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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

“We heard it all season,” OU defensive end Charles Tapper said. “Some players feeling like we couldn't play because we were light in the pants. We were a little team. Couldn't be good in the 3-4.”

But even Tapper admits Bama has a size advantage. And Nussmeier had high praise for the OU defense.

“They do a really good job of mixing up their scheme,” Nussmeier said. “They go from a 3-4 defense into some of the four-down looks, but they keep the same people in the game. Having known Coach (Mike) Stoops being out on the West Coast when he was at Arizona, he's always done an outstanding job on defense. They play physical, they play fast. We're going to have to play our best game.”

WALKER HELPS 3-4

OU quality control coach Chad Walker was on Nick 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, 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

Heupel explained the 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.”

OU GETS PHYSICAL

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 of 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.”

SOONERS WATCH 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,” 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.”

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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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