Injuries mount up for No. 13 Sooners on front line

Associated Press Modified: November 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm •  Published: November 11, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — When Ty Darlington arrived on Oklahoma's campus this fall, he got to work learning the center position behind the team's most experienced lineman and an all-conference performer who'd filled in there last season.

That Darlington started for the Sooners (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) in a 42-34 win against Baylor on Saturday was a sign of how many injuries the offensive line has absorbed this season.

Darlington learned that he'd be starting through a text Thursday from starter Gabe Ikard, who had shifted from guard to fill in when 30-game starter Ben Habern gave up football at the start of training camp because of lingering problems from back and neck injuries. Ikard won all-Big 12 honors last season when he started out at guard and then shifted over to replace Habern during the season.

The Sooners also lost guard Tyler Evans, right behind Habern with 29 career starts, to a season-ending knee injury in the first week of training camp and have had guard Adam Shead and tackle Lane Johnson play through balky ankles.

"It's been tough on us, just having to respond and just coming back to practice every week and getting better when we're a little banged up," Darlington said. "But I think we're doing well with it."

With its makeshift offensive line, Oklahoma compiled 460 total yards with 183 rushing against Baylor's worst-in-the-nation defense. Quarterback Landry Jones was sacked once, the 13th sack allowed this season. The Sooners had allowed a Bowl Subdivision-best four sacks after nine games last season, but Jones isn't complaining with all his protectors have gone through.

"You can't say enough about the job that Ty did and the offensive line. He did a great job of calling everything out, directing traffic up there and those guys did a great job of keeping me clean (Saturday) night," Jones said. "That one sack, I held onto the ball a little bit longer than I should have.

"All in all, the offensive line did a great job."

Johnson, the starting left tackle, played on just five of 12 drives — two in each half, plus the kneel-downs at the end of the game. Shead limped off the field in the fourth quarter after hurting his right ankle, but he didn't miss a snap.

"A lot of people went down. There's a lot of shuffling going on," Darlington said.

It's apparently been even more amplified behind closed doors at practice. Darlington said right tackle Daryl Williams worked a lot at guard to allow Bronson Irwin time off to deal with his own injuries, and field-goal snapper Austin Woods also ate up some repetitions to keep others fresh.

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