Analysis: How Travis Lewis’ injury affects the Sooners in 2011
Senior weakside linebacker Travis Lewis suffered a broken toe on his left foot at practice on Monday. The Sooners are now short two linebackers. Austin Box, a returning starter at middle linebacker, died tragically in May from a toxic mix of painkillers.
Observations on Lewis’ injury and how it impacts the Sooners:
1) The Corey Nelson/Tony Jefferson experiment is over. Bob Stoops said Nelson will fill Lewis’ spot at weakside linebacker. Jefferson will remain at nickel back/strongside linebacker.
2) Doctors are estimating Lewis will be sidelined eight weeks which puts his return around the week of Texas. Doctors often are conservative. The big question is whether Lewis could play in slightly less than six weeks.
Don’t bet against Lewis politicking to return Sept. 17 for a big showdown in Tallahassee five weeks from this Saturday or possibly return Sept. 24 for the conference opener against Missouri, another pivotal early season game against a top 20 opponent. The Tigers upset OU last season in Columbia. The rematch is in Norman.
3) Lewis arguably is the Sooners’ best team leader. He’s the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s led OU in tackles all three seasons, averaging 121 tackles a season. Lewis can still be a vocal leader in meetings and on the sideline. But who will be the defensive leader on the field while he’s out?
4) Javon Harris will be on the spot. It appeared coaches might move Tony Jefferson to free safety. Due to Lewis’ injury Harris is the starting free safety. Harris had a good spring but he’s replacing an All-American (Quinton Carter).
5) Corey Nelson is extremely talented. Stoops said Nelson had as good a spring as anyone on the roster. There won’t be a talent dropoff at weakside linebacker. The one concern is Nelson could be out of position on occasion due to a lack of experience.
6) Depth questions.
* Who moves onto the two-deep chart? Daniel Franklin?
* Will Jaydan Bird be the backup to both middle linebacker Tom Wort and Corey Nelson?
* Can Jospeh Ibiloye, Jefferson’s backup at strongside linebacker, play the other linebacker spots in a pinch?
* Of all the young linebackers, which one is most ready to play if there are additional injuries?
Other linebackers on the roster:
Joseph Ibiloye: A junior, Ibiloye started four games last season at strongside linebacker.
Jaydan Bird: A junior from Wichita, Bird is the backup middle linebacker behind Tom Wort.
Daniel Franklin: A junior from Mt. Airy, Ga., Franklin played in 12 games last season on special teams.
Londell Taylor: The freshman walk on from Vian, who played four years of minor league baseball, will get an opportunity.
Rashod Favors: Redshirt freshman from Fort Worth.
Aaron Franklin: Redshirt freshman from Marshall, Texas.
P.L. Lindley: True freshman from Round Rock, Texas, who can play both inside and outside linebacker.
Frank Shannon: True freshman from Dallas Skyline. Shannon is projected more of a role like Tony Jefferson as a nickel back.
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