Horns, Sooners both missing key players
Neither Texas nor Oklahoma have been able to avoid the injury bug, leaving both teams with question marks at key positions as players new to the Red River Rivalry get thrust into the spotlight.
Texas has been the harder hit of the two teams, with one starter and a key reserve out for the year, another starter out indefinitely and several trying to get back to full strength in time for kickoff.
The Longhorns will be without junior linebacker Jordan Hicks, junior quarterback David Ash and junior defensive back Sheroid Evans.
Hicks, who suffered a season-ending injury last year against Ole Miss, saw his season end prematurely again when he ruptured an Achilles tendon against Kansas State. Hicks was Texas’ leading tackler with 41 when he went down and had been the leader of the unit that helped stuff Kansas State’s ability to run the ball.
The next men up have been junior Steve Edmond, sophomore Dalton Santos and redshirt freshman Tim Cole. Edmond ranks second on the team with 35 tackles. Santos had a team-best 10 tackles against Iowa State and filled in when both Hicks and Edmond (targeting) were forced from the Kansas State game. Cole started against Iowa State and made six tackles, a career best.
Santos figures to start against Oklahoma at middle linebacker with Edmond moving to the weakside spot. Peter Jinkens continues to hold down the strongside spot.
Evans played primarily on special teams and was one of that unit’s top tacklers with 14 on the season. Texas will look to freshman Bryson Echols and sophomore Josh Turner to fill Evans’ void.
Offensively, Ash is the only starter who has already been ruled out of the game. Ash suffered a concussion at Brigham Young and sat out the game against Ole Miss. Cleared by team doctors, he returned for the first half of the Kansas State game before a recurrence of symptoms forced him out again. Ash has passed for 760 yards and seven scores against two interceptions in the three games he’s appeared. He’s also rushed for 152 yards, second on the team.
Several other key players are trying to work their way back into the lineup after injuries forced them out earlier this season. Senior receiver Mike Davis missed the Kansas State game with a sprained ankle but returned to make big plays – and draw a number of pass interference penalties – in the win over Iowa State. He ranks second on the team with 26 catches for 287 yards.
Sophomore receiver Daje Johnson, who exploded onto the scene against New Mexico State before suffering a sprained ankle early against BYU, returned to action last week against Iowa State. He caught two passes and returned three kickoffs. With the extra time off between games, he should be able to display the spring in his step again.
Tight end Greg Daniels also returned against Iowa State. He didn’t make a catch but did draw a key interference penalty late in the game that led to Case McCoy’s winning touchdown sneak.
Tackle Josh Cochran injured a shoulder against Ole Miss and hasn’t played since. He hopes to be well enough to return to the lineup. Sophomore Kennedy Estelle has started in his place. They are listed as either-or starters on the weekly depth chart.
On the Oklahoma side, the Sooners are dealing with fewer issues, but they too lost a key. Linebacker Corey Nelson, who returned an interception for a touchdown against Notre Dame, will likely miss the season, coach Bob Stoops announced earlier this week after tearing a pectoral muscle against TCU. Nelson is a senior from Dallas.
Nelson’s teammates said they’d miss his presence on the field but know that he’ll continue to lead and be a presence, possibly even on the sidelines Saturday.
“Corey, he’s a great player, he’s a great leader and a great individual for this team,” OU co-captain Aaron Colvin said. "Although he won’t be contributing on the field, he will still be around. I know his leadership will still be there but at the same time you can’t really hide his talent and his passion that he brings to the defense. I know I will have to step up and do a little extra and others realize that, as well.”
Aaron Franklin and Dominique Alexander figure to take Nelson’s spot in the lineup. They have combined for 11 tackles on the season, 10 by Alexander.
The Sooners had to rebuild their offensive line when two projected starters were ruled out for the year in the preseason. Both Ben Habern (neck) and Tyler Evans (knee) were both all-conference quality players.
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