NORMAN — In October 2006, Oklahoma lost its best player for the season in running back Adrian Peterson. Instead of reeling, the Sooners rode backup Allen Patrick to seven straight wins to claim a Big 12 Championship.
This October, OU faces a similar challenge in replacing middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds, who has torn ligaments in his knee and will be out for the year. The Sooners are auditioning Mike Balogun and Brandon Crow, but it’s expected that Austin Box will be in the starting lineup at middle linebacker come Saturday. "It’s really disappointing in the way that it happened,” Box said. "But I’m really excited about the opportunity to step on the field and make some plays.” Despite missing most of the spring with a dislocated elbow, Box was listed as the starting weak-side linebacker heading into preseason. But two weeks in, Box underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee. That allowed Travis Lewis to start at weak-side linebacker in the opener and he’s thrived in that spot ever since, leading the Sooners in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. Box, meanwhile, has been relegated to the bench since recovering. "An injury should never lose a guy his starting job,” Box said. "But the way Travis has been playing, you can’t take a guy like that off the field.