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On Sale At Newsstands Jan. 30!
Staying Put
Bradford, Gresham, Williams Join McCoy In Return For 2009

NORMAN -- It will be a while longer before Oklahoma fans are completely over the disappointment of the Sooners’ 24-14 loss to Florida in the BCS national title game. But the news they received Wednesday should help expedite the process.

The lamenting turned to cheers at approximately 4:30 p.m. central time when quarterback Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, announced his decision to forgo entering the NFL draft and return for at least one more college season.

But the good news didn’t stop there, as tight end Jermaine Gresham and offensive lineman Trent Williams also let it be known that they shall return in 2009. They join star defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, who announced on Monday that he is coming back.

Many believed all four players could end up throwing their names into the NFL draft hat, but instead, the foursome will help make coach Bob Stoops’ 2009 squad one of the preseason favorites this coming fall. The Sooners finished 12-2 during the recently concluded season when they claimed a third consecutive Big 12 title and played for a fourth national title in Stoops’ 10 seasons at the helm.

“We are pleased that these players are returning to our program,” said Stoops, shortly after Bradford made his decision official. “They understand the value of gaining another year of experience and improving their position in the draft, along with the value of either finishing their degree or being within a few hours of completing it.

“I also think our players recognize the opportunities we have as a program to pursue more championships, and that’s something that means a lot to all of us.”

En route to becoming OU’s fifth Heisman winner, Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency for the second straight season, thus becoming only the third player in NCAA history accomplish that feat. The strong-armed sophomore completed 328 of 483 passes for a school-record 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

For his career, he has completed 565-of-824 for 7,841 yards with 86 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Bradford set OU’s single-season record for total offense with 4,676 along, not only establishing new records for single-season touchdown passes, but for career touchdown passes and passing yards for a season.

“Looking at it, I’ve dreamed about playing at Oklahoma since I was little,” Bradford explained to reporters during a press conference. “And my three years here have been probably three of the best years of my life, and I really feel that there’s no need to cut this experience short. And I’m really looking forward to coming back and competing for a fourth straight Big 12 championship and another opportunity at a national championship.”

Bradford admitted he was in close contact with his teammates during the decision-making process and that getting their thoughts and insight definitely figured into his thinking. All four players were members of OU’s 2006 recruiting class, and Bradford expressed excitement at the podium Wednesday when mentioning the fact Gresham, McCoy and Williams would also be coming back. He also talked about added motivation from OU’s loss to Florida.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating to end with a loss and I want to come back and finish my career the right way -- on a win,” said Bradford. “I would say it had a little bit of an influence on my decision, but I really tried to keep that out of my mind because that could have limited myself to making the best decision for me.”

Gresham, rated by many as the potential No. 1 tight end prospect in the draft, caught 14 touchdown passes in 2008, a new record for OU tight ends. With 26 career TD catches, the Ardmore product is only five behind the school record set by former Sooner great and current Baltimore Raven Mark Clayton.

Meanwhile, Williams returns as the lone full-time starting O-lineman next season. After opening the 2008 campaign as the No. 1 left tackle, he shifted over and started the final 13 games at right tackle. His return no doubt played a part in Bradford’s decision.

“I feel like I can improve my draft status by staying one more year,” said Williams. “I am also going to be moving a lot farther along with my degree and I feel like we can compete for more championships.”

Gresham released a statement talking about his experience at Oklahoma and in college football.

“I like my teammates and the coaches here and the atmosphere we practice and compete in,” he said. “This is the best decision for me right now and I look forward to what we can accomplish next season. It also means a lot to me to graduate or be close to my degree when I finish my college career.”

McCoy, a redshirt-sophomore, earned second-team All-America honors in 2008 and was considered one of the best defensive tackles eligible for the upcoming draft. McCoy recorded 30 tackles, including 11 for losses and a team-best 6.5 sacks.

“Me and my pop talked about it (Sunday) and we just decided that I needed to stick around for another year,” said McCoy, who had his first career interception in the BCS title game vs. Florida.

The news was certainly well received by the Oklahoma program, which lost several underclassmen last season to the NFL draft.

“Obviously, it makes our team stronger, with that experience and that kind of talent back for another year,” added Stoops. “But I think also it sends, hopefully, a clear message to other young guys out there that these guys value their experience in college. They value their education.”

OU Sports Information Department contributed to this report