|"Some players just give you gas."|
In the wake of Wednesday's news that Bob Stoops had suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks, Kameel Jackson and Quentin Hayes indefinitely, Jake Trotter of ESPN's SoonerNation came up with a telling tidbit that speaks to the substantial attrition suffered by the Sooners since August.
Roster turmoil: By my count, at least 19 #Sooners have transferred, quit the team or been suspended since August.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) May 10, 2012
Despite losing some talented prospects such as Brandon Williams, taken individually, none of these former Sooners really qualify as difference-makers.
In the aggregate, however, you get a roster that is thinner than Scott Thompson's CV, at least for the short term. Even hardcore OU aficionados are struggling to name the tight ends currently in Norman (early enrollee Taylor McNamara and JUCO transfer Brannon Green). Meanwhile, in Kenny Stills, the Sooners have one receiver on campus who has caught a pass in an actual game.
If you remember what the Sooners receiving corps looked like in 2009, you can picture the nightmare scenario heading into the fall. Receiver is, like, kind of a big deal for an offense that runs and guns like OU's no-huddle. A subpar group of pass catchers can submarine that kind of attack with a quickness. Likewise, an injury to a position group full of unknown quantities means wide receivers coach Jay Norvell will be rolling the dice with whomever he picks to fill in.
Looking at the big picture, though, an even more alarmist response to all of the churn would be to ask if OU is hurtling towards a period of decline.
All major programs are guaranteed to undergo some personnel turnover, but there's no way to blow off 19 players lost in nine months as no big deal. The wave of departures at the end of the season were all the confirmation anyone needed that the rumors of "chemistry problems" and attitude issues in OU's locker room were true. The two headline names in the latest round of suspensions, Reynolds and Franks, both found themselves in Stoops' doghouse at different occasions in 2011, as each served suspensions at some point during the season.
Stoops himself has talked about the shelf life of a coach in any situation. Maybe all the turmoil is really just a matter of OU's head man losing his edge? Maybe he doesn't have the drive to keep his players in line? Hell, maybe he slept through that whole due diligence part of recruiting the last few years? (Maybe someone needs to get a little more cavalier with OU's drug-testing policies?)
Following a season widely considered a major disappointment in Sooner Land, it's easy to interpret the upheaval as a clear sign that the abyss is right around the corner. Take a gander at the mess Will Muschamp stepped in at Florida, for example.
But should OU diehards find their minds wandering to such dark places, I suggest you take a step back from the ledge.
It's fair to ask how things in Norman reached this point, but we're still talking about a team that won 10 games last year against one of the toughest schedules in the country. That's a great season for 90 percent of the college football programs in the country. How many coaches, including those at some of the other national powerhouses, would decide to shake up their programs after that kind of year? That's not just limited to players, either, as Stoops also took the unprecedented step of publicly cutting ties with a member of his coaching staff earlier this year.
The players currently in hot water who are costing some fans sleep have produced in the past. But they produced for a squad that fell short of expectations and apparently suffered from some serious attitude problems.
It sucks losing established players, but these guys aren't exactly Percy Harvin or Terrelle Pryor – studs whose talents seduced their coaches to look the other way. What sucks worse than contributors dropping by the wayside is watching your favorite team rot from the inside out.