NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Bob Stoops realized quickly that something was different about the start of Oklahoma's fall training camp this time around.
With no major NCAA violations to announce and no starting quarterback to dismiss, Stoops saw a completely different attitude when his players first took the field.
``The guys were just so sure of theirselves, so much more confident on the field,'' Stoops said Friday at the team's annual media day.
It was during the team's first practice last year that Stoops informed players that starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn would be kicked off the team because they broke NCAA rules by taking pay for work they didn't perform at a Norman car dealership.
Stoops felt like his young team was shaken by the announcement, which meant that Paul Thompson would be moving back from receiver to start at quarterback after going months without working at the position.
Receiver Malcolm Kelly remembers it being a fairly quick recovery for the team once Thompson took over for Bomar with relatively little rust.
``After that first day, we came out here and he showed that he could get it done. After that first day, we already had our confidence,'' said Kelly, who went on to catch 62 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The Sooners got past their first hurdle by squeezing out a 24-17 home win against UAB to start the season, and they proved strong enough to overcome an officiating error that cost them a victory at Oregon and then an injury to star tailback Adrian Peterson to still win the Big 12 title.
``It probably made us stronger, made us grow up and maybe be a little bit more mature quicker than we needed to be,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
The team once again heads into fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback, as Joey Halzle, Sam Bradford and Keith Nichol compete for the position, and NCAA sanctions are not completely gone, either. Oklahoma is appealing an infractions committee ruling that stripped the Sooners of eight wins from the 2005 season. Other scholarship and recruiting limits also remain in place.
But Stoops feels a sense of relief. During a speech in front of Oklahoma fans this week, Stoops said he ``feels like it's Christmas'' because he doesn't have to dismiss any players this season.
He also thinks that his team's struggles last season have made players believe they can make it through any adversity and still find success.
``I just think they just feel good about themselves right now and how they've worked and the confidence of being a Big 12 champion a year ago and (having) so many of the guys back,'' Stoops said. ``When they took the field, I just think they really are more sure of (themselves) and more developed.''
The Sooners can't see much else stopping them now.
``It's really not that different,'' tight end Joe Jon Finley said. ``Last year we came in and we know we lost both those guys, but it was still very exciting. We knew we could do what we did. Nobody predicted us to win the Big 12 championship, but we knew as a team we could get it done. This year it's the same way.''
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