“I was able to work out all summer and get back into shape,” said Habern, who was on preseason watch lists for the Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Rimington Award. “I feel good.”
But Stoops, during a brief media session before Wednesday's Caravan, said the news of the senior's retirement from football came as no surprise.
“We love Ben, but it's not a big surprise to us who have been around,” Stoops said.
When Ikard was forced to play center a year ago, Adam Shead started several games at guard.
Over dinner that summer night, the conversation between Gabe and Jim Ikard was about the Sooners' depth at center. Junior deep snapper Austin Woods was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma at the time, although he has reportedly been cleared to play, according to the Rivals website SoonerScoop.com.
True freshman Ty Darlington, from Apopka, Fla., received rave reviews from Habern at Big 12 Media Days, but he has dropped nine pounds from 275 to 266 since signing in February. Sources said it's because Darlington is suffering from a sports hernia.
Redshirt freshman Nila Kasitati has the potential to play at center, but he is having heart issues. He had surgery Tuesday, which, according to several player tweets, went well.
After Gabe Ikard saw Habern struggle to lift weights, he knew responsibility for the center position might rest squarely on his shoulders.
“I think Ben was just having trouble with what typically he would have to do,” Jim Ikard said. “Even turning his head, he was having trouble.
“He is such a great kid, and I know he would have done anything to play. You know that when he said he couldn't play anymore, he had to be hurt.”