Oklahoma's defensive line issues that carried into the 2013 season have become more dire.
On Monday, Sooners coach Bob Stoops announced that redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Phillips will need season-ending back surgery.
STOOPS: "Jordan Phillips is going to have surgery tomorrow which will end his season." Stoops notes chronic back issue that isn't improving.— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) October 14, 2013
Phillips was cleared last week to play against Texas after missing the TCU game with an unspecified injury. He is the second Sooner defender to go down with a season-ending injury in the past week. Linebacker Corey Nelson has a torn pectoral muscle and will have surgery on Tuesday.
"It isn't one specific injury," Stoops said Tuesday via Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com. "It's bothered him for the last couple years and is not improving like they [the doctors] want it to."
First and foremost, you have to hope Phillips' back injury doesn't cause him problems long-term.
In the short term, the losses of Nelson and Phillips create a huge hole to fill in OU's defensive front six—a hole that Texas ran right through in a 36-20 win over the Sooners in Week 7. Freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander is a talented young player, but he lacks the experience and leadership that Nelson brought to the OU defense.
Likewise, Phillips was an anchor for an otherwise inexperienced defensive front with 15 game appearances and four starts. Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson will likely continue to share playing time filling in for Phillips.
OU's defense has been much better this season, but depth problems along the defensive line have forced the Sooners to move to a three-man front. That group was gashed when Texas relentlessly used a power running game against it.
Phillips and Nelson have both been great against the run and their absence was evident against the Longhorns.
With teams like Baylor and Kansas State still on the schedule, there is legitimate reason to be concerned whether OU will be able to stop the power run for the rest of the season. Since Oklahoma's offense has yet to score more than 20 points in a Big 12 conference game, will the Sooners be able to keep up in a shootout?