NORMAN — The Little Apple mindset regarding injuries hasn't fallen too far from Bill Snyder's coaching tree.
The Kansas State coach and Bob Stoops, his apprentice-turned-adversary, each saw their best defensive player — Arthur Brown and Tony Jefferson, respectively — exit their most recent game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury.
Stoops briefly popped into the post-practice interview room Monday to tell reporters that Jefferson, his junior free safety and premier defensive player, took every practice snap and is expected to play Saturday, when the No. 6-ranked Sooners host the No. 15 Wildcats for both teams' Big 12 opener on Owen Field.
“No more questions about Tony, OK?” Stoops added before turning around and leaving.
Snyder, who had Stoops on his staff from 1989-95, rarely discusses injuries, and Monday wasn't an exception.
No update was given on Brown, KSU's senior middle linebacker who left Saturday's win over North Texas, but returned and recorded a career-high 13 tackles.
After the game, Snyder said: “We'll have to wait and see. It's going to be a couple of days before we know for sure.”
Jefferson left OU's 69-13 rout of Florida A&M two weeks ago with the bum ankle. He returned for one play before calling it a night, and didn't practice last week at all during the Sooners' bye.
Stoops said, after his team routed the Rattlers, an Football Championship Subdivision squad, that Jefferson could've returned to action had the game been tighter.
But since then, Stoops hasn't been eager to discuss his defensive star's status. Earlier Monday, at his weekly news conference, Stoops said he didn't want to give an update before seeing Jefferson practice, and that he'd “peek my head in after practice and let you know how well he practiced.”
True to his word, Stoops popped into the interview room to quickly report his good news.
Junior linebacker Corey Nelson and other teammates talked a little more extensively about it. They were encouraged to see Jefferson back on the field.
“He looked very, very good,” Nelson said. “Seems like he's back, man. He came out there and was making plays; I was kind of excited.”
Jefferson and his unique skill set will be important for Oklahoma's overall defensive effort against the Wildcats and their powerful run attack.
He spent much of his first two seasons in Norman as a hybrid safety/linebacker, where he often began plays close to the line of scrimmage.
Jefferson moved to free safety during the offseason, but he isn't exclusively deep; before many snaps he's had in 2012, he's crept closer to the line and has darted in to tackle opposing running backs.
Kansas State has averaged more than 250 rushing yards per game and is led by senior quarterback Collin Klein, who scored 27 scores on the ground last season.
“An offense like theirs, where they run the ball and just smash-smash-smash-smash, it wears you down a little bit,” said OU senior defensive end R.J. Washington. “It's important for us to make plays when you can make them. It's important to do our jobs.”
Jefferson's clean bill of health should make that a little easier.
As for Brown, it seems safe to assume he'll be good to go Saturday; after the North Texas game, Wildcats defensive tackle Javonta Boyd said of the All-Big 12 linebacker, “He's a warrior. If he's got one leg, he'll be out there.”
KSU will certainly need Brown, who led the team with 101 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, and added two sacks and an interception last season. His presence in the middle of Kansas State's defense will be important if the Wildcats are to slow OU's offense, which averages over 540 yards of total offense and includes dynamic, yet powerful, running back Damien Williams.
“We're going out of the pan and into the fire, so to speak, and that improvement that we had the first couple of weeks has to come back in a hurry,” Snyder said Monday.