Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has unleashed his inner Belichick this preseason. (No, not that way.)
There's precious little information coming out of the Sooner camp leading into the 2008 season. All of two practices have been open to the public so far, and there won't be any more. Scrimmages are being held behind closed doors as well.
SoonerSports.com offered this insightful assessment of the action:
"Oklahoma scrimmaged in full pads during a two-and-one-half hour session that ended under the lights at Owen Field Saturday evening. With the scrimmage, OU closed its first week of preseason practice. The Sooners open two-a-day practices on Monday at the rugby fields. Oklahoma's 2008 season begins Saturday, Aug. 30, when OU hosts Chattanooga at Owen Field."
Stoops said before practices opened that he wanted to keep a few new "wrinkles" under wraps, prompting the black ops.
Sounds exciting, but Sooner Nation probably should take it easy for the time being. For example, I remember when Stoops closed off practices in 2006 following the Bomar debacle. All the supposed preparations the coaching staff was making to get corner Reggie Smith involved in the offense? Didn't see too much of that once the season kicked off.
The glass-half-full take? The Sooners are preparing to drop some exotic schemes on unwitting opponents in 2008.
Half empty? The experiment with the no-huddle is a disaster. Injuries haven't healed. No one is stepping up to fill the void at linebacker.
My guess is that the reality is--like Belichick--Stoops is growing a little paranoid in his old age. Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World, for instance, has hinted
that there's a belief within the OU program that TCU engineered its upset in the 2005 opener thanks to some preseason spying. As Sittler points out, closing off practices is also a good way to keep the pressure off the offense as it tries to install the no-huddle package.
Anyway, outside of some pretty uninformative footage of individual drills, the only real intel coming out of Norman has to be gleaned from what the coaches are telling the media:
-DeMarco Murray's health has to be a concern, regardless of assurances that he's fine. Murray didn't participate in the scrimmage because of an "ankle sprain." Maybe the coaching staff is just being overly cautious with OU's star tailback, given his injury history. Still, it would be a little more comforting if Murray was going full speed. Until Murray is tearing up the Chattanooga defense, I'm not buying that all is well. I might not even believe it then.
-The linebacker situation still seems pretty fluid. Coming out of spring practices, the smart money was on Ryan Reynolds holding down the middle, with Keenan Clayton and Austin Box on the outside. Sounds like 25-year-old ex-construction worker Mike Balogun
is making a real run at Box's spot on the weak side. Apparently he hits like a ton of bricks. (Couldn't resist.) May the best man win, but I have to admit that I'd love to see the out-of-nowhere junior college recruit tear it up this year.
-Redshirt freshman Ryan Broyles continues to be the offensive darling of the preseason. A quick, shifty receiver in the slot would give the Sooners the only dimension that seems to be missing from a receiving corp that is already very good.
-OU's potentially dominant front four could help take a lot of pressure off the newcomers behind them on defense.
I guess if there's an upside to all the cloak-and-dagger shenanigans, it would be that whatever happens in the fall will have to include some surprises. Hope it's worth it.