The Norman Transcript

December 18, 2013

Sooners juggling offensive line with injuries to Thompson, Shead

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — For the last month, Oklahoma has cobbled together offensive game plans based on who was available. Injuries necessitated a lot of changes on the fly.

Some of those injuries have healed. Both quarterbacks — Trevor Knight and Blake Bell — are healthy as the Sooners prepare to face No. 3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Others ailments will not. Both left tackle Tyrus Thompson and left guard Adam Shead are expected to miss the game with injuries.

But at least offensive coordinator Josh Heupel knows what he expects to have available when the Sooners take the field Jan. 2 at the Super Dome.

“We mixed and matched and some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t. You have a couple different injuries that happened in the last couple weeks of the season. You try to put those guys in position to be successful,” he said. “We’ll have a mixture of a little bit of everything heading into the Sugar Bowl and try to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame.”

The 11th-ranked Sooners haven’t named a starting quarterback for the game, and it’s highly unlikely that they will.

The reason: they want the Crimson Tide to prepare for both and the unique challenges both bring.

It was on display in the victory against Oklahoma State 11 days ago. The Sooners shifted from an option, running team when Knight was injured late in the first half, to a spread passing team with Bell on the field.

“We’ve battled injuries and we’ve battled adversity, but we’ve always found people to step up and make plays,” Knight said. “People got down on us, but here we are with a 10-win team and in the Sugar Bowl against a great Alabama team.”

Which will OU favor against the Crimson Tide? Neither OU coach Bob Stoops or Heupel will tip his hand.

There’s a lot that seems to point in the direction of Knight. OU center Gabe Ikard said Monday that OU had already started studying the tape from Alabama’s Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. The Crimson Tide gave up 296 rushing yards in that game with quarterback Nick Marshall rushing for 99.

“There’s a mixture of things they did; it wasn’t just zone read. It was just part of what they did,” Heupel said. “They did a good job of executing with their front five guys. Their front did a really good job of getting some movement from the down guys. Then they had some skill guys who could make some plays in space. The quarterback is an explosive player and the running back is as good as they come. They had some special players make some plays.”

Does OU have the same? It if does, it’s been waiting all season for that to come out.

But it has to be two dimensional to have any shot against the Crimson Tide.

“Our No. 1 goal is going to be to able to run the football. That’s been our goal every game this year and the games we haven’t been able to run the football is the games we lost,” center Gabe Ikard said. “It’s not make or break and we’re going to have to take some shots downfield but we’ve got to be able to establish the run or else it’s going to be a long day for us on offense.”

The Sooners have a little over two weeks to figure it out. The Bedlam game showed it has a lot to pick through.

“We used a little bit of everything in the last ballgame,” Heupel said. “Finding who gives us the best chance and the style of offense that gives us the best chance is something we’re gonna continue to work through.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn


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