MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

November 14, 2013

No looking to next year yet, Stoops says

NORMAN —  Oklahoma’s list of preseason goals remain unchecked and likely won’t be filled in.

The Big 12 Championship is most likely out a reach, a BCS bowl game is well beyond its grasp and there’s no chance of having to make room in the Switzer Center for another national championship trophy.

So, what is the Sooners’ focus the rest of the season?

Center Gabe Ikard summed it up.

“Win. Always. Those are the goals,” he said.

It shouldn’t be a problem this week. No. 22 OU (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) still enters Saturday’s game against Iowa State (1-8, 0-6) as a 24-point favorite despite the offensive struggles that have plagued it throughout the season.

But the Sooners are at a crossroads in terms of whether to pour all their chips into rest of the season or begin building for the future.

There are nine seniors in OU’s two-deep offensive depth chart. They’ll play their final game at Owen Field Saturday. But they obviously aren’t part of the rebuilding project. Why not start looking at some young players?

“I don’t see any of that,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “You look at all the different pieces you’re trying to get back on the field or won’t be on the field and trying to — it’s just strictly putting the best out there right now to win. There isn’t any looking outside of this week.”

The obvious place where OU will look for the most improvement is the quarterback spot. Blake Bell remains the starter despite his struggles last week against Baylor and his up-and-down performance throughout the Big 12 Conference slate.

Bell will make his seventh start Saturday, and Stoops remains adamant that Bell still has an upside worthy of keeping at the spot.

“People all want to put it on Blake and place the blame on him. When it comes down to it if we execute in the run game better, we’re gonna set him up in better situations,” Ikard said. “The way we played on Thursday is not gonna help any quarterback no matter who you put behind us.

“Blake is gonna come back and work. He’s a guy that will take it to heart and then bounce back and play well. I’m not worried about the way Blake is gonna play.”

But some decisions have to made about the future. What kind of offense is the Sooners going to have is as important as who will run it. Many teams start doing that in the final third of a season after  many of the preseason goals are off the table.

“I guess you could if you were just looking to next year. I can see where, at times, an NFL team with two wins and onto next year might want to evaluate someone that way, but not in our case,” Stoops said.

The Sooners are still in the mode of wanting to win — and improve — with what they have.

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