Gabe Ikard (#64) will now be called upon to anchor Oklahoma's offensive line. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
There's no doubt that Oklahoma's offensive line has taken a hit this week with the announcement that senior center Ben Habern would have to walk away from football due to a neck/back injury. While we applaud Habern for his Sooner career and thank him for the memories, while also wishing him nothing but the best in whatever direction his life leads him, its also prudent to ask the question, what does Oklahoma do now? Especially with the loss of Dylan Dismuke earlier in the week to a very similiar situation.
With players reporting on Thursday and practice starting first thing in the morning, here's what we do and don't know about OU's offensive line.
What We Do Know
The Starting Center Will Still Be Good - I'm not trying to downplay the loss of Habern at all because it is significant but let's also remember that he missed seven games last season with a broken arm and Gabe Ikard filled in splendidly. Habern's retirement no doubt means that Ikard slides back over to center and it insures that the Sooners will have an experienced anchor to the o-line.
Adam Shead Pretty Much Has A Starting Gig Now - This has to make our very own Jordan Esco a happy camper but it also keeps the o-line solid. Shead is a beast of a blocker who is still learning his position but with Ikard moving to center, it opens up a spot for Shead to move into. He's only going to get better as the season progresses and he will be a guy who punishes people.
Depth Is Very Thin - Oklahoma cannot afford an injury to the offensive line at this point. I would actually be shocked if we don't see a bevy of guys rotating in and out of the line during the first two games in an effort to get as many players as much experience as possible. Ikard, Shead, Daryl Williams, Lane Johnson, Tyrus Thompson and Bronsin Irwin are your key contributors. Your guess as to who comes in after that is as good as mine.
What We Don't Know
The Playing Status Of Nila Kasitati and Austin Woods - Kasitati underwent a successful surgery earlier in the week for an undisclosed condition. We know that it wasn't life or career threatening but not sure what his status is for playing yet. Same thing goes for Woods. He's been cleared to play after his battle with cancer. I can't under sale how fantastic that info is, but I also can't say for sure that he's ready to be on the field any time soon.
How Long Until Freshmen Derek Farnoik, Kyle Marrs And Ty Darlington Are Game Ready - Farnoik is 6-9/319, Marrs is 6-5/320 and Darlington is 6-3/266. Size certainly isn't an issue with these three but experience is. Look for all three of them to see the field against UTEP and Florida A&M in an effort to build depth.
How It All Comes Together
At this point there's no reason to expect Oklahoma's offensive line to be any less than the expectations that were there at the end of the spring. The starters are the most experienced unit that Landry Jones has ever had blocking for him, which means that there's no reason to expect the recent happenings to limit the offense.
On the other hand, an injury to just one position could have catastrophic consequences to the offense. Along with establishing a rushing attack and finding receivers to compliment Kenny Stills, getting the backups experienced and game ready needs to be added to Josh Heupel's priority list.
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