The Oklahoma football team went through their fourth workout under partly cloudy skies and 62-degree temperature Monday in San Diego in preparation for Thursday's Holiday Bowl matchup with Oregon.
"It's the best practice we've had out here. I'm really happy with it. In many ways, it's typical of our Wednesday practice, but I really thought it was a good one," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops after the workout.
"We've been practicing on the same gameplan for two weeks. If we didn't have in now, I'd be concerned. I think they know it backwards and forwards.
"We know their tendencies, they know ours. We're doing the best we can to take away their strengths. That is why you always throw a few change-ups at them. I can't give you the gameplan. Trust me, we'll have some."
One other question posed to Stoops was how losing another coordinator would affect OU's program in the bowl game and beyond.
"I don't know if that's necessarily true that it hurts the program," Stoops said. "We lost our offensive coordinator one year and won the national championship the next. SC lost there's last year. They're every bit as good this year. Texas lost their defensive coordinator and it looks like they're playing better defense this year.
"If you look at the various teams who have had to do it, what it comes down to is your personnel, maturity as a team, experience. That probably has more to winning and losing than just losing your coordinator.
"I believe sometimes change is healthy and good, as long as what you're the players are asking them to do it and it fits them well," Stoops continued.
"You look around the country and there's a number of different approaches that offensive and defensive coordinators have moving the football or stopping the ball. Some are effective and some aren't. So, in the end, I don't believe it is a big deal."
Speaking of Oklahoma's new offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson talked after practice today about the state of the offense.
"Today was one of our better practices, but that doesn't mean we'll play good," Wilson said. "I've seen us practice good and play bad, and I've seen us practice bad and play good.
"I think our kids are pretty confident. I think in the last five or six games we as coaches have got a lot of confidence in our players, and I think we are going to be pretty assertive."
Wilson also talked about Oregon's defense and the Sooners' keys on offense.
"They have a good defense. We are going to have to have a great deal of balance against these guys," said Wilson. "I think we have a great handle on some throws that we want to do and some protections to give us a chance to get the ball downfield, move the pocket and have as much balance as we can.
"We think the key in this game, No. 1, is turnovers. No. 2, is to be physical and keep them off the quarterback so we can throw the ball downfield. No. 3, we have to make a couple of those big plays. I think the opportunity is going to be there, and we have some young playmakers that are going to make some.
New Oklahoma passing coordinator Darrell Wyatt also talked about OU's potential big play opportunities.
"They are going to allow us an opportunity to take some shots downfield," Wyatt said. "With the way Adrian Peterson is running the football and our line is blocking right now, we feel like we are going to get an opportunity to take some shots. It's just a matter of capitalizing on the opportunity.
"We still have to run the football and create ways to give AD an opportunity to run the football. We are a team that's committed to the run. We are going to find ways to run it. We have to formation it move guys around and put them in position to make blocks on the eighth defender. We're going to find ways to run and find ways to take advantage of one-on-one shots."
Who will be where?
One of the big questions regarding the Sooners' new offensive coaching staff is which coaches will be where on gameday?
This past season, Chuck Long was in the press box along with Kevin Sumlin, but Wilson says he plans to be on the field against Oregon.
"I am going to stay on the field this game. We'll talk in the off-season to see if we're better served making changes," Wilson said. "Kevin Sumlin will be important in the press box. I have not talked to Josh (Heupel). Kevin already does a great job in the press box. Do I need another guy up there? Or does Josh feel like he needs to be on the field talking with Rhett?
"You can get on the phone. Chuck never was on the field and just talked to him on the phone all year. I'll just wait and get a feel for it tonight and tomorrow what they (other coaches) want to do on Josh's position."
As for the offense itself, how will the play-calling be handled and will there be any changes as for as the offense that was run this season in the bowl game?
"Bottom line we are what we are," Wilson said. "There's a lot of things we're dong we feel we have a handle on. We know what our teams strengths and weakness are. In the past, Chuck would say what direction we're going to go on each drive, but now that's going to be me with the interaction of our other coaches. That's the only change. I will be telling the guys what direction we want to take on each drive instead of Chuck. I will be saying I want to pound the ball here, I want to take some shots here.
"I'm also going to make sure Rhett has an opinion. Do you we need to slow them down? Do you think you've got something? And I'll be relying on Josh. Do you think you've got something?"
One of the concerns for Oklahoma's defense is finding a way to shut down Oregon's spread offense, which also poses a threat of the option.
Co-Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright talked about the Ducks' offense.
"They certainly haven't changed from their last bowl game," said Wright. "You have to defend the run and option, so you have to be good at handling the option, being disciplined having somebody on the dive, quarterback and pitch.
"Then you have to handle their play-action package off the option game. Then they're going to get into their three and four wides and throw the ball. They're very versatile, but at the same time very good at everything they do."
With Chijioke Onyenegecha suspended for Thursday's game, Wright says he'll start Eric Bassey and D.J. Wolfe at corner, and Darien Williams and Reggie Smith at safety. Sophomore Marcus Walker will also see time as OU's third cornerback, especially in man coverage situations.
All Work, No Play
Oklahoma's players have already been to see several of San Diego's famous sites, but Bobby Jack Wright says it's all business as far as the coaches are concerned.
"The players are enjoying it and the folks form the Holiday Bowl have treated us great," Wright said. "For us coaches, it's just work. We get up and go to meetings every morning, get practice ready. Then we go to position meetings and then to practice.
"I think it's been a great trip for the players. They are enjoying it and getting great work. And they're having a chance to enjoy San Diego on top of it."
On Saturday, the Sooners visited SeaWorld, and the plan Monday afternoon was to head to the world famous San Diego Zoo. Oklahoma will attend a luncheon, along with Oregon, on Tuesday on the USS Nimitz and get a tour of the carrier.
And on Wednesday, the Sooners will attend media day.
Wide receiver Travis Wilson attempted to practice again on Monday but was still limited. Stoops says at this point Wilson is questionable for Thursday's game...
On the other hand, receiver Jejuan Rankins' condition is improving and the Sooners expect him to return punts and get snaps at receiver. However, Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias are expected to start at wide out...
Defensvie end Larry Birdine has practiced without a setback so far and is expected to get snaps as planned against the Ducks...
Redshirt freshman center Jesse White has made it through practice just fine at this point and the coaches are optimistic that he still has a future on the field...
Chris Bush is expected to start at center with Chris Chester at guard. Chester is now practicing without his cast and could also see time at center depending on how Bush matches up with Oregon DT Haloti Ngati. Freshman Duke Robinson could also see some time at guard as his size could help negate Ngati's push up the middle...
Off the field, Chuck Long observed practice on Monday and also spent some time working with Heupel and Rhett Bomar.
Former Sooner and current San Diego Charger Wes Sims was in attendance at Monday's practice.
* Unfortunately, Tuesday's practice is closed and thus there will be no report. However, we will have an update on Wednesday after the Sooners and Ducks conduct media day.
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