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Stoops Is Not Open to Discuss Pro Job

Times Staff Writer

After Oklahoma’s final practice at Loyola Marymount on Monday, Coach Bob Stoops found himself answering questions not about his team’s readiness, but about reports that he is considered a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ open coaching spot.

Stoops refused to comment on what he characterized as innuendo and rumor.

“Usually about this time of year, all that junk starts,” he said. “I’m not even dealing with it. I’m talking about the Rose Bowl and that’s it.”

Speaking of which, Stoops said he was pleased with his players’ effort the last two days. The practices were brisk, he said, and no one was hurt.

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The only thing left to decide was a location for the team’s walk-through at the hotel today. Stoops said he was considering an empty ballroom or a parking lot.

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Oklahoma’s emphasis has shifted toward running back Quentin Griffin and the ground attack this season.

The running game accounted for half of the team’s yards this fall, a big change from 2001 when the Sooners were heavily weighted toward the pass.

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Oklahoma’s offensive line is all in favor of the change.

“It’s a lot easier attacking than it is retreating for pass protection,” center Vince Carter said. “That’s what you want to do, run 30 times a game.”

The surprising part is, the team’s receivers seem to agree.

“While my receiving numbers are down, I feel like I’m playing the best football of my life,” tight end Trent Smith said. “I’m proud of myself for the way I’ve learned to block.”

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Even smaller guys, such as 6-foot, 180-pound receiver Curtis Fagan, have been getting into the act.

“When you have a block that frees Quentin for 60 yards, you feel good,” he said. “That’s like catching a big pass.”

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Linebacker Teddy Lehman has a national reputation as an All-American and anchor of the Sooner defense, but it wasn’t always that way.

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Playing high school football in Fort Gibson, Okla., Lehman wasn’t recruited by many schools and figured he needed to make the rounds of summer camps to get noticed.

His first stop was Oklahoma, where he introduced himself to co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables before the players ran 40-yard sprints.

“What do you think you’re going to run?” Venables asked.

Lehman said 4.4 seconds, easily. The coach didn’t believe him, suggesting that 4.6 might be a more reasonable guess for a linebacker.

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“If I run a 4.6,” Lehman shot back, “I’ll quit football.”

Venables liked the cockiness in that answer. He liked it even more when Lehman ran a 4.4 not once but twice. The small-town kid walked away from camp with a scholarship offer.


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