NORMAN — In 2008, linebacker Austin Box got hurt three weeks before Oklahoma’s season opener.
The injury cleared playing time for redshirt freshman Travis Lewis, who eventually became the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
The Sooners are hoping another redshirt freshman linebacker can respond likewise to an eerily similar circumstance.
Tuesday, almost three weeks before OU's opener with Utah State, coach Bob Stoops confirmed Box will be out up to six weeks with a “disc issue” in his back.
Box's injury means redshirt freshman Tom Wort will shoulder the majority of playing time at middle linebacker.
Before the injury, Box and Wort were splitting time at the position.
“I think he's ready,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said of Wort. "I think it'll be like all freshmen. He'll do some really good things, and he'll do some bone-headed things once in awhile.
“But I feel good about him.”
Venables maintained he won't be reshuffling his rotation at linebacker because of Box's injury. Lewis will remain on the weakside, while sophomore Ronnell Lewis will stay on the strongside.
Sophomores Daniel Franklin and Jaydan Bird will take the backup reps in the middle behind Wort.
"It definitely puts more pressure on me,” said Wort, a native of England, who moved with his family to America when he was 13.
“I've just got to step up. Ever since day one I've been expecting to come in here and be a player.