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Sugar Bowl notebook: Sooners will shift players on offensive line

Dionte Savage, who has played sparingly this season, is expected to start at left guard against Alabama
by Berry Tramel and Jason Kersey Published: December 30, 2013

Sources say OU junior college transfer Dionte Savage is expected to start at left guard in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Savage, who transferred from Arizona Western Community College, has played sparingly this season.

The Sooners will be without left tackle Tyrus Thompson, who started the first 11 games, and left guard Adam Shead, who started the first 10 games. Bronson Irwin, who started six games at right guard before moving to left guard in place of Shead, is expected to move to right tackle, with Daryl Williams moving from right tackle to left tackle. That would leave only center Gabe Ikard and right guard Nila Kasitati in the same spots from the Dec. 7 Bedlam game.

“The way I see it is you've got to be ready to play with what you've got,” Ikard said. “It's important for us to be ready to go either way. We've got talented guys up front that will be ready to play.”


OU still isn't naming a starting quarterback. Sooner offensive players and coaches met with reporters Monday morning. Interestingly, OU made both junior Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight available for interviews.

“We've been this way throughout the entire year,” said OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “It's to keep our kids to continue to push and find out who is going to practice the best, that typically tells you who is going to play the best. So when we get towards the end of the week, that's when we'll know who our guy's going to be.”

Bell started eight games this season, and Knight started four, including the regular-season finale at Oklahoma State. Knight left Bedlam, though, with a shoulder injury near the end of the first half, and after sophomore Kendal Thompson played for much of the third quarter, Bell entered the game permanently and led the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute.


The day OU arrived in New Orleans, Ikard tweeted: “Best part of today: Sugar Bowl committee talking to us about the dangers of sleeping with NOLA prostitutes that may turn out to be men.”

Three days later, Ikard was asked if he had spotted any transvestites.

“I've seen about 10 too many,” Ikard said. “It was a great speech from the Sugar Bowl people. It was fantastic.”

Ikard said the warning came from a New Orleans police chief who “said he knew from personal experience.” The Sooners got a kick out of that. The chief responded that he had arrested people in such circumstances. “OK,” Ikard said. “Whatever you say.

“Bourbon Street. Great street. Aptly named.”


Senior running back Brennan Clay, on the SEC's reputation as the best college football conference: “It's kind of funny that (Texas) A&M has come into the SEC and been so dominant, and they left the Big 12 along with Mizzou. I think that says something about the Big 12, that we're SEC contenders. We can play against any of these powerhouses down here. It's exciting those former Big 12 teams do so well.”


A common theme in the OU camp in recent days has been praise for freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander, who has started seven games and is projected as a future star.

“The kid's got insane instincts,” said defensive end Geneo Grissom. “Just a great football player. He's going to be a household name before it's all over.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops didn't pull back too much from that assessment.

“The sky's the limit for him as a player,” Stoops said. “He has all the movements. He has the vision. He has the awareness. He has the skill set. He'll be a great player. I don't think there's any question about that, if he stays on the path that he's on right now. He can go down as one of the great players of Oklahoma.”


Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier used a basketball term when describing OU's defense. “I think they're extremely athletic,” Nussmeier said. “They've got great team speed, great length.”

Length is what the Thunder has. In football, that might be a euphemism for light. Alabama's girth is a recurring subject this week.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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