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December 27, 2011

Insight Notebook: Practices back on track for OU

With Oklahoma's arrival on Sunday, the Sooners arrived in Arizona three days after Iowa, who landed in Phoenix on Thursday. The Hawkeyes immediately got to work by putting in two practices before the Sooners arrived.

But Bob Stoops' team says their break for Christmas didn't show any negative effects on the practice field on Saturday.

"You'd think coming back from the break there'd be some drops or something like that, but they didn't have too many drops today or anything, and ran some pretty crisp routes," said quarterback Landry Jones of his receiving unit. "They did a good job with it."

"Today was good," added co-offensive cooardinator Josh Heupel. "It's amazing that you get a three or four-day break and whatever it's been. For the most part our chemistry, timing, whatever, wasn't too bad or some of the mistakes you would think you would have because you were gone for a few days."

The Sooners will practice in full pads today and Wednesday before their walk-through practice as Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday.

But the Sooners did do plenty of work on Iowa back in Norman before taking their break for Christmas. Stoops doesn't think arriving late has affected his team at all now that they are in Arizona.

"We had had six straight practices (in Norman) and worked on Iowa the whole time," he said. "We worked quite a bit and guys picked it right back up today. I feel like we're in good shape."

The only negative, according to the coaching staff, to the Norman-Arizona bowl schedule, and playing a bit earlier than normal is that the Sooners missed out on the equivalent of two bowl preparation practices for youngsters.

BIRD PULLING DOUBLE DUTY

With a back injury to starting fullback Aaron Ripkowski, Oklahoma needs another big blocker when the Sooners go to the Belldozer formation. That responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of backup fullback Jaydan Bird.

Bird has been a key backup for the Sooners this year on defense, but coaches can't stop raving about his abilities as a lead blocker in short-yardage situations.

"He does a great job," said Stoops. "He practices it every day they work it. I think he did some in high school."

It can often make for an interesting situation in practices when Bird has to switch sides and take on his teammates as a fullback.

"Sometimes I don't know what's going on. I'm like, 'Where's my guy?'" joked defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "It's good. I'm a team guy. Jaydan's smart enough and good enough. He's an instinctive football player and it doesn't surprise me he's able to go over there and do what they want him to do. I'm all for it. They wouldn't do it if it didn't make them better."

But one collision that hasn't happened so far in practice is between Bird and a player ahead of him on the depth chart, Tom Wort.

"I haven't had a chance to run into him yet," said Wort. "He's been doing a good job when he runs over there and does that. But, no, we haven't hit each other yet."

During practices, Bird just works into the fullback spot when the Belldozer portion of practice takes place. And yes, Stoops officially referred to the Blake Bell package as the 'Belldozer' on Monday.

"I kinda of liked it," said Stoops of the nickname. "I thought it fit."

LANDRY'S DECISION

Bob Stoops did, or did not, make news over the weekend when a story in the Tulsa World quoted him as saying he thought Landry Jones was leaning toward returning for his senior season at OU.

"I don't know where that came from," said Stoops following Monday's practice.

Stoops was quickly reminded it came from Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World. He denied knowing anything about Jones' eventual decision, and even directed media to ask Sittler about the article.

"Ask Dave," said Stoops. "I don't have any idea. What I feel doesn't matter. It's what the young guy thinks about it and right now he is far from making that decision. So, right now he's absolutely uncertain what he's gonna do. He has plenty of time after the game to analyze it more."

With such a big decision on the horizon, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel has said he has had some discussions with Jones, but nothing too in-depth.

"I've had conversations with him when it was appropriate," said Heupel.

Jones is no doubt being inundated with questions surrounding his decision to stay or go. That is one area Heupel has been working with Jones to manage.

"He's gotta compartmentalize his life and it's just the nature of being an athlete and the position he's in, you pick it up, you think about it and when it's done you've got to go to work and he's got to be able to do that," he said.


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