard last year in the Russell Athletic Bowl and contained Notre Dame standout Will Fuller earlier this season, didn’t launch into any braggadocious, trash-talking rant. At one point, when asked about Shepard, Alexander replied: "He’s No. 3, and he’s 5-10 and I have nothing else to say."
Alexander did go on to use the word "brand" a lot — as in, "I don’t think, as far as brand-wise, everybody respects the brand of Clemson [football]." But mostly, he seemed more willing to talk about honing his craft as a cornerback, his love for football and his pride in where he has come from.
"I am living the Haitian-American dream," said Alexander, who grew up in the same hardscrabble town in southwest Florida that produced NFL great Edgerrin James. The old Miami star, who once donated $250,000 to his alma mater, has been a huge positive influence in his community. James bought championship rings for his old school in 2004 when they won the state title. He also donated $100,000 to the school.
Alexander and James have become close. They speak often, Alexander said, adding that they’d just chatted over the weekend. Alexander told me the first time he met James was when the Clemson DB was a high school freshman out on the practice field by himself doing footwork drills. James spotted him and approached.
"’Kids like you don’t do this no more,’" he said James told him. "’They don’t work on their own. They don’t push themselves.’ He pushed me when he said that. That was big for me."
Alexander said he’s dedicated to giving back to that same community as well. "I am hope to my town."
A big part of that is because of how well he has honed his craft — playing cornerback. "It’s all in the details," he said. "Everything matters. I am fluent in cornerback."
The All-ACC corner, a redshirt sophomore, also said he has made no decision about whether he plans to skip his final two seasons of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.
"I’m a college athlete still and that’s my focus," he said. "We’ll see what happens after that. My family is behind me 100 percent. Coach [Dabo] Swinney is behind me 100 percent. I’m not really worried about that, and I just want to win a national championship. That’s all that matters."
Baker Mayfield: an emotional, cool and sincere player
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who generated headlines with his comments Monday about TCU and their head coach Gary Patterson, was asked by a reporter about whether he intended to get a rise out of the Horned Frogs coach.
"No, you guys asked me about my recruiting process, and I answered it truthfully," said Mayfield. "It is what it is. Ultimately, I’m here to play in the Orange Bowl, and that’s what I’m focused on."
As I wrote Monday, Mayfield seems to thrive on using these slights (real and perceived) as motivation. But he knows it is a delicate balance, he told me Tuesday.
"I’m an emotional player," he said. "I feel like that’s what carries my energy level and my attitude. That’s been my big thing throughout this year — trying to focus in on what’s worked for me and what level I need to be at. I’ve done a good job of balancing it out and Coach [Lincoln] Riley’s done a good job with it."
Speaking of Mayfield, since his recruitment became a story again this week, I asked him exactly which FBS schools did offer him a scholarship out of high school.
Mayfield: Army, FAU, New Mexico, Rice and Washington State.
Mayfield may have gotten under the skin of rival teams and their fans, but many of his teammates rave about the guy. Asked the thing that impresses him most about Mayfield, Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook didn’t hesitate.
"He’s just a really cool guy," Westbrook added, saying that Mayfield’s also probably the best dancer on the Oklahoma team. "Every hot new dance he knows how to do."
Sooners’ Trevor Knight has a big decision to make
He’s just a really cool guy. Every hot new dance he knows how to do.
-- Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook, on QB Baker Mayfield
The Sooners’ backup quarterback, Trevor Knight, has said he will transfer (and be eligible in 2016 because he’s a grad student), but that’s not the priority right now.
"I’m all in here," he told FOX Sports Tuesday. "I am 100 percent committed to being the best teammate and leader I can be here."
Knight will scramble after the Sooners’ season concludes to figure out his next move depending on when his new school begins its next semester, he said.
"It’ll be a crazy deal [when he goes through this recruiting process]."
Watch out for Neville Gallimore
A name to remember for down the road at Oklahoma: Neville Gallimore, a former four-star freshman defensive tackle who is redshirting this season. Several Sooners players and coaches mentioned Gallimore when I asked who is someone not playing this season who will have an impact very soon for Oklahoma. Gallimore is listed at 6 feet 3, 345 pounds, but he told me he’s actually shed 45 pounds since arriving in Norman and recovering from ankle and knee injuries.
"I’ve cut down on processed foods and fast foods," Gallimore said.