It's a whole different world at Tulsa (Okla.) Union this season. New coaches. New attitude. A renewed focus on excellence. And if you ask kicker and Sooner commitment Tress Way, he's glad that things have changed.
"Now coach (Kirk) Fridrich is here, it's like the old Union that everybody is used to," Way, the nation's No. 12 ranked kicker, said. "Everything looks like it's back to normal. We're going to turn some heads this season. A lot of people are overlooking us after what happened last year."
What happened last year was something that Union players and fans wish to forget.
Union, which did not win a playoff game for the first time since 1997, struggled with the transition to then-coach Kevin Wright's spread-option offense. This season Union is back to its more conventional pro-style attack that looks a lot like what lead them to state championships from 2002-2005. Way said that many of the players already feel more comfortable than what they did last year. That's partially because Fridrich was a Redskin assistant coach from 1993-2001.
"It's like having an old Union guy back," Way said. "We're doing things that we're all more used to and playing a style of ball that more fits what we can do. We're looking good. We've got a lot of returning starters. I'm liking what I'm seeing. We've got a really tough schedule to start with. We play in Ohio the first game against Canton McKinley and then against Jenks in the second week.
"People are overlooking us. I think we're going to turn some heads."
Way plans to do his part to help turn things around. He's worked hard this summer to prove that he's one of the nation's elite kickers and well worthy of an early scholarship offer from Oklahoma.
"He has a huge left leg and gets the ball up as quick as anyone in the country," kicking analyst Chris Sailer said. "Tress is also an outstanding punter."
Way earned an Oklahoma scholarship offer earlier this spring. He also picked up offers from San Diego State and Tulsa, but when the OU offer came in, he jumped on it. He's not looked back since.
"I'm definitely still 100 percent committed," Way said. "I'm really excited about getting a chance to compete and be a part of Oklahoma's success in the future."
Way will get a chance to see his future teammates in action this weekend.
"I think we might go down and watch the scrimmages," Way said. "It's amazing how perfect being committed to Oklahoma feels. It's just the right place for me."