NORMAN — Senior center Gabe Ikard dressed out, but wasn't a full participant in practice in the few sessions after he broke the ring finger on his snapping hand.
With 37 career starts on the Oklahoma offensive line, is he a rare player who can afford to miss practice?
“No. Nobody can,” said first-year OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. “If there's gonna be a guy, obviously he's played a bunch, but again, everybody needs practice.
“I don't care if you've played 10 years in the NFL. You need practice. You need reps.”
Still, the Sooners are in decent shape at Ikard's position.
When Ikard had to miss the Baylor game with a concussion, then-freshman Ty Darlington started in Ikard's place and performed well.
Darlington also saw significant action in Oklahoma's Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M, when guard Adam Shead was fighting through injuries and Ikard moved out to replace him.
“It really is a great experience as a freshman,” Darlington said after the Cotton Bowl. “When I was coming in, I wasn't sure if I'd get to play or if I'd redshirt. So I got to get in, play a little bit.
“Played well at times, didn't play so well at others. I guess I have to remember I'm only a freshman.”
Bedenbaugh said that with Ikard out, Darlington and senior Austin Woods — the team's long snapper — were sharing first-team reps at center.
“We've had some bad snaps,” Bedenbaugh said. “You can't ever have any bad snaps.
“Whoever got the good grade in practice, whoever graded out the best, is gonna go with the 1's. This is an everyday deal. You have to earn it every single day. We'll grade them every day and guys will move up and down based on their grades.”
With the news that senior guard Tyler Evans re-tore the ACL in his right knee, and sophomore Nila Kasitati's fight to return from his 2012 ACL tear, Oklahoma's guard depth could require Ikard's services again next season.
If that's the case, Darlington's experience last season, and his experience through spring ball, will certainly benefit the unit.
“Being around some of the guys I've gotten to be around has been a huge help, rather than being on the scout team or doing whatever,” Darlington said after the Cotton Bowl. “I was playing with these older guys, playing with Gabe. ... It's a valuable learning experience. I think it's really gonna help us out next year.”