Some of the fog around junior linebacker Frank Shannon lifted today when Oklahoma issued a statement indicating that he had been suspended from school for a year. But that's not exactly the full story.
The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey has the full details, but as of now, OU is legally barred from enforcing the suspension leveled against Shannon following a Title IX investigation.
This actually clarifies a lot of the weirdness around Shannon's situation. For example, it would explain why, despite his murky status, Shannon participated with the rest of the team at the recent meet-and-greet with fans.
However, at the end of the day, don't expect Shannon to see the field any time soon.
What does this mean for the team?
Handing down a suspension to last season's leading tackler invariably generates a big headline effect. Yet, none of this comes as a surprise to the coaching staff or anyone who has been following the situation closely. Shannon was MIA for a good chunk of spring practice, and the school delivered a decision on the matter in the middle of June. Bob Stoops and the rest of the defensive coaches have been working on a Plan B for three or four months.
Jordan Evans essentially took over for Shannon in the spring and earned rave reviews. The athletic sophomore is explosive and has the athleticism required to cover in OU's scheme. He might have beat out Shannon for the job this offseason.
Still, even if Evans doesn't miss a beat, losing a veteran like Shannon does hit the Sooners where they hurt. OU just doesn't have numbers at the interior linebacker spots.
Evans and Dom Alexander give linebackers coach Tim Kish a solid first string on the inside. After that, the most likely backups appear to be true freshman Tay Evans and little-used senior Aaron Franklin, who's in his fifth season in Norman.
Most likely, Kish and Mike Stoops are looking into shifting one of the players earmarked for the JACK or SAM positions inside. Juco transfer Devante Bond and redshirt freshman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo make for likely candidates, although it's conceivable that Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom could get a look inside, too.
For the time being, OU shouldn't lose much with Shannon out of commission. But an already thin position for the Sooners just got even thinner.