Sooners lose 3 more starters for rest of season

BY foxsports • November 10, 2009

Bob Stoops hasn't been able to get an 'Are you kidding me?' kind of laugh out of Oklahoma's string of injuries. Never feels like screaming either.

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"Not my style," he said.

There's no question, though, that this season has been trying for the Sooners' coach. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a second-team All-American, suffered a season-ending injury days before Oklahoma's opener against BYU and the challenges have never let up.

Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford was out, then back in and finally gone for good with an injury to his right, throwing shoulder. Top receiver Ryan Broyles and tailback DeMarco Murray were also hurt and missed games, and this week brings even more injury to the insult of the Sooners' fourth loss and their first time out of the AP rankings in four seasons.

Three more starters will miss the rest of the year, the latest being offensive lineman Jarvis Jones. Stoops said Tuesday that Jones fractured his heel during a 10-3 loss at Nebraska on Saturday and won't be back this season.

A day earlier, he announced that defensive end Auston English and team captain Brody Eldridge also suffered season-ending injuries in the Nebraska loss. English was to have surgery Tuesday on a tendon in his ankle, and Stoops said Eldridge's injury was to his neck — and not his shoulder as previously described — and would not require surgery.

"It's just odd, too, the injuries," Stoops said. "(Trainer) Scott Anderson's never seen a fractured heel. The tendon that Auston English is having operating on later today, he's never seen that tendon — that ever happen in all his years of training. Brody's situation, it's actually with his neck, he's never had before.

"We've had a lot of odd situations, or odd injuries, that really are highly unusual."

The injuries have played a role in perhaps the most disappointing of Stoops' 11 seasons in Norman. Oklahoma (5-4, 3-2) started out with hopes of returning to the BCS championship game for a second straight year, but instead has fallen from No. 3 all the way out of the poll for the first time since 2005, heading into Saturday's game against Texas A&M (5-4, 2-3).

"At certain points, sure, all that's happened through the year, it aggravates you. It motivates you do to better," Stoops said. "You're constantly searching for ways to overcome it, so that's what we're trying to do — to get better in certain areas, to not hurt ourself with some foolish penalties, to execute better in critical situations, to make a field goal when you've got to make it."

The injury problems really started back in training camp, when Eldridge was moved from tight end to center while Ben Habern was hampered by a back injury. When Gresham got hurt, it created a dilemma of whether to move Eldridge back to replace him or keep him at center.

Then came the big blow: Bradford sprained his shoulder just before halftime against BYU, and the Sooners ended up losing 14-13.

"It's kind of like a snowball effect after that, good player after good player gets hurt," Habern said. "But you can't blame the season on that. You can't say that, 'Oh, we would have won this game if we had him or if we had somebody else.'

Eldridge had moved to left guard after Brian Simmons hurt his knee — he's still "a couple weeks away," Stoops said — and now he's out, too.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Tavaris Jeffries is back with the team after dealing with a family issue last week, and freshman Tyler Evans and sophomore Brian Lepak will help fill the holes at guard. Stephen Good, a guard, will work more at tackle to prepare to back up Cory Brandon, and tight end Eric Mensik will be an emergency option.

"We'll still hopefully have enough. We're at a point, though, we need to knock on wood and kind of stay where we're at," Wilson said. "We don't need to lose anyone else as far as being able to manage and get through the season."