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OU's middle men: With Tom Wort out and Mike Balogun questionable, the linebacker shuffle is on again

JAKE TROTTER Modified: August 22, 2009 at 12:07 am •  Published: August 22, 2009
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photo - From left, Austin Box, Travis Lewis and Ryan Reynolds will be pulling more of the weight at linebacker with the injury to Tom Wort and questions about the future eligibility of Mike Balogun. (Photos from The Oklahoman Archive)
From left, Austin Box, Travis Lewis and Ryan Reynolds will be pulling more of the weight at linebacker with the injury to Tom Wort and questions about the future eligibility of Mike Balogun. (Photos from The Oklahoman Archive)

/> With Wort’s injury, Box will be pulling double duty between the weak side and the middle while Venables retools his depth chart.

"It’s not foreign territory for me,” said Box, who took his first snaps at middle linebacker during Thursday’s scrimmage after Wort went down. "I played there all of last year.

"Losing a guy like Tom, a guy who’s been here since the spring, a guy who’s been working his tail off, it’s just horrible and unfortunate that it had to go down like that. It impacts all of us, it impacts the whole team, it changes a lot of what we’ve been doing.”

Venables said he’s also now working true freshman Ronnell Lewis in the middle. Fellow freshman Jaydan Bird, who’s been practicing behind Travis Lewis, is expected to receive practice time in the middle, as well.

"(Box) can switch to the middle very easily,” Venables said. "We’re also working some of the younger guys, Ronnell Lewis and Jaydan Bird. So that will be our group of guys.”

As for Wort, his promising freshman season has ended before it ever began.

The native of England who attended high school in New Braunfels, Texas, had been so impressive after enrolling in the spring that Venables was counting on working Wort frequently in the rotation.

Now, Wort will redshirt and begin his rehabilitation following surgery, which he’s expected to undergo in early September.

"He was playing really well,” Venables said. "He’s never played in a game, but he was ready to play in a game and we were very comfortable with him going into a game.

"We’ll need to get somebody else ready in a hurry.”

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