The Sooners' offseason has been anything but lovely. With all the injuries, suspensions and position changes, one would think that the Sooners would have gone through an entire season already.
Guess again—but what more are we to expect? The Sooners are veterans when it comes to facing adversity, so everything the team has been through so far has to feel par for the course. Let's start with injuries and get those out of the way.
After an offseason of rehab for a nagging neck injury, senior center Ben Habern appeared to be back to his healthy, motivated self. However, after aggravating his back n summer practice, Habern decided to call it quits. Habern was set to be a senior leader on what was likely to be one of the most experienced and talented offensive lines in the country.
Habern's retirement essentially means left guard Gabe Ikard will slide into the starting spot at center, which in turn allows sophomore Adam Shead to take Ikard's spot at left guard. The loss of Habern, though detrimental, becomes less tough to swallow after realizing Ikard's versatility and Shead's promising future.
However, the offensive line looks pretty bleak after senior right guard Tyler Evans went down with an ACL injury in practice. The injury will keep Evans sidelined the entire season, which means junior Bronson Irwin will have to slide into a starting role after spending the last two seasons primarily as a backup.
Is the offensive line still talented? Yes, but losing two seniors definitely makes the line look a lot less strong. The defensive line has also taken two injury hits this offseason, albeit they aren't seniors, nor are they starters.
Defensive ends Chaz Nelson and P.L. Lindley are both unlikely to be around for the start of the season. Nelson, who suffered an injury to his MCL, is likely out for six weeks, while Lindley's timetable for return is uncertain after suffering a high ankle sprain.
What would it be without an offseason ripe with suspensions and transfers? The first set of suspensions, which took place back in May, have been well-documented. Wide receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson, as well as safety Quentin Hayes, were suspended indefinitely after violating team rules.
After the mass suspension happened, Reynolds, Franks and Hayes initially had their scholarships revoked. Since then, all three have been allowed to come back to practice, though their return date to the playing field has yet to be determined. Jackson, who was rumored to be transferring even before the suspension took place, was officially dismissed from the team earlier this month.
Just over a week ago, senior defensive tackle Stacy McGee became the fifth player to become suspended from the team indefinitely. McGee, who was suspended for violating a university policy, has no timetable set for his return. McGee has been a part of the three-man defensive tackle rotation, also featuring seniors Casey Walker and Jamarcus McFarland, for the past two seasons.
Two Sooners have actually quit the team this season (not retired, as in Habern's case) due to personal reasons. John Michael McGee, a four-star offensive guard prospect from the 2011 class, and Bennett Okotcha, a redshirt freshman defensive back, have both decided to part with the team.
McGee's departure certainly doesn't help the offensive line depth that's already reeling, and Okotcha's absence leaves the Sooners rather thin at the safety position.
The Sooners have received two wide receiver transfers that should help the team out in a big way this season, though. Well, at least one of them for sure—Penn State transfer Justin Brown. Brown chose to play for the Sooners after the Sandusky debacle struck in State College. The senior wide receiver brings size (6'3", 214 pounds) and versatility (veteran punt returner) to the lineup.
Jalen Saunders, a junior wide receiver from Fresno State, transferred to Oklahoma right after the mass suspensions of Reynolds, Franks and Jackson were handed out. Saunders' availability for this season is still up in the air. He may have to sit out a season, but if he's around, his deep-threat ability will be a great weapon for quarterback Landry Jones to have around.
Now that we have all the frustrating news out of the way, we can talk about more promising endeavors for the Sooners roster. There have only been a few position changes worth noting; defensive end David King's change to defensive tackle is likely the most important.
King, who was set to start at defensive end opposite of R.J. Washington this season, has slid over to defensive tackle to make up for the absence of Stacy McGee. King provides the size and strength at the position that McGee is leaving behind. This puts sophomore Chuka Ndulue into the starting lineup to fill King's void at defensive end.
Running back Roy Finch may have found a new home on offense, as the junior running back has recently been taking a lot of snaps at slot receiver. While he's likely to still see time in the backfield, expect to see Finch utilized in a plethora of different packages this season. The coaches are really just trying to find a way to keep his explosiveness on the field.
Defensive end Geneo Grissom has made the move to the offensive side of the ball at tight end. The move makes sense not only because the Sooners are desperately thin at the position, but also because Grissom's size and athleticism are ideal. At 6'4" and 247 pounds, Grissom becomes a huge target for quarterback Landry Jones. He may need some time to adjust, but Grissom should fight for snaps and even a starting position.