There will be a lot of battles that Oklahoma will have to win if they hope to beat USC in the Orange Bowl on January 4th. Just like in just about every football game, every play which team controls the line of scrimmage will have the best chance of winning the National Championship.
Although J.D. Runnels doesn't play on the offensive line, the Sooner fullback plays as big a role in the Oklahoma run game as any offensive lineman. Runnels may be the best blocking fullback in the country and OU Head Coach Bob Stoops calls him one of the very best football players on the team.
USC has a great front four and how the Sooner do against that front four will go a long way in determining whether the Oklahoma can win the game or not. OU knows they have a great weapon on J.D. in this battle, and Runnels talked recently with OUInsider.com about the game within the game.
JH: Do great players like to play against other great players?
JD: "You always want to play great players. I think the bigger the game the more fun that it is. Many people are comparing this to some of the greatest National Championships that have been played, so it is really exciting to be a part of it. They have some great players, in particular Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. The key is our preparation. We have to be prepared and know what is coming, and that is what we are going to do."
JH: Their offense gets a lot of recognition, but their defense is incredibly talented as well isn't it?
JD: "Their front four is stout. We really have to control them at the line of scrimmage to get things started. Just like with any of our opponents, their defense is going to play hard and they will play a lot of emotion. We can't let them get started and we have to worry about what we do to get ourselves started."
JH: They don't blitz as much as some teams don't they?
JD: "That is exactly right. USC is very similar to our defense in that they don't blitz that much and when they do you can kind of see it, but sometimes you can't. They are real good at disguising things, but our thing is that we prepare every week for everything. We are going to have to take that into consideration like we do for every other game, despite the fact it is a game of such magnitude."
JH: They bring their front four very hard, so what does that do to your position in particular?
JD: "It really makes me get ready for some bigger D-ends. Some teams have smaller, quicker rush D-ends, but USC has these big 6-foot-5, 270-pound guys. I have to be ready to put some hurting on some bigger guys. It makes me step up my game a little, especially when they bring their linebackers. I hope I can get hold of some of their skill defensive players as well."
JH: In a game like this, do tight ends and fullbacks become a bigger factor? In normal games those two positions don't get the ball as much, but when you have a month to get ready then the coaches great real creative don't they?
JD: "Definitely. I think we are going to be used. I look back at a couple of games like the Texas A&M game when our tight ends and fullbacks played a pretty big role. I think it gives us a little diversity on offense. It gives us a little something else that we can do, something else that we can look for and hopefully we can just create a diversion like they do on defense. We hope that can be another weapon for us."
JH: Can you give us an idea how practice is going?
JD: "Well, I am getting about 10 to 12 carries a day so I can't complain (laughs). So, they are working on me and AD equally. It is working out well, so we are good."
JH: Are you keeping up with him on the corner?
JD: "No, not at all. He is leaving me on the pitch so he just lobs it back to me and I just run under it."
JH: How is the intensity at practice?
JD: "The intensity has been very good. We remember what we are playing for. Some people would think it is a problem that we have to practice so long, but it is a problem that we want. We could be at home and not worrying about anything, so we realize what our goals are what we are heading toward. I think the practices have been as intense as they have all year."
JH: Is going to a bowl game almost old hat for you in that you know how to handle everything about the trip.?
JD: "When you go to a bowl you have to know how to control you life. Lifestyle is a big thing, especially when you get down in Miami and New Orleans. The thing that Coach Stoops and his staff does is to make sure that we understand that it is a business trip for us. We mean business whenever we practice and we know to take care of ourselves whenever we are out. We know how to take care of ourselves. Our main thing here in Miami is to win the game, and that is that. Coach Stoops tells us that the memories that we make here is the one that we will remember the most is winning the game. That is the goal that we keep our eyes on."
Runnels knows he's a key against USC
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