Orange Bowl Dec 30

Oklahoma safety Tre Norwood dives to tackle Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. during the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. Coach Lincoln Riley said Friday that Norwood has suffered a season-ending injury. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley confirmed Friday that defensive back Tre Norwood suffered a season-ending injury earlier this week.

Without giving specifics, Riley said the junior was injured during a non-contact drill. It has been widely speculated that it is a knee injury.

“Tough injury, tough for him. Tough for our team. He’s such a valuable guy. Can play so many positions, (and has) great experience,” Riley said. “Certainly we’ll miss him. Not only defensively, but special teams, too. He’s a guy that was really a jack of all trades for us. But that’s part of this game. That’s gonna happen. We’ve had a couple already and that’s why you recruit hard,”

Linebacker Caleb Kelly and defensive lineman Jordan Kelley are expected to miss much, if not all, of the 2019 season after being injured last spring.

Norwood had started 19 consecutive games, including 17 at cornerback. He moved to strong safety in the Sooners’ two postseason games (Big 12 championship against Texas, Orange Bowl against Alabama).

He was considered OU’s top option at nickel back this season. As late as Monday, cornerbacks coach Roy Manning said he was impressed with Norwood.

“In the spring, he played a number of different positions in the defensive backfield. For us, a lot of those guys have to do some dual training,” Manning said. “He’s been a bright spot. He’s a very sharp kid and very reliable. He’s made a good amount of plays just through three practices. I expect a lot out of Tre. He expects more out of himself.”

Riley said OU has several options at the nickel spot.

“We’re bouncing all kinds of guys around there. Bookie (Brendan Radley-Hiles) has done a nice job over there. We’re looking at Chanse Sylvie, at (Jeremiah) Criddell. A couple other bodies there, too, that have done a nice job,” Riley said.

“The way (defensive coordinator) Alex (Grinch) and them teach our system, being able to move those guys around is easier for us than it’s been in the past. It’s more of learning the overall system, the overall scheme and so changing those pieces in and out has not been too difficult. The guys have handled it well.”

Riley said he hated to see Norwood’s season-ending injury, but as a coach, he tried to look at the bright side of things.

“In some ways, there’s probably some silver lining in the fact that it happened early enough that we’re able to adjust and able to get a lot of guys reps,” Riley said. “These things are a lot tougher if they happen during the season or right before a season opener. It’s given us time to do that.

“Everybody was disappointed for Tre, but anybody that knows him knows he’ll handle it well and he’ll come back better than ever.”

Eric Bailey

918-581-8391

eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391