NORMAN — If you had to name the most indispensable player on Oklahoma's roster, a player difficult to replace if sidelined by a major injury, quarterback Landry Jones would top the list.
Somewhere near the top would be Ben Habern.
Entering his third season as OU's starting center, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, Habern is pivotal to one of the highest scoring offenses in the country.
“Everything revolves around the center,” said coach Bob Stoops. “It helps to have a guy with experience in that position, the poise, the timing of the snap.”
Similar to former OU quarterback Sam Bradford and his center Jon Cooper, Jones and Habern have developed a unique chemistry, an unspoken bond.
They've been roommates. They hang out together. Last summer, they were among nine players that went on a mission trip to Haiti.
“We're so familiar with each other,” Jones said. “I've taken thousands of snaps from the guy. He's going to put it in the same spot. He knows where your hands are going to be. You don't have to worry about the exchange in the gun. That takes away a lot of stress.”
Habern also takes away stress by setting the pace. It's the center who barks out calls for the offensive line. In OU's fast paced attack, the center must think quickly. He's the one who forecasts blitzes, traits he learned from Cooper.
“Our offense is such a tempo offense, get everyone to the line, run a play and get the defense off guard,” Habern said. “Just to watch how Jon Cooper led that offensive line, made all the calls, a lot of time even telling the offensive tackles what to do, he taught me a lot.”
Habern now is a veteran. Overcoming ankle injuries in 2008 and 2009, Habern has started 24 games, second most on offense, third most on the team among position players.
But there was a time Habern's head was spinning similar to a young quarterback when he and Jones unexpectedly became starters due to injuries two years ago.
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