Orange Bowl Notebook: Offense expecting stiff challenge

By Michael Kinney

The biggest question surrounding the Oklahoma Sooners heading into Saturday’s Orange Bowl has been the health of All-American wideout marquise Brown. Ever since he injured his ankle in the third quarter of the Big 12 Championship, the speedy receiver has been questionable to play in the College Football Playoffs.

But it seems a return to his own backyard as helped Brown’s healing process. At Wednesday afternoon’s practice at Florida Atlantic University, the media was able to see Brown leading warm ups and running routes before practice was closed.

However, the Sooners have given no official statement on whether the Hollywood, Florida native will play against Alabama Saturday.

Under the weather?

When the Oklahoma offense appeared at the media availability Wednesday morning, quarterback Kyler Murray was not on hand. OU officials said he was under the weather.

However, Murray was at practice Wednesday.

“I just heard that this morning, so I’m sure the doctors probably got with him and probably thought it was best to get a little rest before practice,” OU assistant coach Cale Gundy said. “It’s been a crazy last couple weeks for him.”

A new trend?

It’s the second year in a row that an Oklahoma quarterback has missed media portions of the College Football Playoff buildup.

“I don’t know, I can’t answer,” Gundy said. “I didn’t know anything about it until I got in the car this morning.”

Two-way star

Gundy did say that his star quarterback, who has signed to play baseball with the Oakland Athletics, has the ability to play both sports.

“He is going to continue to get a lot better, in whatever he continues to do,” Gundy said of Murray. “If he decides to keep continuing to play baseball, he’s going to get a lot better because he will get to spend all year long playing baseball. He should do whatever he wants to do. And I think he can do both.”

Physicality first

When talking about the Alabama defense, the first thing that pops into Oklahoma’s Trey Sermon’s mind is the physical nature of the unit.

“Just their physicality and how they move. I mean, just their flow of the defense. My mindset is just to make the most of my opportunities,” Sermon said. “Like I said, they’re a great defense, so I mean, I just have to execute and just make the most every time I watch the ball.”

Proving himself

Sermon is looking forward to the matchup with the Alabama defense for a number of reasons.

“I just want to see how I match up against these defenders,” Sermon said. “I mean, they’re great players, as well, so I mean, I just want to see how well I can run the ball, how well I can make them miss. I mean, that’s the pride of my game. This is considered one of the best defenses in the country, so if I can do what I usually do against them, then just builds more confidence in myself.”

Feeling healthy

Since the Sooners haven’t played a game in almost a month, they are probably at their healthiest since the start of the season. That is especially true for Sermon, who says he hasn’t been a 100 percent healthy since the TCU game.

“The rest has been very important. Dealing with the high ankle sprain,” Sermon said. “Every time I thought it was getting a little better, I’d go in and play, wrap it up. It would just kind of reaggravate itself. It was very important for me to get to 100 percent. I’m feeling good now.”

Man of many hats

Kicker Austin Seibert says the fact he is able to do three jobs for the Sooners is not that amazing to him.

“My goal is to help us win, and if me doing all three is the best thing for the team, then that’s what I’m going to do, and I’ve done that my whole life,” Seibert said. “So I don’t think it’s really been — hasn’t really hit me that I do all three. Maybe in the future, but I’ve just held myself to that standard, so I’m used to it.

How has the OU offense developed this season?

“It’s developed well. Again, what we’re doing both rushing the football and passing the football, it’s very well-balanced,” Gundy said. “Again, I think it all starts with Kyler won the Heisman, and I think it all starts with our offensive line, and obviously what those guys have done and what Coach Bill Bedenbaugh our offensive line coach does and prepares those guys, so when you can control the line of scrimmage, you can do a lot of different things.

Young gun stepping up

While the OU offensive line is full of veterans, Ben Powers gives a lot of credit to redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey for stabilizing the unit.

“Creed is a great player. If he didn’t step up and play like the way he’s been playing, we wouldn’t have had the success offensively,” Powers said. “That we’ve had. He’s a huge factor in that.“

Brooks also a focal point

“Man, him being able to step up and play the way he’s been playing is huge,” Powers said of Kennedy Brooks, “That’s one of the big factors why we’re at where we’re at today.”

Powers describes the OU offensive line.

“I’d say we’re physical,” Powers said. “We’re physical and we win.”

Game will be won in the trenches

“A lot of people want to say how big of a game it is. But the offensive line is looking for the opportunity to play their defensive line,” Powers said. “And their defensive line is looking at the same opportunity to play us. So it’s interesting how we’re both going to get the best we’ve played this year. I can’t wait. I love playing the best. It’s an opportunity to show how truly good I am.”

Alabama tackle Quinnen Williams had the same mentality

“Going into every game I feel like they are the best offensive line in the game,” Williams said. “I never feel like an offensive line is sorry. But knowing (Oklahoma) are the best, they won the award of the best offensive line, it makes me happy. I like that. I like a challenge. I’m not a player that just wants to go dominate everything. I love a challenge. I may not win every play, but I’m going to dominate every play. That’s in my mind. Going against a dominant offensive line like they have, it’s exciting to me.”

What can the Sooners expect?

“They know the challenge ahead of them. They know when you start talking about the Alabama defense, you can talk about every position,” Gundy said. “You’ve got all-conference players, you’ve got All-American players, a lot of national award winners. You just can’t pull out one side of the ball, whether it’s in the secondary or defensive line and say these guys are better than the rest of the defense. They’re gifted. They’re talented, and it’s going to be a challenge.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider.


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