MIAMI SHORES, FLA. — Day four of the Sooners Orange Bowl preparations began with a two hour workout at Barry University and will end with a three-hour trip to Miami beach and dinner at one of the cities famous steakhouses.
The workouts are closed to the public and and not open to the media until practice is over, but Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops and several coaches and players spoke with OUInsider.com after today's practice.
"It was a great bowl practice," said Stoops. "I am totally pleased with how things are going out here in Miami. You can tell we're an experienced team when it comes to this kind of practice. The bus travel, the activities, the hoopla doesn't affect this team once we get on the field."
As soon as Stoops finished his statement about his team being experienced and able to handle the hype, the questions started pouring in about OU's freshmen contributors (Marcus Walker, Adrian Peterson and Garrett Hartley) and how they've handled the hype thus far.
"Nah," said Stoops when asked if the freshman were getting caught up in the hype in Miami. "All three of those guys — are they really freshman anymore? I don't think anything's bothered AD or Marcus all year. And I could say the same thing about Garrett Hartley. All three of those guys are really mature freshmen."
Stoops was also asked about limiting Adrian Peterson's availability with the media this week.
"I'm just doing that for his own benefit," Stoops said. "I'm not worried or anything. I want him to enjoy being a part of the team. I want him to enjoy being a freshman. Considering how he has established himself this year and all the people that want at him, you could very easily get lost in all that and not have fun playing football. I'm just trying to make sure he has fun playing football."
Confidence over experience
Freshman kicker Garrett Hartley doesn't appear to be worried about his job next Tuesday, despite the fact he hasn't attempted a field goal this season.
"I'm glad we got a first down on the fake," said Hartley on the not getting to attempt a kick against Colorado due to a fake. "I'm OK with how everything has gone so far.
"I'm extremely confident. I'm kicking great right now. I just don't have any doubt that in the game I'm going to be fine."
"I've got great confidence in him," said Stoops. "He won't hesitate a bit. He's got great technique, great discipline in the way he works. That's why we went with him. We felt all year that he was awfully good.
Bo Knows Pete
If you think former Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator and current Arizona head coach Mike Stoops is the only one who knows a thing or two about about USC's offense, think again.
Current Sooner Co-Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini not only knows a little about USC's offense, he's coached with who he thinks is the main man behind it.
"Norm chow gets a lot of credit for the Southern Cal offense, but that's really Pete's (Carroll) offense," said Pelini, who coached with Carroll in the NFL at New England and San Francisco. "That's the kind of offense that Pete wanted to put together to bother defenses, because he knows what bothers defenses best."
"I know Pete backwards and forward. I know what he's thinking, but that doesn't mean he'll have a few wrinkles. We'll have a few wrinkles for him too."
Nevertheless, Pelini is confident the Sooners can slow down the Trojans' high powered offense that ranked seventh in scoring at 36.75 points per game.
"Oh yeah, we're plenty good enough," said Pelini when asked if OU has the personnel on defense to stop USC. "I think this game is going to come down to turnovers. Who doesn't turn it over, or if you do turn it over are you good enough to give up a field goal instead of a touchdown?"
"I think both defenses are so good it's going to come down to big plays. They're not going to be able to drive five times on us 80 yards to score. But if they hit three big plays on us the damage is done. We've got to make them drive the ball, and we think we can. We think we have the guys and schemes to make them do that."
Pelini also likes the way his secondary matches up with USC's receivers.
"We like our matchups there, but we do every week," Pelini said. "Steve Smith is a great speed receiver. (Dwayne) Jarrett is just a big play guy, a huge target. You'll have him covered, but he's so big he'll go up and get the ball, just like our guys. He'll also turn a little crossing route into a 25-yard gain."
There was a time when many thought redshirt freshman Mo Dampeer wouldn't be on the Oklahoma football team for a bowl game this season.
But Dampeer, who was given many chances by the Sooner coaching staff, finally seized the opportunity and has been an impact player since the first time he stepped on the field at defensive tackle since Dusty Dvoracek was kicked off the team in mid-September.
"There were times I wanted to put my head down and quit, but I wouldn't let myself do that," said Dampeer, who is down to 325 pounds after reporting at 353 at the beginning of two-a-days. "My parents wouldn't let me, Coach Shipp wouldn't let me, and Coach Stoops stayed behind me.
"They did the right thing with the discipline. I deserved it, still deserve it. But they kept me on me. They told me if I got my act together I would play, and I'm playing a bunch. I think I'm getting better every game, and I think that's showing up."
Dampeer also said that the extra work to lose weight is over ... at least for now.
"Right now I'm pretty good. That's about right for nose guard," said Dampeer on his svelte 325-pound figure. "If they want me to play the three-technique next year I'll have to go down lower. If they want me down, I'll get down. But they don't act like they want me to lose any more weight right now, just maintain."
As for the game, the Illinois native believes his position will be key to the Sooners' success on defense.
"Everybody should know that the games are really won in the trenches," Dampeer said. "We like our chances, even though we know Southern Cal is great.
"Everybody has to understand we've been really good on the defensive line with Lynn (McGruder), Carl (Pendleton), myself, and Remi (Ayodele). And then at DE with Dan (Cody), Jonathan (Jackson), Larry Birdine. We force the action. Southern Cal will be a great challenge, but I think they're going to find we're a challenge for them too."
Like Father, Like Son
Senior wide receiver Mark Bradley isn't just making headlines this week for following his fathers' — Danny Bradley — footsteps and playing the Orange Bowl. He's making headlines of his own because of the great season he's had.
In fact, Bradley's made such an impact that Stoops said during Thursday morning's press conference that he is the best athlete on the team.
"I'm so proud that coach has enough confidence in me that he thinks I'm a game-breaking athlete on the field," Bradley said. "I like to think that I am, and I love the fact that I'm used in so many different ways. I like being a complete football player. I think I've found my role for now."
The Sooners will return to the practice fields again on Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
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