New quarterback, coordinator prepare in private at Oklahoma

Wednesday, August 30th 2006, 10:29 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ What does Oklahoma have in store on offense this year? A new play-caller, a new quarterback and a whole lot of mystery.

Coach Bob Stoops' Sooners have worked largely in private since opening camp on Aug. 3. Oklahoma's first four practices were open to the public and the media before a shutdown. After that, the Sooners held one open scrimmage that was announced and another unannounced one at a pep rally for students.

Those few glimpses have been the only chance for fans, media and UAB _ the opponent for the 10th-ranked Sooners in their season opener on Saturday _ to decipher what new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has planned for new quarterback Paul Thompson and the rest of the offense.

``It is obviously a concern. Oklahoma closed practice to everyone, so no one knows what they are doing,'' UAB coach Watson Brown said. ``Thompson is obviously an athletic kid who is 6-4, 230 pounds and can play wide receiver. We are going to have to react on the run after the game starts and we see what he is doing.''

Oklahoma insists this isn't 1970, when coach Chuck Fairbanks and offensive coordinator Barry Switzer installed the wishbone offense in 13 days. But players and coaches aren't giving out specifics on what Wilson's offense will look like, either.

As the offensive coordinator at Northwestern, Wilson ran a spread offense, but he has said that was because the Wildcats lacked high-caliber fullbacks and tight ends.

``I don't know if it's going to be radically different,'' said Wilson, a co-offensive coordinator for the Sooners last season while Chuck Long called the plays. ``Maybe in some ways, but to us it's not because it's the same terminology and a lot of the same guys. I don't think we feel like a lot of this is significantly different.

Wilson has said he will use multiple formations and play to the strengths of his players. Star tailback Adrian Peterson excels in the I-formation and single-back sets, when he's able to get a running start and batter his way through defenders. Thompson is a fan of bootlegs and plays that allow him to make plays on the edge.

``We've got a couple of twists and turns,'' Peterson said. ``Saturday's coming. You'll be able to see.''

The 2004 Heisman Trophy runner-up later relented a little.

``There's a couple of new plays thrown in, like every other team has new plays,'' Peterson said. ``But it's not any changes that are going to shock everybody.''

Stoops suggested that there's a reason for closing the practices, beyond preventing information from getting out to opponents.

``Just all the distractions,'' Stoops said. ``Our players have enough to deal with. It's hot out there, it's 105 degrees. You're hustling to get to a meal because we've got a meeting in a little bit, then we're getting back out on the field later.

``It's just they've got enough to do and they're not professional athletes.''

Wilson said complete openness can have its advantages too. Opponents can get overloaded if they try to prepare for a team's full playbook and all kinds of formations.

``Sometimes if they know what's coming, they've got to work on stuff,'' Wilson said. ``A lot of people say in the first game, don't do something, hold it for this opponent. Some people say show them everything so they've got to worry about it and work on it.''