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December 28, 2013

QB and OL shifting as prep for Sugar begins

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NEW ORLEANS -- Friday was a light day in terms of Sugar Bowl media coverage. Players arrived via Southwest Charter just before 1 p.m. Friday afternoon and then took in a light workout at the New Orleans Saints practice facility Friday evening, where they happened to run into Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees.

But as far as a media circus, Friday was a light day. There was little in the way of hard news. Not too much pestering of Bob Stoops about his quarterback situation or injury situations.

Stoops confirmed there have been no academic casualties for the Sugar Bowl and he said everyone was here that they expected to be here.

Although the way the question was asked Stoops can just claim he didn't expect certain players to be here even though we didn't know they knew they knew already.

If you get my drift.

It is raining this morning in New Orleans but the Saints do have an indoor practice facility, so that won't affect the team's practice schedule. According to Sugar Bowl officials, both teams could practice inside the Superdome, but Alabama chose to have the afternoon practice instead of the morning practice.

I don't think Stoops was fond of having the Alabama staff inside the Superdome while they were finishing up their practice.

"The situation they were, they got to go in after us," said Stoops Friday. "I'm OK with where we're going (the Saints practice facility)."

It's a similar situation to the Cotton Bowl last year. Texas A&M chose to practice at a nearby high school because OU was able force them into early practices if they wanted to practice at Cowboys Stadium.

***

As far as the quarterback situation is concerned, it would seem fairly easy to figure out. Trevor Knight is the quarterback that gives Oklahoma's offense the best chance against Alabama. Blake Bell doesn't bring a running dimension to the offense. He's a thrower, he's more stationary, and having a drop back passer going against an Alabama defense is a very bad idea.

So maybe we're in for a lot of quarterback controversy questions this week in New Orleans. But there really is no need for them.

Friday, one reporter took the optimistic route in his question about the quarterback situation to Gabe Ikard.

"Is the quarterback situation less of a problem for you and more of a problem for the other team to deal with?" asked a local reporter.

Not a bad way to look at things. Alabama will have to prepare for both quarterbacks. But in the end, if Knight can play the way he played against Kansas State, he's clearly the best option against an Alabama defense that had issues stopping Auburn who ran the zone read in this year's Iron Bowl.

The Tigers ran the ball 52 times for 296 yards against the Crimson Tide. They passed just 16 times for 97 yards.

That's the type of line Oklahoma has shown when Knight is successful running the OU zone read offense.

But this is still Alabama, and Oklahoma still has to work through some offensive line issues.

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The Sooners have already been working through those offensive line issues before arriving in New Orleans. But Gabe Ikard knows this week's practices are still needed to get a good sense of how they'll line up against Bama.

"I think we've got an idea of what we want to do against Alabama. You've just got to keep getting guys reps at different positions and I've got to be ready to play guard, Bronson (Irwin) has to be ready to play whatever position he's got to play," explained Ikard. "It's one of those things where we're shuffling guys around but we're going to get the five best on the field. When it comes down to it you've got to go out there and execute your assignments."

It's late in the season to be making such key changes. But with Tyrus Thompson and Adam Shead out, and inexperienced tackle Derek Farniok in, the Sooners have to plan for the worst and expect the best.

You'd rather not have all this reshuffling going on playing against one of the best defenses of the last five years in Alabama.

"It's not ideal," said Ikard. "They're extremely talented on the defensive line and very big, very powerful. You've just got to get quality reps in practice and then you've got to be a gamer."



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