PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson will wear the No. 12 jersey in the Insight Bowl as part of the Sooners' season-long tribute to the late Austin Box.
The Sooners had a different defensive player wear Box's old jersey number each game of the season after he died in May of an overdose of painkillers.
Jefferson found out that he would be wearing No. 12 against Iowa during OU's media day on Wednesday. He approached linebacker Travis Lewis, the defensive captain who chooses the Box tribute.
“Am I wearing No. 12?” Jefferson asked.
“Yep,” Lewis said, then paused. “You haven't worn it yet, have you?”
“Nope,” Jefferson replied.
He will on Friday.
HABERN FILES NFL PAPERWORK, ‘JUST TO SEE'
Junior center Ben Habern said Wednesday that he at least filed the necessary paperwork to get a projection from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
Even though he missed several games with a broken forearm, he figured there was no harm in getting the grade. Habern wasn't certain whether the report also came with tips for what to work on as a senior.
“I wanted to do it, just to see what it was,” Habern said. “I don't really know what I'm going to do, but you might as well if it's available. If I'm old enough to be able to do it, I'll just see what would happen.”
FITZGERALD VISITS OU'S FINAL PRACTICE OF 2011
Arizona All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald stopped by the Sooners' final practice of the year.
The drop-by Wednesday at Corona del Sol High School was particularly productive, it seemed, for OU's receivers, who picked the brain of the six-time Pro Bowler who is nearing 10,000 career yards.
Not that it's good for the Sooners that Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds are injured and out for the bowl game, but it did provide them ample time Wednesday to talk and hang out with Fitzgerald.
Kenny Stills tweeted that Fitzgerald spoke with the team, telling them about his “Faith Focus Finish” mantra.
Arizona concludes its regular season Sunday against Seattle.
JEFFERSON AT FREE SAFETY AGAINST THE HAWKEYES?
Where will the versatile Jefferson play Friday? Maybe it was coincidence, but Joe Ibiloye was among the starters brought to Wednesday's media day. Ibiloye has stepped in at sam linebacker when Jefferson plays at free safety, as he did against Oklahoma State.
Secondary coach Willie Martinez said he was pleased with holding Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper to about 100 yards (and no touchdowns for Brandon Weeden), but he said the Sooners giving up 278 rushing yards negated the good will for the passing defense.
Jefferson is one of a couple of Sooners, including regular strong safety Aaron Colvin and linebacker Corey Nelson, who have been asked to play multiple positions on the defense.
“We've done it all year,” Martinez said, “where we're schematically trying to match up our personnel with what they do well, trying to take away what they do well.”
Nelson has played all three linebacker spots, the “jack” in the “50” defense and defensive end.
“That's kind of the triple crown,” coordinator Brent Venables said, “and then a little more.”
OU SECONDARY STEPS OFF THE HOT SEAT
Iowa has a marquee receiver in Marvin McNutt and a solid quarterback in James Vanderberg, but the Hawkeyes would prefer to run the ball rather than air it out.
Which gives OU defensive backs a much-needed break after a season futilely defending quarterbacks like Baylor's Robert Griffin, Texas Tech's Seth Doege and OSU's Weeden.
“It's kind of laid back,” OU cornerback Demontre Hurst said. “They're going to run their offense. But they've got a lot of various offensive things. We pretty much have to stay ready. They might hit you over the head.”
Defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said he's ready for some interior battles instead of chasing quarterbacks all over the field.
“It's what you do all day in practice,” McFarland said. “It's what your technique as a defensive lineman is all about.
“Going against an offense like this, you relax and play your defense. Play gap football. Be in your position.”
STOOPS PLEASED WITH TEAM'S FOCUS FOR BOWL
Bob Stoops said there's always a little unknown when playing a bowl game, primarily with the opponent, but he's pleased with the Sooners' preparation.
“They've done really well,” Stoops said. “I mean that.”
Curfews, meetings, workouts, “they've done what we asked them to do.”