McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 1, 2013

Off season ended Wednesday for the OU football

By John Shinn

OKLAHOMA CITY — The offseason officially ended Wednesday for Oklahoma. Coach Bob Stoops met with fans twice. First, at the annual Citizens Advisory Board of Cleveland County Coaches Luncheon at Norman’s Journey Church. Then he capped the night at the Sooner Caravan stop at the Cox Convention Center.

Oh yeah, in between he had the first team meeting of the season in preparation for today’s first practice at 6 a.m.

All the practices are closed, but the $1 million question remains who will be the Sooners’ starting quarterback. Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight resume the race they started in the spring today.

OU still isn’t in a hurry to answer the question. At least Stoops hasn’t grown tired of deflecting the queries.

“I’ll be asked a bunch more, too,” he said when asked how many times he’s fielded the question. “It’s what you guys are supposed to ask.”

He actually joked center Gabe Ikard would get the job. Of course that was after being the butt of a joke by Ikard and guard Bronson Irwin at the Sooner Caravan stop where Stoops’ postgame dancing skills were called into question.

It was the last day of relative calm before the heavy lifting begins.

One thing is for sure: the Sooners have fully embraced the idea of sliding under the national radar this season. The USA Today preseason coaches poll will be released today. The Sooners aren’t expected to be in the preseason top 10 for the first time in several years.

“We understand that they’re a little down on us, think we’re going to have a down year because of the quarterback situation and some of the things that happened last year,” Ikard said. “We completely understand. But those expectations don’t mean anything to us.”

Stoops didn’t throw much red meat at the crowded ballroom of Sooner fans. There were no big boasts about the season’s expectations. He said defensive back Julian Wilson and defensive end Charles Tapper were some defensive players he believed were ready for breakout seasons.

Irwin told the fans sophomore wide receiver Trey Metoyer was ready for a bigger things, while Ikard believes fullback Trey Millard is primed for a bigger role as a skill player.

Mostly, however, the event was played for laughs.

Stoops had the crowd in stitches when he described the Sooners’ practice attire for the first week. They’ll be in helmets and shorts for the first two practices and then advance to using shoulder pads by the weekend.

“The fifth day you’re allowed to go full pads.

Truthfully, with shoulder pads, helmets and shoes, we really don’t need pants,” he said with the laughter building after every word. “Well, we need pants. We don’t need pads in them. To go full speed, we go full-go that way. Everything these days is up. You’re very rarely on your hands and knees.”

It was one last night of levity before the serious business of molding a team revs up.