By John Shinn, CNHI News Service
NORMAN, Okla. —
The entire point of a vacation is to rest up and be able to work again. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops saw the ramifications of the two weeks he gave his players off when they returned to practice this week.
Many of those who limped onto the practice field as OU prepared for the Dec. 1 regular-season finale against TCU, had a spring in their step when they returned to practice.
Running back Damien Williams was one of many who looked like a different person when the Sooners reconvened on the practice last Saturday.
“Damien Williams has been limping around the last three games of the year, and he had no limp the last couple of days. It’s been fun,” Stoops said. “He’s healing, and most of the other guys aren’t limping as much and feeling better, so it’s got to help us some. I believe it will.”
The break came after a punishing regular season, which closed with the Sooners playing nine games in the final nine weeks. There was no time for that little break to let the aches of a season heal.
Stoops doesn’t believe a week off in November would have made much of a difference.
“A lot of times, that weekend isn’t going to get you much healthier anyway. You still have to practice. You don’t want to give them the whole week off, because you lose your timing and sense of rhythm playing. They’re still on their legs and working,” he said.
The grind, however, exacted a toll. Williams was one of several critical cogs in OU’s that were significantly slowed down the stretch.
He suffered an ankle injury in the Oct. 27 game against No. 1 Notre Dame. He played in final five games against Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU. The burst he had in the first half of the season, however, was absent.
“That injury really slowed me down,” Williams said. ”I couldn’t get as many reps in games that I wanted and I couldn’t get as many reps in practice that I needed. Things are getting better and I really feel like I can get back in the flow of things.”
There’s still time for the bodies to heal before the 12th-ranked Sooners have to play again. Practices are currently geared toward younger players. OU won’t turn its full attention its meeting with No. 10 Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl until next week.
Adam Shead has been dealing with an injured ankle since OU’s second game. He didn’t miss any games either. It’s been a tough season for many. Every player on OU’s offensive line limped off the field at some point this season. Stoops said tackle Daryl Williams still is questionable for the bowl game.
The rest, however, helped them feel better than they’ve felt in months.
“It was absolutely perfect for it to happen right when it did. It was perfect timing because, I mean everyone was hurting. When I say everybody, I mean everybody,” left guard Adam Shead said. “You can see the difference at practice. We have a whole team full of guys that feel rejuvenated and ready to go.”
Shinn writes for the Norman Transcript.