NORMAN — Adrian Taylor got pushed around Thursday during OU’s first August practice. He didn’t like it one bit.
“I play defensive line,” Taylor said. “We don’t get pushed around.”
But Taylor did, in his first football contact since New Year’s Eve in El Paso, when Taylor lay on the Sun Bowl turf with one of the most ghastly injuries in Sooner history.
Taylor’s ankle was dislocated, or broken, or both. Depends on who you talk to. His foot dangled in the opposite direction of God’s design.
An injury like that is different from a torn knee ligament or a sprained ankle. When a body part goes sideways against the grain and has to be put back together like Humpty Dumpty, the mental rehab can be as difficult as the physical.
I know how Taylor feels. In a softball game 15 years ago, my leg was snapped in two, Joe Theismann style.
Doctors can expertly put the bones back in place. But the mind is a different matter. The mind doesn’t want to trust the leg. The mind felt that pain. Saw that unnatural bent of bone and flesh.
Which completely explains why Taylor was hesitant Thursday in his first practice since the Sun Bowl. “It was different,” he said. “I hadn’t been out there in eight months. Not to brag, but I’m used to not being pushed around.”
Offensive tackle Eric Mensik got the best of Taylor a couple of times in practice, which Mensik most definitely didn’t do last season. “You could tell he was a little uneasy,” Mensik said. “I kind of felt bad. It was a little awkward to see that.”
OU coaches say Taylor will be brought along slowly. He won’t have to go 100 percent for a full practice. Taylor can ease his way back to mental and physical health, and he’s expected to start at defensive tackle on Sept. 4 against Utah State.
The Sooners need Taylor to reacquaint himself with the mano-mano nature of the trenches. Without Taylor, OU’s D-line falls mightily from its 2010 perch. G.K. McCoy was the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Give the Sooners a healthy Taylor, who has started 28 games in his career, and OU’s defensive interior still will be better than most in college football.
But take Taylor out of the lineup or put in a substandard Taylor, and the Sooners fall back to Earth at the most important point in a defense.
“When he gets back in the swing of things, he has a very high motor,” said guard Stephen Good. “He doesn’t stop. Really is a great player.”
Taylor spent Friday with a smile on his face.