NORMAN — Oklahoma lost two all-conference defensive ends from its 2011 pass rush, which was good enough to finish eighth nationally in quarterback sacks.
After Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis were drafted by NFL teams, coaches were often asked if the Sooners could maintain the same strength at defensive end in 2012.
The coaches spoke with confidence, saying many at the position, including newcomers and converted linebackers, had potential to earn playing time.
Then Friday, coach Bob Stoops announced senior defensive tackle Stacy McGee's indefinite suspension for violating university policy.
In the same session with reporters, Stoops said senior David King and sophomore Geneo Grissom, each defensive ends for the better part of their careers, will be relied upon in new roles.
King, a senior who was set to start opposite R.J. Washington at defensive end, will move inside and join seniors JaMarkus McFarland and Casey Walker in the defensive tackle rotation.
Grissom, who asked for a switch to offense before the summer, will start at tight end after impressing coaches throughout fall camp.
How's that for confidence in the new ends?
“The young freshmen are really doing great,” Stoops said of Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha, who, along with junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson, are in their first OU seasons.
Replacing King as a defensive end starter will probably be sophomore Chuka Ndulue.
“Chuka Ndulue has been really good,” Stoops said. “I have said that, even in the spring. He is ready to play. He has been doing really well.”
Sophomore Rashod Favors and redshirt freshman P.L. Lindley were each converted from linebacker in the offseason, and each, Favors especially, might now be called upon to contribute.
“Rashod Favors has really been impressive,” Stoops said. “We have really been excited about that move over there. ... He is really strong and powerful, so that has been really positive, too, at the defensive end spot.”
McGee's indefinite suspension is the fifth Stoops has issued since May, when receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson — along with defensive back Quentin Hayes — were booted for violating team rules. Jackson was eventually dismissed and transferred to Louisiana-Monroe. Reynolds, Franks and Hayes have returned to team practices but remain barred from games.
McGee was suspended for the last year's season opener after being cited for marijuana possession months earlier. He appeared in all of OU's remaining 12 games, recorded 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The 6-foot-4, 299-pound Muskogee native has started 14 games since his sophomore season.