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Stoops Previews Texas A&M, Expects Key Players To Return

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Bob Stoops previews the upcoming matchup and says Ben Habern and Jamell Fleming should return against Texas A&M. Bob Stoops previews the upcoming matchup and says Ben Habern and Jamell Fleming should return against Texas A&M.
OU center Ben Habern is expected to return from injury Saturday against Texas A&M. OU center Ben Habern is expected to return from injury Saturday against Texas A&M.
OU cornerback Jamell Fleming is also expected to play Saturday after having surgery on his knee. OU cornerback Jamell Fleming is also expected to play Saturday after having surgery on his knee.

Layna Dewell, News9.com

NORMAN, Oklahoma – The No. 6 ranked Oklahoma Sooners are looking for another focused week of practice in preparation for the Texas A&M Aggies Saturday and Bob Stoops says Ben Habern and Jamell Fleming are expected to be back from injury to help in that effort against the Aggies.

"I would expect that both of those guys will be set to play," said Stoops at his weekly press conference Monday.

Habern, a junior center, broke his forearm earlier this season and has missed five games.

"He's got a forearm cast and he snapped some yesterday and it looked good," said Stoops. "I just don't want to say that it's going to be fine and then through the week it isn't. Right now I feel fairly positive that (Ben) will be ok, but we'll see."

When asked what position Habern will play—nose guard or center—Stoops said it depends on how practice goes, but that he could be at nose guard but that if things go well he could play at his normal position at center.

Fleming, a senior cornerback, has missed the last two games after suffering a knee injury. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and many thought he would play last weekend against Kansas State but he wasn't quite ready to go full speed yet.

"Jamell was awfully close the other day (to playing)—he just didn't have the confidence you need to go out there yet…it's one thing to practice, it's another to compete at full go and he wasn't quite comfortable with it," said Stoops.

Oklahoma enters Saturday's matchup after a convincing 58-17 win over the previously unbeaten Kansas State Wildcats.

Related Story: Second Half Dominance Leads Sooners To Blowout Win

Even though the Aggies enter the game at 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12, you cannot let their record fool you—A&M is still a powerful team.

"They've lost three very tough games against excellent teams," said Stoops. "You look at their two early (games) losing by a point to Oklahoma State and four points to Arkansas—two teams in the top 10. Both of those games they have opportunities in the fourth quarter to win."

In total Texas A&M's three losses have only been by a total of 12 points. In their most recent contest on the road against Missouri, the Aggies fell by a final of 38-31.

"In all those games I think the main factor was just turnovers," said Stoops. "if they had one or two less turnovers in those games…in all likelihood they win those games."

In fact, Texas A&M gave up a total of nine turnovers in those three games while their opponents combine for only two.

"We're aware of the quality of football team they are and we need another really good week of practice to give ourselves an opportunity to win here this week," added Stoops.

Texas A&M currently ranks 12th in points per game with 39.3 and is 16th in rushing yards (224.5) and 17th in passing yards (295.3) --a testament to their balanced attack.

"It's very fair to say they're probably the most balanced team we've played through the year and they do an excellent job running the football, they're creative in how they run it, they want to run it and they're good at running the football," said Stoops. "Then they take advantage of that and how you try to stop the run with play action pass and efficient passing as well so it's a big challenge."

Stoops also talked about the challenge of facing quarterback Mark Tannehill. The senior has completed 200-of-306 passes for 2322 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

"He throws the ball well, you can tell he is a composed and tough competitor and he's an excellent athlete--he can do a lot of things," said Stoops.

At his press conference Monday, Stoops also reiterated that Dominique Whaley, a walk on who was injured Saturday against Kansas State, will be put on scholarship this December.

"We had already come to the decision that at mid-year we were already planning on putting Dom on scholarship," said Stoops. "The plans had already been made and I made sure when I walked in the locker room after putting my arm around Dom and letting him know how much I appreciate him—that I wanted him to know we've already made that decision and this (injury) isn't going to change it. He's already earned it in our eyes."

Related Story: Dominique Whaley Suffers Broken Ankle, Out For Season

Coach Stoops also said that he does not expect Whaley to be back in time for practice in the spring, but says Whaley should be fully ready to go by next fall.

Oklahoma will kick off against Texas A&M Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.

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