Use of young players fine with Stoops

Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla.-As was the case last week, Oklahoma's lineup against Arkansas State on Saturday will feature several young players.

That's fine with coach Bob Stoops.

"I've said it all along: We've got no problem playing freshmen," Stoops said Tuesday. "We did last year, we are this year. All we're concerned about is the players that we feel are the best players at that position are playing.

"If you're the best player at that position, you'll start. If you are very close to that and can play winning football, then you get a certain amount of snaps during the game."

Last weekend against Texas-El Paso, 17 players saw their first collegiate action. Eleven of those were redshirt freshmen or true freshman.

Renaldo Works, one of five true freshmen who played, led the Sooners with 98 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Dan Cody, also a true freshman, played well at defensive end, as did redshirt freshman Kory Klein at defensive tackle.

Klein is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at right tackle. Cody and two other true freshmen, linebackers Teddy Lehman and Jimmy Wilkerson, are listed No. 2 at their positions. Strong safety Roy Williams and cornerback Derrick Straight, both redshirt freshmen, are starters. The offense has five redshirt freshmen listed No. 2 at various positions, with Works the backup to Quentin Griffin at tailback.

"The bottom line is you need to put the very best players on the field at that position, regardless of age," said Stoops, a starter as a redshirt freshman at Iowa. "That's the only fair way I know how to do it as a coach.

"Players earn their snaps and earn their plays on the field by the way they play in games and the way they play in practice. Outside of that, we're not concerned about what year they are."

The 20th-ranked Sooners beat UTEP, 55-14. Stoops said it was a performance that, despite the wide margin of victory, left plenty of room for improvement.

The Sooners dropped 10 passes, he said. He wasn't pleased with their play during the second quarter, when the only points were a field goal and an interception returned for a touchdown. The special teams played well, although Stoops said the punt coverage unit needs to display more hustle and toughness.

"I think our players saw it on tape this week, that there's a lot of parts of the game that we need to correct, and I believe we will this week," he said.

Arkansas State opened its season with a 38-31, double-overtime loss to North Carolina State. The Indians opted to try to score a clinching touchdown in the closing minutes, facing fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line, but were stopped on the play. North Carolina State tied the game with a field goal at the end of regulation before winning it.

"They had every opportunity to win the football game," Stoops said. "There were a lot of very good plays in the game that they created and made on both sides of the ball, so without question we'll need to be prepared."

SOONER NOTES:@ Oklahoma dropped one spot in The Associated Press poll, despite the easy victory last week. "All that will work its way out one way or another, and we don't pay a whole lot of attention to it and didn't last week," Stoops said. ... After all the anticipation of last week's season opener, might there be a letdown on Saturday? "Not at all," Stoops said. "I don't believe in that. I believe players are ready to play each and every week." ... Saturday's game begins shortly after 6:30 p.m. and is available in Arkansas and Oklahoma via pay-per-view.