NORMAN — Oklahoma boasted 102 career starts between six players on its offensive line entering the 2012 season.
After Monday's latest dose of bad news, that senior guard Tyler Evans has torn the ACL in his right knee, that number has been reduced to 43 between four players.
Evans did not redshirt as a true freshman, meaning he could recover and return to the Sooners next season.
But still, a position once believed to be among the strongest on the entire 2012 team has been dealt another blow to go with last week's devastating news that senior center Ben Habern, who had 30 career starts, would end his career after deciding lingering neck and back injuries weren't worth the risk.
The Sooners also lost promising redshirt freshman Dylan Dismuke, who had to accept a medical exemption to prematurely end his promising career because of what is essentially an unfixable knee injury.
Now, Evans, who has 29 career starts, won't be on the Sooners' 2012 line, either.
“It was later in the practice,” coach Bob Stoops said of Evans' injury, which came in OU's first practice Friday but wasn't diagnosed until a Monday MRI. “Just running down the field, really.
“A couple of tough breaks, but we've still got guys in there we really like ... but yeah, it makes you a little more thin.”
Junior Gabe Ikard will shift to center to replace Habern, as he did for several games last season, and, also like last year, sophomore Adam Shead will step in at guard for Ikard.
“It's really unfortunate,” Shead said. “You hate to see those types of things happen to such good people. I'm around Ben and Tyler; I just love those guys, and I hate it for them.
“But we just have to keep on stepping in there and rolling with the punches. Got to keep on moving. Keep pushing.”
Junior Bronson Irwin, a Mustang native with no career starts, is now a first-team Oklahoma guard.
“He's a capable starter,” offensive line coach James Patton said of Irwin. “He plays hard. He's a great kid. He had a great winter and a great spring, and it looks like he carried it over (through the summer).”
If injuries weren't enough, OU also lost a true freshman guard who was a four-star prospect to homesickness.
John Michael McGee (6-foot-3, 267 pounds), a Texarkana, Texas, native, left the team after just a few practices.
“Goodluck to OU on the field I'll be watching,” tweeted McGee, a four-star prospect. “It's just not for me.”
OU has, though, recently received good news regarding the health of lineman Nila Kasitati and Austin Woods, who have each battled serious, non-football-related illnesses through the offseason.
Kasitati, a redshirt freshman, had heart surgery last week and is expected to make a full recovery. Woods, the team's junior field-goal snapper, has battled Hodgkin lymphoma through the summer and has been cleared to play despite his continued cancer fight. He practiced with the team Monday before heading to a chemotherapy treatment.
Oklahoma players and coaches alike have praised true freshman center Ty Darlington, from Apopka, Fla., as someone who could immediately contribute. He might be called upon to do so after the recent wave upheaval on the line.
Stoops did announce Monday, too, that redshirt freshman defensive end Nathan Hughes (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) has switched to the offensive line, which should provide more depth.
“They were so deep all the way around,” quarterback Landry Jones said of his offensive line. “So, yeah, we lost two really dominant players, but we're still pretty set at those spots.”