Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

January 4, 2014

Sooners riding high; meanwhile, Browns court Stoops

OU coach Bob Stoops talked optimistically about the future Friday morning. The afterglow from Thursday night’s 45-31 victory over No. 3 Alabama was still apparent. So was the fact that the Sooners had wrapped up an 11-2 season, finished it with back-to-back wins over top six teams — Oklahoma State and Alabama — and that the overwhelming majority of the team will be back next season, including redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight.

“There’s more than just him,” Stoops said when asked if Knight’s emergence changes the complexion of the program. “All the players around him. All the players coming back make a big difference.”

However, he elected not to quickly squash the rumor he’s a candidate for the Cleveland Browns. There have been several reports linking him to the job in the last two days and they really increased when OU built its two-touchdown lead Thursday night against the Crimson Tide.

“You never know,” Stoops said Friday morning when I asked him about the rumors.

That’s the stock answer he has given for years when asked about potential job openings. Stoops has six seasons left on his current contract, which pays him slightly less than $5 million per season. But there is no buyout in it. He’s free to leave whenever he wants.

However, Stoops talked glowingly about the future in terms of recruiting and what he has coming back at OU.

What’s next for Bell?: Trevor Knight solidified himself as the Sooners’ quarterback of the future Thursday night. The MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl ended the discussion. Although, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel grinned and said “We’ll see” when asked if the top spot on the depth chart was solidified.

But OU coach Bob Stoops said he’ll discuss all options with backup quarterback Blake Bell. The junior is on course to graduate in the spring and could transfer to another FBS school and be eligible to play next season.

“We’ll make a home for Blake one way or another,” Stoops said. “Whatever he wants to do. I hope he doesn’t want to transfer because he can play a lot of different ways. We’ll find out with him and if this is the course we go on how we can make that work for him.”

Stoops also said a position change — likely to tight end — was also a possibility.

“The guy is a great teammate, competitor and a big part of this team,” Stoops said. “Hopefully, we can make it work for him … We wanna make it work for him.”

One more message to the SEC: Since Stoops spent the last six months being grilled for his comments about the SEC, he took one final shot when asked about it Friday morning. He gloated a little, but it sounds like he’s ready for the discussion to end.

“I’ve watched Alabama run roughshod over the SEC for the past few years and we didn’t look overwhelmed,” he said. “I also watched (Texas) A&M and Missouri the last year or two and they didn’t look overwhelmed. They’ve been in the Big 12 for 100 years and they’ve been in there for two years and they look like they match up pretty well. Enough of that talk. That’s nonsense.”

Message to recruits: Coaches can’t hit the recruiting trail again until Jan. 12. Thursday’s victory gave OU lots to talk about it and the victory is already paying dividends. The Sooners’ 2015 class picked up its fourth commitment with Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton, who is one of highest rated defensive linemen in the 2015 class, announcing his commitment to OU.

As far as the current 2014 class, Stoops cannot talk about specific players but he does expect some positive news to start rolling in today. Five-star running back Joe Mixon is set to announce his choice at the Army All-American game today. It is down to OU, UCLA and Wisconsin for the highly touted recruit from Oakley, Calif.

Stoops is expecting some major commitments in the coming days.

“I think we are in great shape, from what we are hearing and the way we’ve been communicating with guys,” he said. “Hopefully that all comes to fruition in a few days.”

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