Tulsa Preview: White ready for action

Quarterback ready to lead the Sooners once again after recovering from knee surgery. White and the Sooners will open the 2002 season Friday night against Tulsa in Skelly Stadium. Kick-off is set for 7pm.

The last 10 months for Jason White has been a rollercoaster ride he will never forget.

After back-to-back outstanding performances coming off the bench in wins over Texas and Kansas last September, White went from backup to starter and was primed to lead the Sooners in the stretch run for their eighth national championship.

That dream, however, ended early in the second quarter of just his second career start when he tore the ACL in his left knee against Nebraska on Oct. 27 in Lincoln. The Sooners not only went on to lose to the Cornhuskers, 20-10, on that day, but they also lost White for the season.

Finally, after watching the Sooners stumble down the stretch in their attempt at No. 8, and several months of rehabilitation on his injured knee, the junior from Tuttle is ready to show his ride as the Oklahoma quarterback is on the rise again.

White will be making just his third career start on Friday when No. 1 Oklahoma opens the 2002 season before a nationally televised audience on ESPN against Tulsa in Skelly Stadium.

ÒThat is why I am looking forward to the first game,Ó said White, when asked about his lack of game experience.

ÒI want to get back out there and get back into the flow. I think thatÕs all IÕm lacking right now is just to get back into the flow. ItÕs important for our offense as well. An offense needs a little more cohesion then a defense and the quarterback is a big part of that.Ó

And White is expected to be the biggest part in the improvement of the Oklahoma offense, which seemed to have an extra spark when he was at the controls in his brief appearance a year ago.

White has looked good during two-a-days and the scrimmages thus far. In fact, his progress over the summer was so impressive that he entered the start of two-a-days as OUÕs No. 1 quarterback. He was even featured on the cover of ESPN The MagazineÕs 2002 College Football Preview alongside Tommie Harris, a photograph which was shot before the start of fall practice.

The lingering questions about WhiteÕs knee have been put on hold until Friday, when he will take his first live snap and hit since last yearÕs Nebraska game. WhatÕs even more scary about WhiteÕs injury was that he wasnÕt even hit when the ACL was torn. He was simply scrambling out of the pocket. And for precautionary reasons, White will wear the protective brace on his knee for the first few games this season.

ÒThe knee absolutely doesnÕt bother me at all,Ó said White during MondayÕs weekly press conference. ÒI would never think about it if I didnÕt have to wear this darn brace.Ó

ÒIt never enters my mind on anything I do on a football field. I donÕt think about when IÕm throwing and I donÕt think about it when IÕm running. I am doing everything as a runner that I have always done and I have no after-affects at all.Ó

White wanted to have the brace off by now, but OklahomaÕs trainers insist that he wear for now. That might be a good idea because White still hasnÕt gone through a full-contact drill since the injury.

ÒThereÕs some thoughts in his mind that heÕs hurt his knee and he wants to see how it holds up,Ó said Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach Chuck Long. ÒIÕm sure, from his standpoint, he wants to take a shot to see how it will hold up.Ó

ÒI donÕt have any question marks regarding his knee and I donÕt think he does either,Ó Long continued. ÒHe hasnÕt played since the knee injury and probably wants to run around in a true ballgame without his blue shirt on and see how it holds up. I think itÕs going to hold up fine.Ó

Scouting Tulsa
The Hurricane return six starters on both sides of the ball from a 1-10 team last year that got pasted by Oklahoma, 58-0, in Norman.

Some are calling OUÕs season opener a Ôglorified scrimmageÕ, but donÕt expect a Bob Stoops coached team to take anyone lightly after last seasonÕs debacle against Oklahoma State.

Despite last seasonÕs dismal performance by Tulsa in Norman, Stoops expects the Hurricane to field a better team this time around.

ÒTulsa will be an improved football team, said Stoops. ÒCoach (Keith) Burns and his staff do a nice job coaching. After time your players get used to your system and you start to see improvement. IÕm sure after having another year under their belt, theyÕre looking forward to that. IÕm sure theyÕll be excited to play us.Ó

ÒTheyÕre going to be very aggressive,Ó said Long on TulsaÕs defense. ÒCoach Burns has had a stronger hand in that defense now. He has a great defensive background and heÕs been getting more involved on that side of the ball. We think weÕre going to get different looks as far as blitzes, so weÕre preparing for that.Ó

Former Tulsa Union star quarterback Tyler Gooch is back for his sophomore season as the Hurricanes starting quarterback. Gooch is the focal point of TUÕs multiple run-pass offense. He was erratic throwing the ball as a freshmen but did run for over 100-yards in two separate games last season.

ÒHe was an awfully young guy when he was here a year ago,Ó said Stoops on Gooch. ÒI believe it was his first starting game. HeÕs tough and runs well. Having just seen him one time is not like someone in our league, who you see over and over. IÕm sure heÕs made improvement from a year ago.

Getting Defensive
Not many people seem to be worried about OklahomaÕs defense, but donÕt tell that to Bob Stoops. Stoops says the Sooner defense still has some kinks to get worked out.

ÒWe ran some plays in our scrimmage that were scout team plays the defensive hadnÕt seen much, and they broke big,Ó said Stoops. ÒThat just goes to show you what happens when the defense hasnÕt seen plays and they get out of position.Ó

Regardless of the possible early season busts, the Sooners return nine starters from last yearÕs defense that shut out the Hurricane a year ago in Norman.

Getting Offensive
All eyes will surely be on junior quarterback Jason White on Friday night in Tulsa, but Sooners fans have been optimistically awaiting the debut of Chuck Long and Kevin WilsonÕs rejuvenated offense with an improved running game.

Of course, OklahomaÕs offense put up 58 points against TulsaÕs defense a year ago, so that may be hard to match.

Both Stoops and Chuck Long are ready to see the offense go up against someone other then the vaunted Sooner defense.

ÒAll through spring we really go good on good,Ó said Stoops of the battles between the first offense and defense.

ÒOur defensive players get such a feel for our offense. We donÕt cut block against ourselves on offense and there are certain things we donÕt do that we do in a game. In the end it puts the offense at a disadvantage.

ÒWe have some new wrinkles on offense that we want to see and do well with,Ó said Long.

But Stoops also said that the nation will not see the full playbook from OklahomaÕs new offense just yet.

ÒYou just canÕt get everything in during the first week,Ó said Stoops. ÒWe just feel as the season progresses we will continue to implement and develop. There will be other plays against Alabama that wonÕt be in this game, but some have been developed in practice.Ó

ÒOur offense, I think, can be great because of the talent that we have at every position,Ó said Jason White. ÒWe have skill position players, running backs and receivers who can make big plays, and our offensive line gets better every day. The offensive line is going to be one of the best in the country.Ó

The Series
Oklahoma leads 12-7-1, including a 4-3 mark in Tulsa. The Sooners held a No. 1 ranking on their last visit to Tulsa. That game was played Sept. 26, 1987, and OU won, 65-0. Oklahoma. OU, ranked No. 3 at the time, won in Norman last season (Nov. 3), 58-0.

The Coaches
Bob Stoops is entering his fourth year at Oklahoma and boasts a 31-7 record. Keith Burns is 6-17 in his first two years at Tulsa. Burns is 0-1 vs. Stoops and Oklahoma.

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