Jaz Reynolds' career comes full circle Thursday night when the Sooners meet Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The OU senior said Tuesday that the fact that he's even with the team this week is “a blessing.”
“I honestly think that I shouldn't even be here anymore, just because of all the things I put Coach (Bob) Stoops through and put the program through,” Reynolds said. “I'm blessed to be here and have one more season and to finish it out against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and go out with a win.”
Reynolds was redshirted in 2010 after he tweeted insensitive comments regarding a gunman on the University of Texas campus during OU-Texas week.
In 2011, Reynolds was OU's third-leading receiver, catching 41 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns, but just after spring football in 2012, he was suspended indefinitely for violating unspecified team rules and sat out the entire 2012 season.
“Everyday I just woke up, went to practices, workouts,” Reynolds said. “If I'm a little tired, I could look back and see that I really could be at home with my mom right now. It's a blessing to be out there with my friends and teammates.”
This season, Reynolds has appeared in 11 games with four starts, and caught 12 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown.
LSU FANS PRO-OU?
The Sugar Bowl has entered into a contract to annually take Big 12 and SEC champions or representatives. The game gets a year's jump on that arrangement with OU-Alabama on Thursday night.
“I think it's great,” said Stoops. “This is an amazing bowl game. The people here have been incredible. Great facilities, everything about it has been positive.
“When you have to play LSU, it might be a little different, but fortunately this year we don't.”
Stoops was not-so-subtly referring to the Sooners' Sugar Bowl 10 years ago against LSU, which won the national championship with a 21-14 victory.
That LSU team was led by coach Nick Saban, who is now the Alabama coach.
Reminded that the local LSU fans aren't exactly Saban's biggest fans, Stoops said, “Hopefully, we'll get that neutral crowd out there and they can help us a little bit.”
OU GETS PHYSICAL
OU center Gabe Ikard said Sugar Bowl practices have been long and hard, including starters vs. starters.
“We've really gone hard against ones and ones,” Ikard said. “It'll come down to winning the line of scrimmage. It's usually how it shakes out.
“We've had a lot contract in practice. Been very physical. We realize how physical they are on defense. There's really not a way to simulate those guys they have on defense. You gotta do your best in practice to try to simulate that a little bit.”
OU cornerback Aaron Colvin: “I wish it could have been a national championship. That's what I really wanted. But I guess this is the next best thing honestly — being able to play in a BCS bowl and against a great team like Alabama. It's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting. I just can't wait to play.”
WALKER HELPS 3-4
OU quality control coach Chad Walker was on Saban's staff with the Dolphins and Alabama. He's helped not so much with Bama preparation as with OU's offseason move to the 3-4, a defensive alignment favored by Saban.
In fact, OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said the Sooners might have borrowed so much from Alabama, the Crimson Tide will recognize the nuances.
With Walker, “we had a lot of information,” Stoops said. “Just information we tried to curtail to our system and how we wanted to make it unique with our own system. But they'll recognize a lot of stuff that's going on when we play. So we're going to have to try to change some things a little bit to try to create some different illusions. But, again, it's stuff they'll be familiar with.”
NOT THE GREAT SATAN
Some have dubbed Saban “The Great Satan.” In the public eye, he's not exactly warm and fuzzy. But Crimson Tide players have sworn that Saban's personality is different from that perception.
“Coach may be one way in this room, in this seat, with the media, but with our players it's a whole lot different, especially day in, day out,” said Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
“He loves coaching kids. Whether he's in the meeting room with DBs or in the meeting room with special teams, he has a different personality. He has a passion for the game. The kids see that. So the kids see a different side than what maybe public perception is. They know how passionate he is for the game. They want to play well for him.”
SHORT-TERM MEMORY LOSS
OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel explained the team's injury-induced quarterback rotation and noted that it caused the Sooners to scramble to some degree.
“For four years, we had Landry (Jones) that didn't get hurt in a single ballgame,” Heupel said. “And really we hadn't had a quarterback injured until you go back early in Coach Stoops' era in 2002, 2003.”
Uh, Josh. Aren't you forgetting someone? Sam Bradford?
“I guess Sam as well in 2009,” Heupel said. “Forgot about that one.”
SOONERS STUDY AUBURN
OU has watched a lot of Alabama tape from games against Auburn and Mississippi State, which both run the option extensively.
Auburn had success — 296 yards rushing. Mississippi State did not — 53 yards rushing.
“They run a lot of that zone read,” OU tailback Brennan Clay said of Auburn and Mississippi State. “They were pretty effective. And we do a great job doing that. So I'm excited to see what's going to break. What's going to be that shatter point. Alabama's defense is just so top-notch. They get to the ball, they fly everywhere. We're excited. We're up to the challenge.”
MOSLEY A RAY LEWIS?
Several Sooners have heaped loads of praise on Alabama senior linebacker C.J. Mosley, the 2013 Butkus Award winner, and that continued Monday.
OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who spent time in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders, compared Mosley to former Baltimore Ravens great Ray Lewis.
“He's similar in his ability to communicate, his sense, his football senses, the way he sees the field, gets everybody lined up,” Norvell said. “He's a really good football player and as good a linebacker as we've seen this year, and we've gotta do a great job of understanding where he's at and making sure we block him.
“When we played Ray Lewis when I was in National Football League, I was just amazed where he always seemed to be in the right position all the time. That's the way Mosley is.”