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OU football: Sooner coaches trying to replace missing players

Bob Stoops wants to focus on players at practice, the youngsters who will fill holes that have opened due to injury or transfer.
BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Published: December 26, 2011

Another poster guy for some of OU's depth issues is Jaydan Bird. The junior is listed as the backup at both middle linebacker and fullback. Bird has appeared in all 12 games at linebacker. He has 16 tackles, including 3 ½ for a loss.

Bird has played one play at fullback, Blake Bell's 28-yard touchdown late against Oklahoma State. He was playing there due to a spinal cord injury to Aaron Ripkowski.

He had been practicing there for about a month, just in case Ripkowski did go down. So had defensive end Ronnell Lewis, who is not eligible this week due to an academic suspension.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he's “a team guy,” willing to share his defensive players with the offense, if need be – and this bowl season is turning out to be a definitive case of need be.

“Jaydan's smart enough and good enough,” Venables said. “He's an instinctive football player, and it doesn't surprise me he's able to go over there and do what they want him to do. I'm all for it.”

So is Bird, who lit up in November when he was asked to play on both sides of the ball — even if it's required a bit of time management during practice. He'll work some with Venables and the linebackers, and then trot over for a few plays with the goal-line offense.

“It takes a little bit” of adjusting, Bird said. “You just have to switch your mindset, and your perspective is different.”

Like Bird, the Sooners are learning to be adaptable. There's a game to play Friday, regardless of who is or is not available.

“We're a little thin at several different positions, but we're going to go,” Norvell said. “We do what we do. I think there's more concern outside our program than inside our program, to be honest with you.”


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