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Sooners Arrive in Miami, Hold Practice

Written by  Mike Houck- Assistant AD/Strategic Communications Saturday, 26 December 2015 21:53
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MIAMI — With holiday meals barely digested, Oklahoma football team members departed early Saturday morning for sunny and muggy Miami, where they were given an orange-carpet welcome by Capital One Orange Bowl staff members and mascot "Obie" upon arrival.


The Sooners, No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will make their 19th appearance in the Orange Bowl when they meet No. 1 Clemson on Thursday, Dec. 31 at 3:10 p.m. CT. The winner will advance to the Jan. 11 College Football Playoff National Championship and play No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Michigan State.


"It's beautiful and there's sunshine," head coach Bob Stoops told reporters moments after stepping off the plane at Miami International Airport. "The people here are wonderful and really great. We are excited about the opportunity."


OU hit the practice field in Miami late Saturday afternoon, working out for more than an hour at NCAA Division II Barry University, the Sooners' practice site for each of their three previous bowl trips to South Florida under head coach Bob Stoops.


"The team has looked tremendous," said sophomore safety Steven Parker after Saturday's practice. "We just try to come out every day and work. We've been doing a lot of 'good on good' and that's going to pay off in the end because we'll be able to keep up our game speed."


Senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who claims he and his mom always wanted him to play in the Orange Bowl because of OU's rich tradition with the event and because his dad, Derrick Shepard, played in it, said the Sooners are dialed in.


"I mean you come here to win championships," said the first-team All-Big 12 selection. "We are in a great position right now, so it should be fun. We're going to have a fun week, and I can't wait to do it."


Things Heating Up

The Sooners are accustomed to playing in warm conditions, but it has been a few months since they've experienced the temperatures forecasted for Miami in the coming week.


Highs are expected to reach the mid-80s each day, with elevated humidity levels.


Asked about adapting to Miami's "winter" climate, Stoops said, "Well we had the heat cranked up in our indoor (practice facility in Norman last week). It's a little different here, though. (We put the thermostat) on as high as it would go."


The OU players don't seem to think the weather will be much of a factor.


"To us, it won't really affect us," said Parker. "We're ballplayers, and we have to develop and learn how to play in any type of climate or weather condition. I think us coming out and working out butts off each and every day in the sun around the time that we'll be playing the game will help tremendously."


The Sooners are scheduled to practice mid to late afternoon the next three days when temperatures will be peaking.


Long Layoff

If it seems like OU's last game occurred quite a while ago, that's because it has.


By the time the Sooners and Tigers kick off on New Year's Eve afternoon, it will have been more than a month since OU soundly defeated Oklahoma State in the Nov. 28 regular season finale.


While some fans might be worried about the team losing its groove with such a long layoff between games, OU coaches and players don't seem to be concerned. Part of the reason, team members say, is because players were afforded an opportunity to rest and, in the case of some, recover from minor injuries.


"The very first thing is getting healthy," said Parker, "and then also getting the young guys back into it and playing as a team. When we come back we're going to be stronger than ever because guys will be healthy and ready to go."


Stoops indicated he was very pleased with OU's workouts in Norman the last two weeks.


"Guys have practiced really well and have dealt with it. We have some guys back healthy. We prepared well last week. We had a two-day break (for Christmas) and we're ready to get back after it here."


The Big 12 Coach of the Year added, "This is a big opportunity. It's not about getting here. It's about winning it. Hopefully our players prepare that way."



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