One important part of Oklahoma's Belldozer has been ruled out for the bowl game due to injury, but the package, centered on the running ability of quarterback Blake Bell, is expected to plow ahead as scheduled Dec. 30 against Iowa.
A function of the set is having two fullbacks, Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski, line up on one side of the line or the other. Well, Ripkowski hurt his back during the Oklahoma State game.
A linebacker, of all people, replaced him against the Cowboys. He could again in the Insight Bowl.
“Yeah, Jaydan Bird went in there at the end of the Oklahoma State game and did really well,” OU coach Bob Stoops said Monday. “We'll have some other guys that can do it.”
With the team struggling in goal-line and short-yardage situations, Bell – and the others, such as Ripkowski – was employed about midway through the season. Bell has 10 touchdowns in this, his redshirt freshman season.
Bell got only one snap in the loss in Stillwater. But it was a 28-yard touchdown, late in the game.
YOUNGSTERS EXCITE VETERAN TEAMMATES DURING BOWL PREP
Two Sooners mentioned freshman linebacker Frank Shannon as the redshirting player who has most caught their eye.
“Frank Shannon will be a baller,” Clay said. “I'm excited to see him out there.”
Shannon is from Dallas Skyline.
Clay also mentioned defensive end Geneo Grissom, who redshirted last season and has played in six games this season, as another young player “I'm excited to see.”
Cornerback Demontre Hurst said he's been impressed in bowl practice by young safety Quentin Hayes. Hayes, a redshirt freshman, has been active on special teams, as well.
BACKS FORCED TO EARN THEIR ‘STRIPES'
In August and much of September, OU had five scholarship tailbacks, plus walk-on Dominique Whaley, who eventually earned the starting job.
Now, because of injury and defections, the Sooners are down to two, Clay and Roy Finch, plus Trey Millard, who can move over from fullback.
“It's amazing,” Clay said. “We were hurting out there in reps (during practice earlier in the week). We were doing one or two. Now we're doing four or five in a row. We just gotta take up the slack.”
Clay said running backs coach Cale Gundy calls the trios “zebras.”
“We're out in the jungle,” Gundy tells the players, as Clay recalled. “Them lions and cheetahs are after you.”
Clay sort of rolled his eyes and laughed.
PHOENIX BOWLS MAKE FOOTBALL FIRST
The Insight Bowl is run by the Fiesta Bowl organizing committee, and teams in both bowls are largely left alone. While most bowls have a series of events scheduled throughout the week for the teams, not so in Greater Phoenix.
“It's a fun week,” OU safety Tony Jefferson said. “Strictly football.”
Jefferson said the Sooners used their down time at the Fiesta Bowl last season to “play video games, hold tournaments. Went to the mall.”
Jefferson said Phoenix malls were similar to what he's used to in San Diego and his teammates were amazed “that they had nice clothes.”
MAKE IT A CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS
Jefferson said he's looking forward to three days off for Christmas, beginning today. He's headed home to San Diego.
Jefferson sarcastically said as long as he doesn't have to see fellow Cali Trio mates Kenny Stills or Clay, he'll be happy. He said he gets enough of those guys.
“I want to have Christmas with my family,” Jefferson said.
TWITTER'S NOT ALL BAD, FOLKS
Clay said people who criticize the Sooners' use of Twitter have forgotten how Clay and fellow Californians Jefferson and Stills used Twitter to recruit other players for OU.
“We were all about getting people to come here,” Clay said. “People have to blame it (defeat) on something.”