PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — An eventful morning of interviews here at the scenic Camelback Inn. It started with Andrew Luck and Stanford, continued with Oklahoma State and ended with the media day for the Insight Bowl teams, Iowa and OU.
It’s interesting, as our Berry Tramel pointed out, that we get an unprecedented level of access with the players two days before the game, on what would in effect be a “Thursday” during a normal game week. And Bob Stoops and Kirk Ferentz are scheduled to speak again tomorrow, on the equivalent of a game week “Friday.” Stoops sort of rolled his eyes when reminded of that a few minutes ago. Understandable, considering we’d just spoken with him for about an hour.
The starters were made available, each player sitting at his own table — and about five (Frank Alexander, Travis Lewis, Gabe Ikard, Jamell Fleming and Landry Jones) chosen to sit on special podiums. The guys, and even Stoops, were relaxed and engaging. We wondered this week if Lewis would come, since he last spoke on Oct. 29. But he did and, from what I understand, he was just as laidback as anyone else.
I spent time with Ben Habern, Ikard (I always type “Ikward,” for some reason), Roy Finch, Tony Jefferson and Jones. And then I talked some with Stoops, who chatted with a few of us candidly, which, as you know, rarely happens.
It’s an interesting time for OU. The players at least seem to have separated the disappointment from the season and this game. Of course they’re going to say all the right things, but the body language is good for the most part. Jefferson was giddy about seeing his Suns play the other night (they lost to the Hornets?), and potentially going back again tonight.
Jones talked a bit more about the NFL Draft. I’m starting to feel bad about how many times he’s asked, but his answers, it seems like, are getting more and more interesting. He admitted he goes back and forth whether to stay or leave. We hadn’t heard it put quite like that previously.
I’m not sure what to make of Iowa, which has played so well in recent bowl games. Ferentz seems to manage the team well during this time of year. But Stoops has, too, in non-BCS games. The Hawkeyes are a mess at running back. They brought a senior, James White, to media day. But two freshmen, De’Andre Johnson and Jordan Canzeri, will also be factors, Ferentz said. Who freaking knows who is going to carry the ball and how much?
Stoops said he likes the Fiesta/Insight bowls because they allow the players (and coaches) to have more free time, as opposed to some games that almost obsessively pit the teams in silly challenges throughout the week. (The Outback comes to mind. The Holiday, I’ve heard, is also into that kind of thing.)
The Sooners are practicing later this afternoon. It’ll be their last real workout before Friday night’s game. How ironic that in a season of late kickoffs, OU’s year will end with a 9 p.m. CT kick.