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Sooner Report: Bell Preps, Stellar Shepard
October 01, 2013

Oklahoma Offense vs. the TCU Defense

When you hear members of the Oklahoma coaching staff and the OU offense describe the TCU defense, the terms you hear sound eerily similar to the staunch Notre Dame defense the Sooners faced a year ago.

“TCU is a big, physical team,” said QB Blake Bell. “We have been out there all week working up and the coaches have a good plan for us so we have a couple more days to fine-tune some stuff. Other than that we are just going to get into the film room and go out and do the best we can. They have good players on the backend and the defensive line. Their corners and safeties are good, too. So we are going to face another physical game this week.”

Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel knows the stats and the pedigree of the Horned Frogs’ defense to a “T.”

“Giving up 10 touchdowns through four games, holding people, three yards per carry, creating three turnovers a game, they’re playing as good as anyone we play,” Heupel explained. “It’s a huge step for us offensively. A year ago, they did a great job of getting us off the field during third downs. We were in a lot of third-and-longs. We can’t do that this week.”

Unquestionably, there is a great deal of respect for TCU head coach Gary Patterson on the OU coaching staff.

“When you throw in tapes of TCU, you see a football team that plays extremely hard, they run with the football, they’re extremely physical,” Heupel continued. “That’s why you see them holding people to three yards per carry, why they create so many turnovers because they play physically. It’s a big test for us on the perimeter, having the physical game. Also, up front, able to be efficient, stay ahead of the chains.”

While Notre Dame is regarded as boasting one of the best defensive fronts in college football, according to co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, TCU’s secondary shouldn’t be underestimated either in terms of physicality.

“They’re really good, one of the best coached defensive teams in the country, year in and year out,” said Norvell. “They have some really great coverage schemes where they fit safeties and backers and also play coverage. We have to be very specific how we attack them with our patterns and we have to do a great job on the perimeter again. These guys are great cover guys; they try to blanket and not give you any space. We’re going to have to be really accurate with the ball and we’re going to have to be specific in our routes to really have success. Running the ball, again, will be very important. This is a very stout defense, a very well-coached group.”

Two Threats at QB vs. TCU?

When QB Blake Bell temporarily departed the Notre Dame game with cramps, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight wasted no time by entering the game and promptly running for a 30-yard gain. While Bell has completed 71.2 percent (52 of 73) of his passes for 683 yards, six touchdowns and no INTs over the past two games, head coach Bob Stoops didn’t close the door on the possibility of both signal callers seeing playing time on Saturday against TCU.

“It’s not a bad idea if you think about it,” Stoops said. “Blake (Bell) gets a few series off and he’s not cramping in the early third quarter, depending on if he gets in a situation where he’s winded at all.”

Although the offensive scheme remains the same with either quarterback, Stoops admitted there can be a different feel when Knight is in the game.

“It’s a different pace and speed in the way he (Knight) runs it,” Stoops said. “Sometimes we are running the same play but it doesn’t look the same in the way that Trevor runs it compared to how Blake runs it. He gives you a different dimension, as does Kendal (Thompson). Kendal does a great operating it with some speed, as well.”

“We have a bulk of things we feel comfortable doing,” said co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. “Then based on what we see week-to-week and how you progress as an offense from week-to-week, we’re going to use the things we feel gives us the most chance to be successful.”

Shepard the Pit Bull

WR Sterling Shepard caught five passes for a team-high 83 yards at Notre Dame, including a 54-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in OU’s 35-21 win at Notre Dame. In four games this season, the Oklahoma City native has totaled 16 receptions for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

But it was another aspect of Shepard’s game that caught co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell’s eye.

“Sterling did play, probably, his best game since he’s been here,” Norvell said. “He blocked really hard on the perimeter….I think Sterling is different than a lot of slot guys. He’s a pretty strong kid and he’s built like a pit bull. He can handle blocking those bigger guys and he did a really good job of that on Saturday.”

QB Blake Bell echoed those sentiments after practice on Tuesday.

“Sterling is just great at getting open,” Bell said. “He kind of makes it easy for a quarterback. Like that third down at Notre Dame where I kind of just threw it at him as he was crossing the line and he took it the rest of the way and really showed his wheels. He does a great job of getting open and is a great football player on the field.”

While OU fans may appreciate seeing Shepard running free in opposing secondaries, Norvell lauded the entire receiver corps for their work that’s not often seen on the scoresheet or in the highlight reel.

“It’s the little things and the hard things that are most difficult to do week in and week out,” Norvell said. “Most receivers want to catch the ball and get stats, but the reality is that 90 percent of the time they’re not going to have the ball in their hands. How they play and how hard they play when they don’t have the ball is really, really important.”

Running back Roy Finch, who has been a beneficiary of the blocking downfield, says he also notices the emphasis and work the receivers are putting in.

“Those blocks on the outside are what make big plays and what springs 50, 60-yarders,” the senior said. “That’s what makes our offense really explosive is when you have guys down the field fighting and trying to get that block for you, for the team. It’s all unselfishness. Sterling is one of the most unselfish players on this team. He’s doing a great job.”

Stoops On Balancing Family, Football

In an interview with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Coach Bob Stoops was asked how he juggles the demands of being a head football coach while also ensuring he spends quality family time with his wife, Carol, and their three children.  

“There are very few jobs that you can have great success in and not have time invested in it,” said Stoops, who is in his 15th season with the Sooners in 2013. “I don’t believe you have to sacrifice your family life to be successful. I think you just have to be true to yourself and strike a good balance in what you’re doing. All families and all situations are different. I think more than anything, be true to yourself and your family to do what you feel you’re comfortable with.”

Rather than family life “taking up” football time, Stoops explained that being with his loved ones actually improves his work performance.

“When I have a good balance, I’m better at my job,” he continued. “In some of the specific things that I’ve tried to do through my life is, number one, which I think has been great for me and I learned it from [South Carolina head coach] Steve Spurrier, is take my children to school. Make sure I was there in the morning to help them prepare and get ready for their day, to help them get ready for school, and then to take them to school in all opportunities that I’ve been able to. If I’m at home I’ve always taken them to school and started their day with them and that’s been great.”

Stoops also includes his family at work: “Other ways is having them at practice or at the end of practice whenever they’re able to. Get them to know the players so they feel connected and they start to understand your job and then they understand that they’re a part of it and when I’m away they understand why I need to be away. We’ve had family nights or dinner nights through the year where we bring all the wives and family up to the stadium where we have dinner together. Again, just having opportunities to include them and be with them.”  

Spotlight on the Sooners

As Oklahoma continues to do well this season, national media is noticing. FOX is set to broadcast the Sooners’ game against TCU at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday in front of a national audience with Gus Johnson and Charles Davis in the booth. Johnson, Davis and the FOX crew are expected

Before the game, OU fans can hear from head coach Bob Stoops on Wednesday, first on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM with Ian Fitzsimmons at 1 p.m., then nationally on FOX Sports Radio with Pat O’Brien and Steve Hartman at 2:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Coach Stoops will be going live from the FOX Sports 1 set on the South Oval of OU campus talking to Erin Andrews, Eddie George and Joel Klatt back in the FOX Studios back in Los Angeles. More details on the visit of the FOX Sports 1 set to the OU campus will be announced on SoonerSports.com as they become available.

Another Honor For AD

Accolades have followed Sooner great Adrian Peterson throughout his amazing career, from being named NFL MVP last season, being named the MVP of the Pro Bowl or being selected as a unanimous All-American.

But on Friday, Peterson will be given an especially poignant tribute at Palestine High School when his high school jersey number will be retired in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.

Palestine was where it all began for Peterson, who first played for the Wildcats as a junior in 2002, rushing for 2,051 yards on 246 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per carry, and 22 touchdowns.

Peterson bested those numbers the following year in his senior season, finishing with 2,960 yards on 252 attempts, an average of 11.7 yards per carry, and a jaw-dropping 32 touchdowns.

For his efforts, Peterson was awarded the Hall Trophy as the U.S. Army National Player of the Year and was named the top high school player by both College Football News and Rivals.com.

Peterson continued to wear #28 when he went on to his storied career at Oklahoma, breaking numerous school and NCAA freshman records while helping the Sooners to the 2005 BCS Championship Game.

After three seasons in Norman, Peterson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and has been with the team ever since, including an NFL MVP award in 2012 after rushing for the second-most yards in a season in league history.

Peterson has also sought to bless others in chasing their dreams by donating $1 million to OU Athletics.  Of that generous gift, $500,000 was designated for a scholarship fund, while the other $500,000 went towards the construction of OU’s game-changing residence hall, Headington Hall.

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