The Norman Transcript

November 1, 2012

Squad can hardly afford another lineman going down

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Every time one of Oklahoma’s offensive linemen winces, the entire team feels the pain. There’s been a lot of aching this season.

On Wednesday, Sooner coach Bob Stoops said the status of left tackle Lane Johnson remains questionable. A decision could wait until game time on Saturday at Iowa State. If he can’t go, he’ll become the third starter from the Sooners’ preseason depth chart to miss a game and fourth to find his way on to the injured list.

The only consolation is Johnson’s injury won’t end his season like the career-ending neck injury to center Ben Habern and the season-ending knee injuries to guards Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati.

“We’re thin on the line right now. We have tough guys battling injuries and playing through pain,” quarterback Landry Jones said. “All the credit in the world to them. They’re toughing it out and giving it their best effort.”

The effort hasn’t been an issue. Despite the injuries, Jones has only been sacked 10 times in 264 passing attempts. The Sooners struggled to run the ball in the loss to Notre Dame, but they’re still averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

However, the attrition is part of a football season.

Center Gabe Ikard met with reporters without so much as a limp, but even he admitted it’s rare to be a Sooner offensive lineman and still be able to move without discomfort.

“I feel like I need to wear a splint just to fit in on the line. I’m the weirdo that doesn’t have one on,” he said.

Making through a full season healthy is tough for linemen. There are the constant collisions and bodies crashing around them on every snap. It’s almost impossible to avoid the awkward twist over a long season.

“Guys go down and you see it all the time,” guard Bronson Irwin said. “We’ve had several injuries up front and that’s really unfortunate that it happens that way, but we know someone has to step up and the game doesn’t slow down for anything.”

If Johnson can’t go on Saturday, the Sooners will plug sophomore Tyrus Thompson in and play on. The season doesn’t stop for injuries.

However, one of the reasons teams like to have one of their off weeks in late October or November is the opportunity to heal nagging injuries to starters and give younger players some extra practice to build depth.

The Sooners’ schedule won’t allow that this season. The Iowa State game will mark their fifth in a string of nine games over nine weeks. It’s hard to keep starters sharp and build depth.

“Sometimes it just goes that way,” Ikard said. “Ever since I’ve been here we’ve had injury after injury. I don’t know what it is. It’s something that kind of happens.”

At least OU did get some very good news on Wednesday. Backup guard Austin Woods announced on Twitter Wednesday that doctors had told him he’s in remission after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma since May. He’s played all season, but being cancer free makes it easier to focus on football.

Just like freshman center Ty Darlington or freshman tackle Derek Farniok, he’s one snap away from being a starter.

“You do talk to the twos in the summer and at all times,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “You’ve got to be able to step up and be prepared and make sure you’re investing in the week. Whether it’s practice or watching tape, at any moment you could be the guy in there, and we need you to play well. You do talk about that.”

When it comes to offensive linemen, you can’t say it enough.

John ShinnFollow me


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