NORMAN — When OU needed a guard, it converted Gabe Ikard. When it needed a center, coaches moved him again.
When Bob Stoops is looking for an answer, why is Ikard such a candidate to help him solve it?
We'll let Stoops answer that one.
“Gabe is the best,” Stoops said just days after Ikard became the Sooners new center again.
“Believe me, if we needed a tackle, he'd play tackle. He's talented enough to do that.”
Ikard might not have been Landry Jones' groomsman like former center Ben Habern, but he does understand what it means to get the job done.
“I wasn't in the wedding, but I was there,” Ikard said about the OU quarterback's recent marriage. “Me and Landry are close. It's one of those things that I might not be his best friend like Ben is, but we're not battling each other or anything like that. We're good friends.”
When Habern quit playing football due to a neck injury, Jones and Stoops needed to turn to somebody who could maintain the offense's tempo.
The fix is Gabe Ikard, who already has the experience.
“It gives me all the confidence in the world,” said Ikard. “It's actually more comforting knowing now that I'm the center and that's it.
“Like the Baylor game, I played all three (positions). If something goes wrong I went to right guard, but now I'm comfortable. I know it's my spot, so I'm just working hard to get this line together and develop some more continuity.”
Last season, Ikard played three games at left guard, slid over to center for seven games to cover for Habern and then returned to left guard for the final three games.
When Stoops needed him, Ikard delivered. He started all 13 of those games, leading the interior lineman in blocking grades and compiling 88 knockdowns on 860 snaps.
“It's one of those things where you go where you're told to go,” Ikard said. “It's just plain and simple.”
That answer is why Stoops loves the Bishop McGuinness grad.
“The guy is incredibly bright in that he can play a position to know what to do with them all, and I don't mean just academically bright but football bright in that he gets it all and he gets what everyone is doing out there,” Stoops said. “He's another one of those guys that loves being out there. Loves being on the field. Loves to come to practice.
“He does it all.”
Ikard does what he's told. He makes the team laugh. He jokes with the media. Ikard is Stoops' go-to guy because he prides himself on being a coachable player. He's the answer to many of OU's offensive questions.
“You want me to play guard. Fine. You want me to play center? That's fine,” Ikard said. “…You can tell me something once and that's it. That's all you got to tell me.”
That's when someone finally told the junior center that Stoops called him the best.
“Oh,” Ikard said. “That's good to hear, but frankly I do what's best for the team and that's what I'm going to do.”
GABE IKARD'S CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
“Not Landry's best man, but the next best thing”
Ikard wasn't projected to be the center and he wasn't Landry Jones' best man this summer, but he will graciously fill the role.
GABE IKARD'S CAMPAIGN ENDORSEMENTS
* OU quarterback Landry Jones: “It wasn't too much of an adjustment (from Habern to Ikard). Gabe played a majority of the time last year, and even when Ben did come back, they switched back and forth between guard and center. It wasn't a big deal switching to Gabe.”
* OU coach Bob Stoops: “Gabe's really excellent.”