NORMAN — On the bus ride following Oklahoma's season-opening win at UTEP, Jamarkus McFarland wanted to visit with David King, his partner inside the Sooners' defensive line.
“I went up to David on the bus and tried to talk to him, but he was asleep,” McFarland said. “I was like, ‘I don't blame you, brother. I feel the same way.'”
McFarland and King were in the game for every single one of UTEP's meaningful offensive snaps Saturday, until the Sooners scored with about three minutes remaining to finally squash the Miners' upset bid. Redshirt freshmen Marquis Anderson and Jordan Phillips entered the game at that point for their first-ever game action.
Those four pretty much represent the entirety of Oklahoma's depth at defensive tackle, the position Mike Stoops said is “critical” for any championship-caliber team. Defending national champion Alabama, for example, dominated the line of scrimmage in its 41-14 rout of No. 8 Michigan last week.
“The D-line can really control a game,” said Oklahoma's defensive coordinator. “It gives you a lot more flexibility, maybe in the back end, to do some things.
“It's very critical to any team's success, and certainly ours will be that way, too.”
At this point, the Sooners' lack of depth might leave McFarland and King — and any real shot at the Sooners' eighth national championship — in critical condition.
Senior Stacy McGee was suspended indefinitely for violating university policy in mid-August; King, then slated to start at defensive end, shifted inside to tackle to help ease the blow.
Then last week, just a few days before the Sooners left Norman for West Texas, OU coach Bob Stoops announced that senior tackle Casey Walker, a returning starter, was dealing with a personal issue. He didn't travel with the team and still wasn't practicing Monday.
Sophomore Torrea Peterson didn't travel to El Paso, either, because he's dealing with an academic issue. Bob Stoops said Monday that it was safe to assume Peterson wouldn't play in Saturday's home opener at Florida A&M.