An already eventful week in Norman only got more so on Wednesday.
*First, the real stunner: Stalwart center Ben Habern is quitting football. The preseason All-Big 12 selection has battled multiple lingering injuries throughout his career, including issues with his neck and back, so the idea that he would retire isn't that shocking.
What is shocking is the fact that Habern was part of the Sooners' contingent at Big 12 Media Days last week, and the three-year starter supposedly came to a final decision just this week – not exactly what you'd expect from a guy riding off into the sunset on the eve of two-a-days.
In terms of filling Habern's absence on the offensive line, look for Gabe Ikard to slide over from guard to center, a move he pulled off capably last season when Habern was hurt. That should make way for talented brawler Adam Shead in the starting lineup at guard. Despite Habern's all-conference credentials, OU won't drop off much through that shift.
In losing Habern, however, the Sooners are also losing a battle-tested mainstay on the front line. By all accounts, Habern has been considered one of the team's leaders since a year ago. You don't just jiggle the depth chart and magically replace that kind of presence on your team.
And speaking of the depth chart, with Habern and Dylan Dismukes quitting, Austin Woods recovering from chemotherapy and Nila Kasitati recovering from a heart procedure, the Sooners are growing perilously thin on the offensive line.
*The other piece of major news is a little less surprising: Bob Stoops has lifted the suspensions of receivers Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds and defensive back Quentin Hayes. Kameel Jackson's status will be re-evaluated in the next two weeks.
Stoops hinted earlier this week that something could be brewing with the suspended quartet, and in the case of the receivers, JUCO recruit Courtney Gardner's inability to make it to campus may have hastened their return. Of course, Stoops is emphasizing that the players haven't been cleared to play yet and will miss a "considerable" number of games if and when they are.
If you're looking for indignation one way or the other about the decision to let these guys back on the team, you'll have to find it somewhere else. I generally don't care give a damn about any athletes' extracurriculars and side with the players on issues of lenience. More importantly, even if I did care, I really don't know enough about the particulars to arrive at anything resembling an informed opinion. My only real thought is that Franks and Reynolds are no strangers to Stoops' doghouse, so it does make you wonder when enough will finally be enough.
Regarding what this means for the coming season, I think Franks and Reynolds are behind the eight ball in terms of getting on the field. Neither were on scholarship this summer. If they're not on the field for the first four games of the year or so, that will only put them farther behind other challengers at the position.
The bottom line is that guys like Sterling Shepard and incoming JUCO recruit Lacoltan Bester will have every opportunity to firmly entrench themselves in OU's receiver rotation in the beginning of the season.
*Flying under the radar was the announcement that incoming freshman Gary Simon has qualified and will be with the team this fall.
The recruiting services may have dismissed Simon as a mid-tier prospect at defensive back, but his high school film tells a completely different story. The Floridian has a legitimate shot to work his way into the rotation in the secondary right away.