Oklahoma’s Tapper sporting new look _lowres

Associated Press photo by Vasha Hunt Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops speaks to the media during a news conference Sunday in New Orleans.

Oklahoma sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper is sporting a new look these days.

During the Sooners’ open date week before the Oklahoma State game, Tapper cut the dreadlocks he’d worn since childhood in honor of his late father.

“It was getting too thin on top,” Tapper said Sunday. “But I’m thinking about growing it back again.”

While friends did the heavy duty cutting, it took a $25 trip to the barber shop to shape things up. But, Tapper added, that’s better than the $80 he usually paid for each visit.

Tapper was so unrecognizable after the shearing, Sooners coach Bob Stoops, walking through the locker room his first day back, did a double take when he saw him.

“He told me he thought he had a new player sitting in my locker or something,” Tapper said.

Tapper said he had to get a new helmet since his old one came down to his eyes. However, Tapper said he felt it might have shaved a couple of tenths off his 40 time.

As for the hair itself, Tapper said it’s saved in a bag, although he’s not sure why.

“I’ll probably just throw it out with the trash sometime later,” he said.

Brother act

Mike Stoops admits he misses being a head coach and hopes to be one again.

But in the interim, he’s content to be back working for his brother, Bob, as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator, a position he held for five years before taking the Arizona job in 2004.

“We all enjoy running our own programs,” said Mike Stoops, who returned to Oklahoma in 2012 after being fired at Arizona at midseason in 2011. “But I also always enjoyed being a defensive coordinator; it’s a passion of mine.”

Like most jobs, Stoops said he has felt much more comfortable this season than last.

“I was gone for a while, so I wasn’t acquainted with the players,” he said. “So there were a lot of adjustments.

“But now we all understand each other better.”

Stoops had opportunities other than Oklahoma, but said ultimately the Sooners made the most sense.

“I figured if I’m going to keep doing this, I might was well do it with my brother,” he said. “There are a lot of other places out there, but Oklahoma is still Oklahoma.”

Enjoying the experience

This is the first bowl trip for Oklahoma freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander, and he’s finding it much more enjoyable than the ordinary road games for the Sooners.

“The hotels are nicer, the beds are softer the food is definitely better, especially since we’re in Louisiana,” the Tulsa Booker T. Washington High product said. “And then the sightseeing’s a lot better too.

“It’s not like going to Waco or Lawrence.”

However, Alexander added, he thoroughly enjoyed the team’s last road trip — to Oklahoma State — not just because of the victory against the Sooners’ archrivals but the postgame experience.

“Their fans were throwing turkey legs and snowballs anything else they could find at us when we came off the field,” he said. “But it didn’t matter.

“We still won. It was a great feeling.”

Putting rivalry aside

Alabama QB AJ McCarron said recently that he will be rooting for arch-rival Auburn to beat Florida State in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 6. McCarron said no Crimson Tide fans have complained “to my face”, but he senses that some aren’t happy with his attitude.

“I know there are some crazy fans in the South — Auburn and Alabama — that will go to their grave hating one another, which is absurd to me,” McCarron said Sunday. “The players don’t think like that, so I don’t understand why the fans think like that. It’s what makes a good rivalry, but I’ll be rooting for them. I want them to win.”

An Auburn victory would bring a fifth consecutive BCS title to the state of Alabama as the Tigers won in 2010 and Bama won in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

“I think it’s awesome,” McCarron said of the prospect of extending the streak. “I think it shows how much talent we have in this state between two great schools, and it would definitely be awesome to keep it in the state of Alabama.”

McCarron said he became “really good friends” with Auburn RB Tre Mason after spending time with him and his family at the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

“He’s an unbelievable kid, just polite and just a nice guy to be around,” McCarron said of Mason. “Getting to know him and his mom and his dad, they’re great people.

“I’m sure some people are not liking that I’ll be rooting for them, but I’m my own person.”

Nussmeier recalls Saints days

Bama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier fondly recalled his time as a backup quarterback with the New Orleans Saints from 1994-97 on Sunday.

“New Orleans is a special city for our family,” Nussmeier said. “I met my wife here, was fortunate enough to play for the Saints for four years, and it was an outstanding time and left lasting memories.

“We try and come back as much as possible. We still have relatives and lots of friends in the area. It’s really a place that’s special to us.”

Mandell happy in Dome

Like any punter, Alabama’s Cody Mandell is looking forward to kicking indoors. But he’s also glad to be returning the site of some previous successes.

Mandell played in two Class 5A state title games with Acadiana High in the Superdome, beating Sulphur in his freshman season in 2006 and losing to Destrehan the next season. He was with the Tide when they won the BCS title against LSU in the Dome two years ago.

“Now I can say I get to finish my career here,” Mandell said. “It’s a blessing.”

Bama fans coming

The disappointment of not playing for the national championship has not dampened Alabama’s fans determination to follow the Crimson Tide. The school sold of its mandatory ticket allotment of 17,500 and requested 2,500 more. And that’s just from the school’s official supply.

Oklahoma is reportedly a few hundred shy of selling its allotment.