NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops confirmed Monday that the squad Oklahoma will take to Arizona next week will be significantly slimmer than the one that began the season.
Stoops confirmed junior defensive end Ronnell Lewis won’t play in the Insight Bowl due to academic reasons and is expected to the declare for the NFL draft.
“I don’t want to come out and speak for him, but we’ve talked and I feel it’s in his best interest to do that, to go ahead and go on to the NFL,” Stoops said. “I guess it hasn’t been formalized yet, but we expect that to happen and I’m all for it. He needs to do that. We’re hopeful that will all go the right way.”
Lewis is far from the only Sooner with eligibility remaining to have played his last game in the crimson and cream.
Stoops also said freshman Brandon Williams, who was already ruled out of the game due to a neck injury, has been granted his release and will transfer to another school. Several media outlets reported on Monday that Williams, a former five-star recruit, is expected to land at Texas A&M.
“The primary reasons (for Williams’ decision to transfer) were family issues, and that’s OK,” Stoops said.
Williams is from Brookshire, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston and about 70 miles from the Texas A&M campus.
Stoops did not confirm, yet did not refute reports that defensive tackle Josh Aladenoye and defensive back James Haynes have decided to leave the program.
Haynes, a redshirt freshman, played a special teams role in six of the Sooners’ 12 games. Aladenoye played in 10 games as an offensive tackle last season. He was moved to defensive tackle in the preseason. He played in OU’s first four games, but did not see the field in the final eight.
As of Monday night, both were still members of the team.
Those players made or appear to have made decisions to leave the program. Tight end Austin Haywood had it made for him. Stoops said Haywood is no longer part of the team and won’t be in the future. Haywood, a former Southmoore all-stater, quit the team in the middle of the season, but had been trying to work his way back.
“He wasn’t able to,” Stoops said. “I made that decision.”
Dismissing Haywood means the Sooners do not have a tight end on campus for next season. James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are both seniors and will play their final collegiate game at the Insight Bowl.
Freshman Max Stevenson, who redshirted this season and hadn’t be practicing due to a pectoral injury, has informed the coaching staff that he no longer wants to play football.
With the exception of Lewis, none of the players were expected to play much of a role in the Insight Bowl against Iowa Dec. 30. They join a list of players who had already decided to leave the program over the course of the season.
Earlier in the season, running backs Jonathan Miller and Jermie Calhoun announced their intention to transfer.
With the exception of Williams, Stoops didn’t address any specific reasons for players choosing to transfer. Several players decide to transfer every season. What’s been strange about this season is players elected to pack their bags before the season has ended.
“Some want more playing time — I’m not speaking for any particular individual — some have multiple issues that you don’t know about within the program, whether it be class attendance, whether it be workout absences, whether it be drug testing policies,” Stoops said. “Everything they have to handle, there’s a lot to it. And to be an athlete in good standing here, you’ve got to meet certain standards. And if they’re not, you know, maybe some guys need to find somewhere where they don’t have to meet those standards. So there’s all kinds of reasons why.”
The only legitimate starter in that bunch would have been Lewis. However, the Sooners were already heading into the game knowing they wouldn’t have All-American receiver Ryan Broyles (knee), running back Dominique Whaley (ankle), starting wide receiver Jaz Reynolds (kidney), No. 2 fullback Aaron Ripkowski (back), offensive lineman Adam Shead (knee).
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