NORMAN — Strange times around Oklahoma football these days.
Unbridled excitement, courtesy of beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A bunch of youthful veterans, a quarterback who outdueled A.J. McCarron, a defense Mike Stoops loves and a navigable schedule.
But also in the mix is the Shakespearian tragedy of Joe Mixon, on the heels of Dorial Green-Beckham and Frank Shannon, in an American sports landscape that suddenly is quite ready to shine a bright light on athletes’ violence against women.
It all makes for an odd feeling. Let the games begin, because the Sooners look to be loaded, but because of legal issues, we don’t even know who will be on the roster. Heck, OU has two No. 20s, Mixon and Shannon, in limbo.
The Sooners’ new team leader, quarterback Trevor Knight, offered a glimpse into the weird feeling.
“I hurt for ’em,” Knight said Saturday at OU Media Day, talking of teammates who have encountered trouble. “We all make mistakes. That’s just how you respond to it. Obviously, being an athlete, you have to put yourself on a pedestal and not do some things you shouldn’t and have a conscious mind about that.
“But things are going to happen. I’m not here to bash them or anything like that. I want to be there for them. That’s what everybody on our team is for. So I’m not on one side or the other. I hurt for them and hope they get back.”
Knight offered lots of support but felt compelled to straddle the fence a little and not take sides. That’s what happens when one teammate (Shannon) is accused of sexual assault, another (Green-Beckham) shows up from Missouri having been asked to leave in part because he allegedly pushed a woman down a flight of stairs and another (Mixon) is under police investigation after an altercation on Campus Corner in which a 20-year-old OU coed suffered severe facial injuries. Shannon and DGB are practicing with the Sooners, though the latter hasn’t been granted eligibility for 2014. Mixon is not practicing.
Bob Stoops on Saturday didn’t want to talk about Mixon, OU’s most acclaimed recruit since Adrian Peterson 10 years ago. Stoops didn’t talk about Mixon.
“The Joe Mixon situation that isn’t resolved yet, I’m unable to speak in regard to anything to do with that situation,” Stoops said.
But Stoops has a lot of pride. A lot of pride in his program and a lot of belief in what he does. So we still gathered a little insight into the Mixon situation, which enters its third week with no resolution.
The entire state seems to have engaged in constant debate about what happened in the witching hour of July 25 and what now should happen to the tailback prodigy. Stoops won’t dignify the debate. But know this. He doesn’t take his responsibilities lightly. And that doesn’t mean just his responsibilities to the university.