MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 30, 2013

Sugar Bowl notepad

By John Shinn
CNHI News Service

Bama QB almost a Sooner

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron led his team to national championships in 2011 and 2012. If not for Auburn’s field goal return for a touchdown Nov. 30, he might be going for three straight.

In the case of what-ifs, he might have also been Oklahoma’s quarterback if the recruiting process had gone a tad differently.

McCarron said Sunday he was set to commit to the Sooners before the Mobile, Ala., native had an epiphany. He said he wasn’t an Alabama fan growing up.

“I like Sam Bradford. I liked watching him play and the offense they ran when he was there,” he said. “The night before I verbally committed to Alabama, I was going to commit to Oklahoma. I talked to my parents and prayed about it when I went to bed that night. Woke up the next morning and chose to go to Alabama. I felt that it was best for my situation and my family.”

McCarron’s parents were the big Crimson Tide fans in his family. Ultimately that spurred his decision.

“Every family in Alabama … the first thing is, when they have a boy, is that he’s going to be a quarterback at Alabama. It’s always the thought process behind every kid in the state of Alabama,” he said. “My dad said that a long time ago in joking around … my parents kind of live their dreams through me and that’s the cool part about the process. That’s what I’m thankful about.”



No pecking order

OU, typically, tries to match cornerback Aaron Colvin against and an opponent’s best wide receiver. Probably won’t happen Thursday because the Crimson Tide doesn’t have a defined No. 1 receiver. Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones all have 36 receptions this season. Cooper leads the team with 615 receiving yards. Norwood sets the pace with a team-leading seven touchdown receptions.

“They have three or four receivers that can play. The coaches have definitely preached about that. Everybody has to be on their Ps and Qs at all times,” Colvin said.



Watch and learn

OU defensive end Chuka Ndulue said he and some teammates ran into New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees after arriving at the Saints practice facility Friday.

Pleasantries were exchanged, but there was a lesson about what it took to be a professional.

“Their practice was over at three and he’s leaving at seven. The past four hours, he was watching film. That’s a critical part of the game,” Ndulue said. “Everyone sees what Drew has done.”



Excited, for the moment

The Sooners don’t not get to face teams like Alabama often, nor does their defense get to square off with a traditional, downhill running team.

Both aspects have adrenalized OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in the weeks leading up to the game.

“I’m excited to play in a game like this,” he said. “I say that now. I don’t know come Thursday night about 11 I might not feel the same way, because if you can’t stop the run, you can’t win.  And that’s just how this game is set up. And that’s going to be a big challenge for us Thursday night.”



Wait and see

OU linebacker Eric Striker was hit with a question the Sooners’ defenders have been faced with constantly since arriving in New Orleans: how will they hold up against the size of Alabama’s offensive line, tight ends and running backs.

Striker had the perfect deadpan answer when asked if Alabama was the most physical offense the Sooners have faced this season.

“I don’t know,” Striker said. “I haven’t played them yet.”