The Moore American

January 8, 2014

Sugar Bowl win helps Sooners lock in prized recruits

By John Shinn
The Moore American

NEW ORLEANS — 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.

Message to recruits: Oakley, Calif., running back Joe Mixon verbally committed to the Sooners during the U.S. Army All-American game Saturday in San Antonio, giving the Sooners a bonafide five-star recruit.

Mixon is Rivals.com’s No. 1 running back in the Class of 2014 and No. 9 player overall. ESPN tabs Mixon as the No. 9 running back in the 2014 class.

Mixon’s announcement alone jumped the Sooners into Rivals.com recruiting rankings for the first time with this class. The Sooners are now at No. 20 with 18 commitments.

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.”

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.”

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.”