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Seniors rest as Oklahoma opens bowl practice

NORMAN, Okla. -- Rhett Bomar knows exactly how important
Oklahoma's bowl practices can be for the young players on the team.

A year ago, Bomar was finishing up his redshirt year, just
waiting for an opportunity to play behind a Heisman Trophy-winning
quarterback and an experienced backup.

"This was my whole part of the year when I actually did
something," Bomar said Thursday. "It kind of helped me for the
spring because at the end of the season, I just sat there and
learned mostly."

Bomar got some work in as the Sooners prepared to play in the
Orange Bowl, and in the spring he found himself in a quarterback
competition with Paul Thompson. He eventually emerged as the
starter in Week 2.

Now, this year's freshmen are following in Bomar's shoes.
Oklahoma (7-4) on Thursday held its first practice since learning
it would play No. 6 Oregon (10-1) in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec. 29.

"These young guys get to jump in there these first few weeks
while we're finishing up school and before we start our game
plan," Bomar said.

"Last year, I was in that same situation -- learning the offense
good and just getting used to the speed. It helped me out in spring
ball."

Some of the youngest Sooners are in a different position from
Bomar. Six first-year players started for the Sooners, and six
others earned playing time.

On the offense, receivers Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias
earned starts, as did linemen Jon Cooper and Branndon Braxton.
Receiver Manuel Johnson and lineman George "Duke" Robinson also
got into games.

"Most of the young guys have played," Bomar said. "Especially
on offense, we don't have that many young guys that haven't played.
On defense, those guys are getting a little work."

Along with safeties Reggie Smith and Nic Harris, who each
started during their freshman seasons, defensive backs Brian
Jackson and Keenan Clayton are also getting more work leading up to
the bowls.

"They're going to be playing, too," Smith said. "They're
going to be part of next year. We're just all rotating in and all
getting it down so we'll know it when spring ball comes around."

With coach Bob Stoops away recruiting, offensive coordinator
Chuck Long and defensive coordinator Brent Venables were running
practice, emphasizing why younger players should make the most of
their practice time as seniors step aside for a couple weeks.

"It's extremely important in regards to not taking it for
granted, not wasting reps, really zeroing in on the things that are
going to help them become the players they want to be -- the focus
and the intensity that you need to practice at, obviously the
technique that it requires to be a great player and understanding
the language," Venables said.

Bomar said the first bowl practice was more focused on basics --
"kind of like two-a-days" -- as new players got into the lineup.

"I know how that feels," he said. "I've been there. You've
just got to take it slow with them and teach them, be patient, and
they'll get it done."

And Bomar is the perfect example. A year after getting his first
work in bowl practices, Bomar is now getting the lion's share of
the snaps as the starting quarterback -- and that's just how he
likes it.

"I'd rather be out there, just keep going and get started
getting ready for the bowl game than just sitting over there and
taking a break," Bomar said. "Those seniors have earned a break,
but I'm still a young guy, so I need to get out there and get my
reps."

Venables said Oklahoma's coaches have already begun scouting
Oregon, and they'll begin implementing the game plan for the Ducks
by the end of next week.

"I think the whole team's excited about the challenge ahead of
us," Bomar said. "They're No. 5 in the BCS. [Let's] come out and
make a statement heading into next year, finish strong and kind of
build to next year and make next year our big year."