Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced that suspended receiver Kameel Jackson has been dismissed, the latest problem in a difficult first week of training camp.
Jackson was one of four players who had been suspended indefinitely, but Stoops announced earlier this week that the other three had been cleared to return to practice although they would miss multiple games this season. Jackson’s status was to be assessed later, and Stoops said at media day Saturday that Jackson won’t be reinstated to the team.
”Kameel won’t be back,” Stoops said.
Jackson started a pair of games as a freshman late last season after All-American Ryan Broyles suffered a season-ending knee injury. He caught 12 passes for 165 yards.
But now he joins a growing list of players who won’t be available for the Sooners for all or part of the upcoming season.
Already this week, center Ben Habern — who had started 30 games and served as a team captain — quit football because of lingering concerns over neck and back injuries. He had also suffered a broken arm and leg during his college career.
Junior college recruits Courtney Gardner and Will Latu didn’t make it into school, and reserve offensive lineman Dylan Dismuke suffered a career-ending injury. Gardner’s absence was a particularly difficult blow, considering how shorthanded Oklahoma already is at the receiver position.
Receivers Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks – both who had started games – and defensive back Quentin Hayes were suspended indefinitely in May, along with Jackson. Stoops announced this week that the other three would be allowed to practice but stressed they would still miss ”multiple, multiple” games.
”We all deal with young people that are still growing, maturing, learning and learning responsibility in all kinds of ways. So, we do try to be positive influences, guide them, teach them, direct them,” Stoops said. ”You have patience when you can and, at certain degrees, the patience is over. You’ve done all you can and they’re not willing to do things that you feel need to be done to improve theirself.
”To this point, these have obviously had some serious measures to go through to be back and in a position to even practice and earn their scholarship and they’re still a long way back from getting on the field.”
Combined with Broyles’ departure to the NFL, the Sooners are left with Kenny Stills as the only receiver who has caught a pass in a college game. They have attempted to recruit heavily to the position, adding touted prospect Trey Metoyer along with Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard and LaColton Bester.
”Really, for the first couple of days, those guys are out there doing well. They’re where they should be, running the correct routes and so you can tell they’ve had a lot of work through the summer,” Stoops said.
The loss of Habern may be easier to absorb. He missed a chunk of last season with a broken arm, and guard Gabe Ikard will once again shift over to center to replace him. The Sooners will be able to use the same set of interior linemen — Ikard, Adam Shead and Tyler Evans — as they did during that stretch a year ago.
”It’s tough,” said quarterback Landry Jones, who skipped a chance to enter the NFL draft to return for his senior season.
”Ben’s been one of my best friends. I’ve become really close to him throughout my career here. When he told me about it, it was just one of those deals where you feel so bad for the guy. He’s struggled with so many injuries. I’m just proud that he made that decision.
”It’s one of those decisions, like that, you have to make for yourself. You’ve got to look out for your body and for your future.”
Despite a rocky few days, training camp opened as it always does in Norman, with talk of championships. The Sooners are the preseason pick to win the Big 12 title this season and will start out No. 4 in the coaches’ poll. The Associated Press’ poll will be released Aug. 18.
”It’s probably a good place to be rather than everyone talking about you being No. 1, and it’s better than 5 or 6,” said Stoops, whose team started last season ranked No. 1 before losing three times and settling for a trip to the Insight Bowl.
”But again, you only stay there if you keep winning. We still have to go do the work and really that’s all we think about is doing the work and preparation.”
There has been some good news, too. A pair of offensive linemen who have been dealing with health issues will be able to play this season.
Stoops said Nila Kasitati had a procedure done this week that should correct a non-life threatening heart condition and only keep him out of practice for about a week. Also, deep snapper Austin Woods will be able to play after undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer.