Practice Report: Sooners work on USC gameplan

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, center, watches the players stretch before practice Friday in Miami. See inside for quotes following Friday's practice from Stoops, Kevin Wilson, Donte Nicholson and Jackie Shipp.(AP Photo/Yesikka Vivancos)

MIAMI SHORES, FLA. — Day five of Oklahoma's Orange Bowl preparations went much like a that of a Tuesday during a regular game week during the season.

The Sooners, whose practice was once again closed to the public and media, worked out for two hours and 15 minutes, which is actually longer than a regular Tuesday workout.

The main emphasis of a Tuesday workout for the Sooners is usually spent going over the gameplan for the game.

Below are the latest news, notes and quotes after Friday's workout.

Offensive Chatter
The key to the game offensively, according to offensive line coach/run game coordinator Kevin Wilson, is the blocking of fullback J.D. Runnels and tight end Bubba Moses.

"The game within the game is how well those guys will attack the angles on the edge," said Wilson. "J.D. and Bubba have been great at it all year. We just need to make sure those guys now their assignments. However, we feel good about it because J.D. is the best fullback in the country and Bubba has had a great year."

Wilson also talked USC's style on defense.

"USC is an attack defense, so they will come after us," Wilson said. "They're much like our defense. They'll try to create their own seams and play football in our backfield. Our game will be to try and make sure they don't do that."

Unsung hero
J.D. Runnels' name rarely shows up in the box score or is called over the PA system, but just as mentioned above many feel he might be the key to Oklahoma's offense on Tuesday.

"J.D. is one of our best football players. I've told you a that a million times," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops after Friday's practice. "If the game comes down to J.D. we feel pretty good about our chances. Of course that's only one aspect of it, but it's one aspect you can't deny."

Stoops also addressed the talk about the Runnels getting more carries.

"As much as we love J.D., A.D. isn't going to block for J.D.," laughed Stoops. "Everybody always wants us to give the ball to J.D., but every time we give it to J.D. that's one less carry for A.D."

"All great running backs have somebody that's blocking ahead of him," Stoops continued. "I don't know if A.D. would block for JD. To be honest, I don't know who we'd get to block for J.D."

Defensive Chatter
A lot of the talk about OU's keys on defense this week have been about the battle of the trenches and putting pressure on USC quarterback Matt Leinart.

However, don't tell that to Donte Nicholson. Nicholson believes the key to the game is the play of the safeties.

"In the games we've been giving up a lot of points, we didn't play very well at safety," Nicholson said after Friday's practice. "USC is the best we've seen with the multiplicity of everything they do. They run a number of different things. They play-action better than anybody. It's a mental mind game with us how we're going to line up and know what they're going to do."

Nicholson also has a little extra motivation for the game being from California and having known Leinart since High School.

"I talk to him everyday," Nicholson said. "We have been talking a little noise not only this week but throughout the season. We kept telling each other to keep winning because we wanted to play each other. That's what we have done and we are here now. He always tells us about our defense and who he thinks is good. He compliments the whole team. He is a good guy."

So why did he pick OU over USC?

"Growing up I was always a big USC fan," Nicholson said. "My decision came down to USC and here. Making my decision to go here was hard for me. I believe I made the right decision and I am happy with my choice.

"I needed to get away from California. I was too close to home. I felt more of a family vibe at OU than USC. That played a major role in my decision."

Don't jack with Shipp
The other key on defense that's been most talked about this week was the 'battle in the trenches'.

Oklahoma defensive line coach Jackie Shipp talked about that after Friday's practice.

"Football's never changed," Shipp said. "It's who wins the line of scrimmage. You can have all those great backs and quarterbacks, but if they don't have the holes in front of them it doesn't matter. They can have an all-world backfield, but if we win the line of scrimmage we're going to win the game."

Since Larry Birdine's comments last week, the national media has been trying their hardest to drum up any kind of smack talk possible.

To OU's credit, the players have been tight-lipped since the Birdine incident, but that still doesn't prevent the reporters from trying to get it out of the players, and even coaches.

So, when a reporter followed up Shipp's response above by asking, 'Do you like your chances to win the game?' Shipp didn't give an inch.

"Man, I'm not giving you any bulletin board material."


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