McGee suspension leaves OU scrambling across D-line
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Friday, August 17, 2012
8/17/12 at 4:39 PM
NORMAN – It was the Oklahoma defensive line's turn to take a hit Friday, as Bob Stoops announced the indefinite suspension of Stacy McGee.
"It's a university policy," the OU coach said without elaborating.
"I talked to him yesterday. It's one of those things where it's like, 'I knew better,'" fellow senior defensive tackle Casey Walker said. "It's like when you're a kid and your mom tells you not to touch the stove, and you do it anyway. He got burned. It's just one of those things."
McGee was also suspended for OU's 2011 opener against Tulsa following his citation for marijuana possession the previous February. He went on to make 22 tackles and 1½ sacks in 12 games, three of which he started.
McGee's latest absence leaves the Sooners scrambling across the defensive front, somewhat like they did earlier this preseason camp along an offensive line decimated by the loss of starters Ben Habern and Tyler Evans.
In this case, starting defensive end David King will slide down to tackle, where he'll join a rotation which includes returning starters Walker and Jamarkus McFarland.
"I don't mind it. I've played there before," said King, who slid inside last year in OU's third-down package which employed four defensive ends. "It's nothing new to me. I'm comfortable playing there. I'm heavy enough I can play down there and hold my weight."
"You see him? The cat's like 285 now," Walker said. "He should help out bigtime."
He'll need to.
When defensive coordinator Mike Stoops met the media as preseason camp opened, he was enthused by the return of Walker and McGee from springtime injuries.
"You can see a difference in our defense and our front four from anytime in the spring," he said then. "Having those guys be consistent players makes a big difference in our line play."
Now Walker, recovering from shoulder surgery and still battling a hamstring issue, must carry the burden along with McFarland, King and freshman Jordan Phillips.
"Jordan needs to continue to mature," Bob Stoops said Friday. "I think he's shown some signs during camp. He's a big, physical guy that's hard to move around."
Even if Phillips matures, King adjusts and Walker and McFarland hold it down inside, OU must still adapt outside as well. King and R.J. Washington had nailed down starting spots by following their promising offseasons with productive camps.
Now, Chuka Ndulue stands in for King.
"Chuka has been really good. I said that even in the spring," Bob Stoops said. "He's ready to play."
It's just that he hasn't yet, at least substantially. Ndulue made three tackles in seven games as a redshirt freshman behind King, Washington, Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. Suddenly OU needs him to make a real jump.
The same can be said for Rashod Favors, Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha, all of whom should now move up the depth chart at end.
"Who's really been impressive is Rashod," Bob Stoops said of the third-year sophomore who recently switched from linebacker. "Bobby Jack (Wright, OU's defensive ends coach) has been talking about him. He keeps showing up and doing things well. He's really strong, powerful."
So, apparently, are Tapper and Onuoha, the two true freshman ends who coaches have been bragging about all month.
As with Favors and Phillips, however, coaches are banking mostly on their potential.
There isn't much else to go on, until games roll around. Maybe they'll fulfill it. Maybe Ndulue will emerge in his first start.
Maybe McGee will be back in time to make a dent in the season.
"Oh yeah, he'll be back," Walker declared. "It's just like an injury. He'll be back."
Until that happens, and until the depth chart movers make good on their promise, all the Sooners have are hopes. And expectations.
"The train still rolls, even though we love him," McFarland said of his suspended teammate. "We've still got to fill his spot."