The Norman Transcript

August 14, 2013

Spleen removal sidelines D.J. Ward

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive end D.J. Ward had his spleen removed Tuesday morning and isn’t expected to practice again for six weeks.

The surgery was performed while OU practiced at its indoor facility Tuesday.

“We haven’t heard how it’s all gone. Hopeful that it’s all gone well,” OU coach Bob Stoops said following Tuesday’s practice. “Usually that’s a six-week recovery; that’s what they usually are, give or take some. We don’t know how it will go after that. So, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Stoops said OU’s medical staff discovered Ward had an enlarged spleen prior to the start of preseason practice. The freshman from Southmoore High School has been held out of workouts because of the condition. The condition was not caused by contact.

Stoops faces a decision on whether Ward, who was consensus four-star recruiting services, will redshirt this season.

“It’s way too early to say that,” Stoops said. “We’re not even into the season. We’re still two and a half weeks from the season.”

What is certain is OU’s defensive end depth has taken a preseason hit. Under the time frame Stoops laid out Tuesday, Ward will be out until late September. Sophomore defensive Mike Onuoha will also miss the first few games while recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the spring.

Neither was projected as a starter this season, but OU hoped both would push projected starters Charles Tapper and Geneo Grisson for playing time. Freshmen Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Matt Dimon have drawn positive reviews since preseason camp began, but numbers are still light.

For Ward, it’s another setback for a playing career that’s been on hold for two years. Ward did not play his senior at Southmoore due to OSSAA transfer rules. He graduated from high school a semester early, but was not cleared to practice at OU until the final of spring practice.

The last time he played in a real game was in 2011, when he attended Lawton High School.

Drop and give me 20: Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has put an added emphasis on creating turnovers in preseason. Safeties Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson laid out just how serious their coach is about getting interceptions.

“Any time we get our hands on the ball, we have to catch it,” Lynn said. “If we don’t, it’s an automatic 20 pushups.”

The Sooners only had 13 interceptions last season, which was their lowest total this century.

“Twenty push-ups doesn’t seem like a lot,” Wilson said, “but if you drop three picks in practice, you’re gonna be tired. It’s a matter of holding everyone to a higher standard.”

Still waiting: Stoops had no update on the status of juco defensive tackle Quincy Russell. He hasn’t started practicing yet, but the coaching still expects him to be cleared this week.

Players don’t seemed concerned with the situation.

“It's not strange at all. Me, being here for almost four years, I've seen a lot. It's not strange at all,” linebacker Corey Nelson said. “We’ve had guys come in in the middle of two-a-days before and impact very well. I'm not surprised to hear about that. If anything, I know he'll help us.”

Just last season, wide receiver Justin Brown arrived after preseason practice started. He wound up becoming OU’s second leading receiver last season.

Camp blues: The fall semester begins for OU students on Monday, so this is the final week of preseason camp. OU’s only had a couple two-a-day practices over the last two and a half weeks, but the long days do add up.

“It’s tough. After that first week, you kind of hit the wall and see a lot of the freshman guys getting down,” Lynn, a senior, said. “But it’s football. We’ve been doing this our whole lives. You just have to get over that part.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn