NORMAN — Oklahoma senior center Ben Habern has decided to end his football career early because of lingering neck and back injuries, coach Bob Stoops announced Wednesday with the release of an updated 2012 team roster that also included the reinstatement of suspended Sooners Trey Franks, Quentin Hayes and Jaz Reynolds.
Habern, who was the center on the 2012 preseason All-Big 12 team, was one of three players representing the Sooners at Big 12 Media Days last week, when he said his neck problems, which required surgery in January, were “healed up.”
When asked if he was 100 percent, Habern said, “Yeah,” adding that he began feeling better at the beginning of the summer.
“I was able to work out all summer and get back into shape,” Habern said. “I feel good.
“Anytime you deal with a neck, it's kind of freaky, just kind of knowing what goes along with your neck and how important it is. Apparently from the doctors and the training staff from everyone that was involved with it, they said it was a routine surgery. The doctor did a great job and now it's healed up.”
Habern missed a large chunk of the 2011 season with a fractured forearm, with guard Gabe Ikard filling in at center. Ikard will now likely move back to the position.
Habern started 30 games at center during his Sooner career.
“Our coaching staff knows this was a difficult decision for Ben,” Stoops said. “Ben has been a consummate leader for our team, both on and off the field. We appreciate the toughness that Ben has displayed, and we wish him the very best as he completes his education at OU.”
Franks and Reynolds, junior receivers, and Hayes, a sophomore defensive back, were reinstated nearly three months after being removed from their athletic scholarships. Sophomore receiver Kameel Jackson was also suspended indefinitely then, but was allowed to stay on scholarship and work through summer school. He was not reinstated Wednesday, and his suspension will be reviewed after he finishes his current classes.
The four were suspended May 9 for violating unspecified team rules and did not appear in the 2012 media guide, which was released last month.
Franks, Hayes and Reynolds will remain suspended indefinitely from playing in games.
Reynolds was OU's third-leading receiver last season with 41 receptions, 715 yards and five touchdowns. Franks was the Sooners' leading kick returner, averaging 23.9 yards a return as a sophomore last season, and caught 22 passes for 196 yards. Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel raved about Franks' all-around play during the spring.
When Franks and Reynolds return to game action, they'll give quarterback Landry Jones more experienced targets to go with junior Kenny Stills, who will still be the only active receiver with a career NCAA Division I reception when OU opens its season Sept. 1 at UTEP.
Stills has started 25 games in his two years on campus, and had 786 yards and five touchdowns last season.
True freshman Trey Metoyer received rave reviews during the spring, and then showed his potential with a six-catch, 72-yard performance in the spring game.
Also joining the Sooners are freshmen Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard and Derrick Woods, as well Lacoltan Bester, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College.
Reynolds' reinstatement also comes just days after another junior-college transfer, Courtney Gardner, confirmed that he wasn't able to become academically qualified in time for the fall. Gardner, 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds with 4.4 speed, had 1,099 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season for at Sierra (Calif.) Community College. He'll spend one more semester there and join the Sooners in January.
Both Franks and Reynolds have been suspended before. Reynolds was suspended after tweeting insensitive comments about a gunman at the University of Texas during OU/Texas week, and redshirted that season. He was also suspended for one game last season for a violation of team rules.
Franks was suspended for two games last season for violating unspecified team rules.
Jackson started two games and played in 11 as a true freshman, finishing with 12 receptions for 165 yards. But he didn't participate in April's spring game.