Oklahoma DE Birdine calls USC 'average'

Updated: December 21, 2004, 8:53 PM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Get the bulletin board ready: Oklahoma defensive end Larry Birdine thinks Southern California's offense is "average."

Birdine made that known Tuesday in a series of statements that showed he wasn't all that impressed with the offense the No. 1 Trojans will bring to the Orange Bowl to face the Sooners on Jan. 4.

"I feel like they're, I'd say, a one-and-a-half-man team," Birdine said. "I want to respect them just because I have to play them, but then I watch them on tape and everything, and I realize that they're an average team."

Birdine repeatedly praised Reggie Bush, the Trojans' All-American all-purpose player who returns punts, lines up as a tailback and wide receiver, and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

But Birdine had little positive to say about Bush's teammates on offense, particularly quarterback Matt Leinart.

"Besides Reggie Bush -- he's a great athlete, he's a fast back, he makes plays or whatever -- but nobody else stands out to me," Birdine said.

"Matt Leinart, he's the Heisman Trophy winner, but he hasn't been driving them -- or he hasn't been winning games. Up 'til the last four or five games, Reggie Bush has been their difference-maker.

"We feel like if we take Reggie out of the game, we're gonna win."

Birdine doesn't think Leinart should have won the Heisman -- and that's not just because he was rooting for OU teammates Adrian Peterson and Jason White, who finished second and third.

"If anybody should have won it from USC, it should have been Reggie Bush," Birdine said. "I don't think that (Leinart) was the best quarterback. (Utah's) Alex Smith -- he was better than Matt Leinart. I don't think Matt Leinart should have won."

Birdine later added: "He's definitely overrated. Like I said, he's a good quarterback, but he's not a Heisman-winning quarterback."

Birdine said he realized he could be providing USC with motivational material and said his opinions didn't necessarily reflect the mind-set of the team.

"I don't know if that's the mood in the locker room," Birdine said. "I ask some guys and they say, 'They're good.' I haven't seen them on defense, but if our offense don't turn the ball over and their offense can't score, then I believe we're going to win the game."

Birdine also made the case that second-ranked Oklahoma faced tougher competition in the Big 12 than USC did in the Pac-10.

Not surprisingly, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had a far different take on USC.

He called tailback LenDale White a "great, great player" and said the Trojans' receivers were "very good; I'm going to say that about every position on their team."

Asked about Leinart's positives and negatives, Stoops said the Trojans' quarterback was "very wise and smart the way he plays and the way he's coached. He makes very few poor decisions. He's a great decision-maker. He has a great arm, he's very accurate. He's got the poise you look for in the pocket.

"The criticism: He's not a great option guy. He's got everything you look for, and he's a guy we recruited hard."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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