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Sugar Bowl notebook: Bob Stoops says Alabama 'still the best team in the country'

by Berry Tramel and Jason Kersey Published: January 1, 2014

If nothing else in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama will serve as the ultimate measuring stick for the Sooners. Just how close are they to competing at the highest level of college football?

“How could it not be?” OU coach Bob Stoops asked.

“In my eyes, they're still the best team in the country. They've been the best team in the country for three years, up to the very last play of the regular season. So a great, great team. We recognize that.”

But Stoops wasn't finished. “I think everybody would say they're as good a football team as we've played in 15 years.”


OU senior Bronson Irwin switched from right guard to left guard for the final two games of the regular season. Now he appears headed for right tackle to replenish an injury-ravaged offensive line.

“We work different positions all year round,” Irwin said. “Wherever I can play that's going to help the team, I'll feel comfortable wherever they put me.”

Switching positions, “it's not too bad when you've been here as long as I've been here. To me, once you learn right guard and right tackle, it's the same exact thing, you just have to flip it in your head. I take pride in being a versatile player.”


The Sugar Bowl is a matchup of teams that make very few changes to their uniforms. And don't mind saying so.

“They're a traditional team just like we are,” said OU receiver Sterling Shepard. “We both don't have those flashy jerseys.”

Said Stoops, “I think in the end some players may look at bells and whistles a little more than they do overall tradition and history, but there's still a good number of them that do recognize the opportunity to play in these kind of great games, and they realize we've done it a lot. And there's still a lot of players that recognize the tradition and history of what you've been doing more than maybe the color of your helmet.”


Alabama coach Nick Saban will be a guest analyst on ESPN's coverage of the Auburn-Florida State national championship game.

“To be honest, I think it's really good exposure for our program to be able to be involved in some of those kinds of things and actually be able to have an opportunity to express your beliefs,” Saban told Sugar Bowl media Wednesday.

“You all have your beliefs and I certainly respect your beliefs, in terms of how you think things should be done. And so all of a sudden I get to get on the other side and I get to say how I think things should be done and get an opportunity to be just like you, which is really what I've always wanted to be.”


Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a Sooner star in 2008-09, visited OU's practice Tuesday.

“I wish I could play him,” Stoops deadpanned. “Geez, that guy. Proud of Gerald. Good to see him here. Always has that big smile. Wonderful young man. Proud of the way he's played. He had another super year.”


Alabama's C.J. Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. But Stoops went even further in his praise.

“I think C.J. Mosley is as fine a football player as I've seen in my time here at Oklahoma in 15 years, and that's the truth,” Stoops said. “Just an absolute perfect football player when you look at the physical abilities he has and competitive nature. There's times I marvel at it. You have him blocked and he shouldn't make the play, and there he is taking on another block and making the play or making it bounce to someone else who does make the play.”


OU senior Jaz Reynolds and some of his teammates ventured onto Bourbon Street this week, but the wide receiver said he couldn't have as much fun as he wanted. Not this time, anyway.

“One day I really plan on coming back after my career is over and having fun with a couple of my friends on Bourbon Street,” Reynolds said.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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