August 10, 2009

Sooners believe another BCS berth awaits

Ellis Goodwin

NORMAN -- The Oklahoma Sooners have been good in recent history. The Bob Stoops era hasn’t seen a true rebuilding year.

The team simply reloads -- and 2009 should be no exception.

In the past five seasons the Sooners have won four Big 12 championships. In that time, they also won the Holiday Bowl in 2006, attended two Fiesta bowls, and two BCS National Championship games.

Last season was one for the record books, but the Sooners couldn’t finish against a tough Florida defense.

However, 2009 could be the year the Sooners and head coach Bob Stoops win another BCS title.

Aiming for the title

Players and coaches alike think the team can build on last year’s success. Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jeremy Beal, and other team leaders said anything less than a national championship would be a disappointment.

“You know we’ve got a shot to be even better than we were last year,” Bradford said. “Some people might not believe that, but you know I’ve seen us work in the off-season and you know the talent that I know we have I feel like we have a shot to be a very good team.”

Josh Heupel, quarterbacks coach and 2000 national championship winner, said the team, under Bradford’s direction, has a chance to be something special.

“It’s a football team that has a chance to be a championship caliber football team,” Heupel said. “Those teams find a way to get better week in and week out. They find a way to make plays in critical situations, and were gonna find out if this team has that physical and mental make up.”

He said Bradford has paid his dues in the weight room and in the film room. Bradford has bulked up to 223 pounds, and with another year of physical and mental preparation he should be ready to repeat his successes from last year.

O vs. D

The Sooners are well-balanced on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line has the most to prove. Trent Williams is the only returning starter from 2008, and he has taken it upon himself to lead the young crew up front.

“We young and we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, but you know we’re gonna be ready,” Williams said. “I’m trying to help in any way I can. I’m not a coach, but I try and give insight.”

Williams is in his fourth year at OU. He has played in multiple BCS bowl games and said his experience will hopefully help the young line.

On the other side of the ball there are few questions to be answered. The defense has nine returning starters, including senior tackle Gerald McCoy, who has become a visual and vocal leader of the defense, OU football and all of Sooner sports.

“Anything less than [a national championship] is not good enough,” he said. “We got to finish. We haven’t finished in awhile…we’ve won three Big 12 championships since I’ve been here, but we haven’t won the big one.”

McCoy said he has been vocally motivating the team to get it done. He said it takes good play from both sides of the ball to win a championship, but he wants the defense to make a statement this year.

“Our defense has to come out just like angry at everybody, mad at the world,” he said. “We don’t want nobody getting close to us, or our end zone.”

He said the defense must increase its consistency and stop big plays, which were issues for the Sooners in 2008.

OU fans are hyped up about the upcoming season, which begins September 5 at Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Thousands of fans came out for a Meet the Sooners autograph session. Fans started arriving around 5 a.m. and the line of 14,000 plus encircled the OU Soccer field by 9 a.m.

Sidebar: Stoops on rankings

The NCAA football coaches’ poll was released Friday. OU ranks third behind Florida and Texas. Florida received 53 of 59 first place votes, Texas received four and OU received one.

Head coach Bob Stoops was asked if he placed the number one vote for the Sooners, but he followed his typical no nonsense routine, playing down the rankings and refusing to divulge his decision.

“This whole stuff of who voted for who, I’m not going to partake in it,” My philosophy in the past has been for the most part, and I’m not saying I did or I didn’t, I generally vote for the team that just won [the national championship] until they get beat…”

The Associated Press top 25 will be released Saturday Aug. 22.