Kenny Stills, who had 204 catches in three seasons as a Sooner, visited his former teammates and coaches Saturday. It was quite convenient. OU is practicing at the New Orleans Saints' facility. Stills is a Saint rookie.
“He actually broke the huddle down today for us, so it was good to see him,” said OU receiver Sterling Shepard. “Kenny taught me a lot of things while he was here. He's not that much older than me (two classes), but he plays like he's a lot older, and you see what he's done in the league so far.”
During OU's loss to Baylor on Nov. 7, Stills tweeted frustration about the Sooners' play-calling. But there seemed to be no hard feelings Saturday; Stills was seen chatting it up with OU conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt.
But Stills said he might skip the Sugar Bowl.
“I don't know if I'm going to go the game,” Stills told the New Orleans Advocate. “I get too excited to go to those games in person. I'm really passionate about them, so it would be frustrating to me to see some things going on. I'm not very good at keeping my mouth closed.”
SHEPARD: CONNECTIONS TO DAD
Derrick Shepard's finest moment in the NFL came in the New Orleans Superdome. He returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown on Sept. 10, 1989, against the Dallas Cowboys.
Now his son plays in the Superdome. OU sophomore Sterling Shepard has 44 catches for 540 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Derrick Shepard, a big-play receiver for Barry Switzer's OU teams, died of a heart attack on Aug. 4, 1999, in his first season as an assistant coach at Wyoming.
Sterling said he thinks of his dad “a lot. Every day.”
Sterling wears his dad's jersey number, 3, and writes “RIP” on his shoes for every game. And when he gets to the end zone, he prays.
“Just say, ‘what's up' to him,” Sterling said. “Walk him through the game. Keep me safe. Try to stay healthy.”
NEW ORLEANS HOMECOMING
Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier played at Idaho, then spent four years as an NFL quarterback — with the Saints, 1994-1997.
“New Orleans is a special city for our family,” Nussmeier said. “I met my wife here, was fortunate enough to play with the Saints … outstanding time and left lasting memories. We try and come back as much as possible. We still have relatives and lots of friends in the area.”
Nick Saban hired Nussmeier from the University of Washington, where Nussmeier was offensive coordinator. Nussmeier interviewed for the UW head coaching job earlier this month.
McCARRON TALKS OU
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron nearly signed with OU out of high school.
McCarron, who has led the Crimson Tide to two national championships, was committed to Alabama but told his family the night before signing day he planned to switch to the Sooners. After sleeping on it, he stuck with his original commitment and now admits it's “weird” and “surreal” to be facing OU in his final college game.
“In the end, I just did what was best for the family and it all worked out,” McCarron said.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy runner-up added that he talked mostly to OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and only spoke with coach Bob Stoops “maybe once or twice.”
“Maybe if I got to talk to him, I would have went there,” McCarron said.
STRIKER SICK OF UNDERDOG TALK
OU linebacker Eric Striker was asked Sunday if he's tired of talking about his team's underdog status.
“Yeah,” Striker responded. “It's a terrible question.”
Striker then followed up with, “You guys can ask anything you want. I don't care. But you're not the only one who's asked it — everyone has asked it. We'll leave it all on the field.”
Alabama is more than a two-touchdown favorite to beat the Sooners on Thursday night, and the reason is clear. The Crimson Tide has won three of the last four national championships.
“We love challenges,” said OU cornerback Aaron Colvin. “We've dealt with it all year. We've been picked to lose a lot of games this season, so it's no different.”
TAPPER DOUBLE TAKE
OU defensive end Charles Tapper looks much different since getting his dreadlocks cut during Thanksgiving break. When Tapper returned to campus, even Stoops was taken aback.
“Coach Stoops looked, then he kept walking,” Tapper said. “Then he looked again. ‘It's Tap! You got a haircut. I didn't even recognize you. I thought I had someone new in my locker room.'
“I said, ‘No, coach, it's me.'”
Tapper said he had to cut the dreadlocks after a Norman hairdresser twisted them incorrectly. He said it was emotional, because it made him think of his late father, “but it had to go. It was unhealthy.”