That means OU will losing another valuable starter, this time on the defensive line, after center Ben Habern concluded his playing career due to lingering injuries and right guard Tyler Evans tore his ACL at the beginning of fall camp, sidelining two crucial offensive linemen for the season.
“It’s a low blow for us,” said fellow defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. “I mean, he’s a great player and he’s a brother to us because we’re all real tight there in the middle in the trenches. But we got to treat this situation like an injury. I mean, the train still rolls even though we love him and everything. And we still gotta fill our spot. Somebody’s gotta step up.”
They’ll have to step up for a guy who has been a mainstay in the defensive tackle rotation for the last two years, starting 14 games over that span while recording 48 tackles, including seven for loss and 1.5 sacks.
The man who will be immediately called upon is defensive end David King, who will shift inside to the tackle position.
He was informed of that before it was announced.
“They told me today I’ll be playing the first couple games of the season [there],” King said. “I’ve played there before, so it’s nothing new for me. I’m comfortable playing down there. I’m heavy enough to where I can play down there and hold my weight. We’ll see how it goes.”
Other players on the defensive line talk about his quickness and familiarity with the position that King alluded to as reasons why he’ll be a suitable replacement for McGee.
“Yeah, he’s a lot quicker at the three position, more taking on less of the double teams and stuff like that,” McFarland said. “So, he probably definitely will play that position.”
And redshirt freshman Jordan Phillips is another guy that can add depth to the position.
By all accounts, he has progressed well throughout fall camp and could see some solid time on the field.
“Oh yeah he can,” Walker said. “I believe so. I do. I believe that he’s developed way faster than I ever did, you know, with getting the technique and whatnot. So, he’s gonna get some playing time. He should, anyway.”
As far as the ends are concerned, R.J. Washington remains as one starter and now Chuka Ndulue, who has also impressed ever since spring ball, steps into the starting spot.
And there’s still depth there, including JUCO transfer Chaz Nelson, linebackers-transformed-defensive ends Rashod Favors and P.L. Lindley and freshmen Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, who have already drawn praise from the upperclassmen.
“They’re both fast, they’re both big, they’re both athletic,” Washington said. “And you just look at people, sometimes you’re like, ‘Man, if they get [polished], it’s gonna be scary for the next couple of years.’ And Coach [Bobby Jack] Wright’s gonna make sure that they get it because that’s Coach Wright.”
So, given the fact that it’s a big loss, there’s still depth at the two positions.
But players will just have to be shifted around.
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