NORMAN — Mike Balogun walked into the Red Room Monday, clasping the Oklahoma defensive playbook in his arms like a football. Twice already, the junior-college transfer was passed over in the linebacking pecking order, largely because he was still grasping the Sooners’ defensive scheme.
But due to yet another injury at middle linebacker, Balogun may finally get his chance in the starting lineup Saturday in the Big 12 Championship against Missouri. And if he doesn’t, Balogun says it won’t be for lack of knowledge of the playbook. "It’s been a learning experience. It’s taken a while for me to learn the ends and outs of this defense,” said Balogun, speaking to the media for the first time since arriving in Norman this summer from Lackawanna (Pa.) College. "That’s been the biggest difference. Our playbook at Lackawanna wasn’t as husky. "But as weeks have gone on, I’ve been investing time in learning the plays, getting in the playbook and learning it. Now I feel pretty comfortable with the scheme.” This week, Sooner defensive coordinator Brent Venables is entertaining two options to replace middle linebacker Austin Box, who suffered a sprained knee from a cut block at Oklahoma State. One option is to move strong safety Nic Harris to weak-side linebacker, and bump All-Big 12 linebacker Travis Lewis to the middle. The other is to plug Balogun into the starting lineup at middle linebacker. "When you’re force-feeding him all the reps and getting him ready and figuring out what he can and can’t do, you’re able to formulate your game plan around that," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.