News and Notes From Swish's Desk

The Fiest Bowl is approaching. Recruiting season will be heating up and winding down in a matter of weeks. The basketball season is picking up season. SI's Michael Swisher gives a few of his thoughts on each of these issues as he comes out of his post-Christmas, pre-New Year's coma.

Well, Christmas is over (finally) and New Year's is upon us. After two-plus days of eating, I'm definitely fat(ter) and I think I'm finally coming out of that food coma.

This time of year is annually a transition for Oklahoma fans. Two of the most important seasons (football and football recruiting) are winding down.

Men's and women's basketball, however, is just now picking up. Hopefully attendance at those events will as well.

So before we fall back into another coma, we'll take a look at a few things that are going on. Not much news here, but a few notes and thoughts…

* The football team arrived in Arizona today for its final Fiesta Bowl preparations. One thing I know every player looks forward to upon arriving is finding out what the "gift package" includes. Each year the bowl is allowed to provide each player gifts totaling a certain amount. The university is allowed to match. Among this year's best gifts for Sooner players was a 20-inch flat screen TV and a $350 gift card to Best Buy. Merry Christmas.

* It's being reported that West Virginia will be interviewing Central Michigan coach Butch Jones on Thursday for the second time. Although you know the Mountaineers are going to be telling you they're focused on Oklahoma and the Fiesta Bowl, you know everyone from the interim coach to the cheerleading coach is consumed with who the next coach will be. That includes the players and all that wondering does nothing but pull your attention away from preparation. That's a positive for Oklahoma.

* As a fan, you've got to be disappointed in Lendy Holmes. Hopefully he learns from it. At the same time, it's an opportunity for other players who would otherwise be on the sidelines. Hopefully guys like Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson prove why they were recruited by the Sooners.

* As you read from our man Stacey Dean, five-star linebacker Lynn Katoa is going to announce his intentions at the Army All-American Bowl and his decision is down to Oklahoma and Colorado. Though Katoa committed last month to the Buffs, he's since opened his recruiting back up. The fact that he hasn't already ended speculation and reaffirmed his commitment to Colorado, in my opinion, could be good news for OU.

* The fact that Oklahoma is still in on the Julio Jones lottery speaks volumes about the Sooners' nationwide appeal. However, I'll still go on record as saying that it will be a major – MAJOR – upset in the recruiting game if he leaves his home state of Alabama, most notably the grasp of the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban's already had a disappointing year. If he lets the second most sought-after recruit in the country out of his own back yard, that's a lot of egg on his face.

* Speaking of Jones…what a talent. I've talked to a handful of coaches who say he's hands-down the most impressive specimen they've ever seen, with or without pads. There's nobody alive that doesn't think he'll be a superstar.

* Two current Oklahoma commitments have told me they're fairly certain that Garden City C.C. linebacker J.R. Bryant will commit to Oklahoma. That's the impression they got after hanging out with him in Norman a couple weeks back. Time will tell.

* The men's basketball team (smooth segue, huh?) is on the borderline of being good. I'd say it sits above average right now. It's not bad. Certainly not great. Almost good. I like what Jeff Capel has done, but coaching only takes a team so far. At some point, players have to take over. This year's success has been and will continue to be dictated by guard play. It's pretty simple, really. If the guards knock down shots (TCU, Tulsa), Oklahoma wins. If not (USC, Stephen F. Austin), they'll likely lose. There's no other secret formula for Oklahoma success.

* It will be fun to watch the maturation of Blake Griffin. As expected, he's had his good games and bad. Good guard play will help him and a continually improving center in Longar Longar will as well. Griffin needs to develop a mid-ranger jumper; doing so will make his scary good. Once he does that and learns to play full-speed every second he's on the court, look out.

* One of the most criticized Sooners during his tenure has been guard Austin Johnson, but consider me a fan – not just of his play on the court (which is improving), but his actions off of it. Johnson didn't play particularly well in that loss to Stephen F. Austin (9 points on 3-of-10 shooting). However, after the game, we spent 10 minutes together in a one-on-one interview, one that he didn't have to grant. But he did and he answered every question I threw at him and did so in more-than-generous fashion. Johnson's been hampered by two things since he's been here: injuries and playing out of position. The ankle injury he suffered his freshman season was one of the worst Oklahoma trainers have ever dealt with and one that he didn't fully get over until this past offseason. Then came the back problems and anyone who's ever dealt with those know how painful and debilitating they are and that they don't ever truly go away. And though he's not the greatest shooter in the world, Johnson is a two-guard and not a point guard, though he's been forced to mostly play the latter until this season. If Omar Leary continues his improvement at the point and allows Johnson to play a position in which he's more comfortable, we'll hopefully get to see him flourish over the next season and-a-half.

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