Senior defensive tackle Casey Walker might not be available Saturday to play in El Paso.
Walker said he wanted to stay healthy through camp. But when coach Bob Stoops was asked if Walker made it through camp, Stoops said, “For the most part.”
Stoops wouldn't disclose any further information.
“It's a personal issue,” Stoops said. He doesn't know if the issue will be long term but he did confirm that Walker does not deal with a football-related injury.
HEUPEL: WHOEVER HAS ‘HOT HAND' WILL GET CARRIES
Senior running back Dominique Whaley is returning to game action for the first time since a severe ankle injury cost him the last six games of the 2011 season.
Everyone — Whaley included — has said the starter looks like his old self in practice. Saturday's season opener at UTEP will be the first real test.
If, as expected, the Sooners take a big, early lead on the Miners, coaches could rest Whaley to stay on the safe side. OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said coaches feel like all of their backs are capable of making plays and blocking in pass protection.
Juniors Brennan Clay and Damien Williams, the junior-college transfer from Western Arizona, appear to be the top options to relieve Whaley. True freshman Alex Ross is another possibility.
“We really feel like all those guys are capable of being explosive with the ball and taking care of it,” Heupel said. “They are patient and do a good job of setting up the blocks. They've all been good in pass protection.
“The guy that has the hot hand will be the guy that continues to carry it.”
Heupel said pass protection will be especially important against UTEP. He said the Miners blitz frequently.
“Yeah, on third downs and some of their first- and second-down packages,” Heupel said. “On third down, you'll see it. Our guys have to do a good job of picking it up, communicating on the front and our backs have to be on the same page as well.”
ADAM SHEAD WAS SURPRISED BY DAMIEN WILLIAMS' POWER
Offensive lineman Adam Shead was hit from behind during one play in camp, and he looked around to figure out who did it. He realized it was junior college transfer Damien Williams.
“He's just a real power back,” Shead said. “When you say ‘power back,' that guy's a power back. He's strong.”
Shead called the 6-0, 208-pound back a great runner.
“He's going through you, around you, somewhere,” Shead said.
UTEP SECONDARY STAYING UPBEAT
UTEP's secondary faces a daunting challenge against No. 4 Oklahoma and quarterback Landry Jones. But the Miner defensive backs remain confident entering Saturday's season opener despite the tough matchup.
“This is a big step, Landry Jones, an NFL prospect, a big star,” safety DeShawn Grayson told the El Paso Times. “It's exciting to go against those type of guys. Any competitor can't fear the name of any university.”
Cornerback Drew Thomas said UTEP has experience against great quarterbacks; the Miners faced former Houston star Case Keenum five times over his illustrious career.
“This is like going against Houston's Case Keenum last year, a Heisman candidate,” Thomas said.
“When you go against a guy like that, you have to be on top of your game. Against someone as smart and skilled as that, you make a little mistake and they will take advantage every time. They don't ever miss. You have to play perfectly.”
*Stoops said there was still no update on Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders' NCAA waivers.
*Freshman running back Alex Ross will travel with the team to El Paso.
*Quarterback Landry Jones' new wife, Whitney, is going by Whitney Jones on Twitter. However, the Sooners' senior women's basketball player will go by her maiden name in the media guide and on her jersey.