The Norman Transcript

December 31, 2013

Sooners still shuffling

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NEW ORLEANS —  The injuries to the left side of Oklahoma’s offensive line were a factor late in the season. Left guard Adam Shead and left tackle Tyrus Thompson have been out of the lineup since November, and neither will play against Alabama on Thursday in the Sugar Bowl.

How the Sooners cope with their absences appears to have changed. One of the options they’ve toyed with in the prep time since the regular season ended was moving Bronson Irwin from guard to right tackle and moving Daryl Williams from right tackle to left tackle.

No players would officially confirm what OU’s offensive line master plan is for the Sugar Bowl, but center Gabe Ikard confirmed the experimenting Monday.

“The three weeks of bowl practice has been good for us. Got a lot of guys good reps at different spots and shuffled people around and experimented with some lineups,” he said. “(Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and offensive graduate assistant Jon Cooper) have been able to weigh their options and see which option they like the best.”

Sophomore Derek Farniok started in place of Thompson against Oklahoma State Dec. 7.

Enjoying the competition: One of the reasons the Sooners have been able to reach the Sugar Bowl is Blake Bell and Trevor Knight have been able to handle the seesawing quarterback competition without creating an acrimonious relationship. In fact, the two are roommates for the Sugar Bowl trip.

“It’s been great. The thing that Coach Heup (Josh Heupel) has told us this year is you never know when you are going to be ready. You never know when you have to go in. We have a great relationship. We room on the road together. We look at it as a family deal and we’re excited to play with each other.”

“All the quarterbacks have been through a lot this season and I think we are all kind of used to going back and forth,” Bell said. “It’s part of the game. We all kind of have to take it as, compete every day and be ready when your time is called. As you’ve seen, you really don’t know when someone is going to get in there.”

Guarded secret: None of OU’s players who met with the media Monday or co-offensive coordinators Heupel and Jay Norvell would give away anything about the Sooners’ quarterback situation.

Knight wouldn’t even give a definitive answer when asked whether there are game plans to use both.

“I don’t know that at this point,” he said. “The coaches will decide that, but whatever’s on the game plan, we both know how to run it all. So whoever’s in there, we’re gonna have to be able to execute it.”

Back to the Superdome: OU running back Brennan Clay visited the Superdome — the Sugar Bowl’s venue — a little early. He went to Sunday’s New Orleans Saints-Atlanta Falcons game as a guest of former OU wide receiver Kenny Stills. The pair grew up together in the San Diego area.

“It was a live atmosphere. I understand it’s going to be even more packed when we play,” Clay said. “I got tickets from Kenny. Him and I were really good friends growing up, prior to college. I had the chance to finally go see him.”

Clay said he and Stills have gotten together “three or four nights” since OU arrived in New Orleans Thursday.

Conference talk: Play an SEC team in a bowl game (it doesn’t seem to matter which one) and the players are peppered with questions about the perception of the conference.

The Sooners received more of them Monday. It didn’t bother Sooner wide receiver Jalen Saunders.

“I don’t get tired of hearing it, they deserve respect,” Saunders said, “but, I am definitely excited about the opportunity to challenge their name.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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