Oklahoma defensive end D.J. Ward is facing another setback with the upcoming season quickly approaching.
The talented recruit will have his spleen removed, according to the Oklahoma Football Twitter feed.
Coach Stoops confirms that DJ Ward is having his spleen removed this morning. Indicates approx. 6-week recovery time.— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) August 13, 2013
This is upsetting news for an Oklahoma defense that is looking to improve drastically after last season's disappointment. The defense ranked fourth in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing nearly 400 yards a game. Much of the big plays were allowed on the ground, as the Sooners ranked ninth in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game (192).
Ward is expected to play a vital role in helping the defensive front improve.
Will Oklahoma's defense keep up until Ward gets back?
However, this news is even worse for Ward, who hasn't played football in quite some time. He wasn't eligible to play his senior season of high school and needed permission just to play for Oklahoma.
Ward was declared ineligible by the state high schools association after transferring to three different high schools prior to his senior season. He was declared eligible in April by the NCAA to play for Oklahoma.
With another setback, Ward is expected to miss the conference game against West Virginia (Sept. 7) and could put his status against Notre Dame (Sept. 28) in jeopardy.
He is a long athlete at 6'4", 242 pounds, and he uses that size to drag down ball-carriers and disrupt passing lanes. He's a solid pass-rusher and could contribute early in hopes to help Oklahoma improve on its 24 sacks from last year.
Oklahoma only returns four defensive starters and needs all of the help it can get. This isn't great news even with Ward expected to be back on the field before the heart of the Big 12 schedule.