Last week it was reported three Oklahoma football players would be suspended for the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl. On Monday, with the game coming up at the end of the week, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has confirmed the suspensions of starting defensive end Ronnie Perkins, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and wide receiver Trejan Bridges.
Although he did not go into details about why these three players will not play, Riley did confirm everyone on the team did make the trip to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, where the Big 12 champion Sooners will face SEC champion and No. 1 LSU in one of the two semifinal matchups of this year’s College Football Playoff. The absence of Perkins will be a tough one for the Oklahoma defense. Perkins recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss this season after starting all 13 games this season.
On top of the three suspensions, Riley also confirmed starting safety Delarrin Turner-Yell is not likely to play in the game due to a collarbone injury suffered in practice last week.
Being without two starting defensive players against an LSU offense that is led by Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow is a big reason why the Sooners are considered a pretty heavy underdog in their semifinal matchup with the Tigers.
Oklahoma had to hold their breath to escape this weekend’s game against Iowa State with a win, but the close call took a toll on the Sooners moving forward. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley announced on Monday running back Trey Sermon and defensive lineman Kenneth Mann will miss the remainder of the 2019 season with season-ending injuries.
Riley confirmed both players suffered injuries in the win over Iowa State that will require surgery. That will bring an early end to the collegiate career of Mann, a redshirt senior, but sermon will be eligible to return to the Sooners next season.
Sermon was Oklahoma’s third-leading rusher behind Jalen Hurts and Kennedy Brooks with 385 yards and four touchdowns in nine games this season. With Sermon no longer able to be a part of the running game, Oklahoma may rely more on Brooks while continuing to allow their quarterback to do what he needs with his feet. But this could also lead to some opportunities for Rhamondre Stevenson to continue increasing his role in the mix. Stevenson has 369 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season and figures to see his rushing totals see a slight bump for the remainder of the year as a result of the injury to Sermon.
“Will definitely create some opportunities for others and for us to continue to move on as a team and opportunities for other people to step up and grow, and that’s what has to happen in these moments,” Riley said when addressing how the team will move forward without their injured players, according to Sooner Scoop.
Mann played more of a reserve role and recorded five tackles, 1.5 TFL, and one sack this season.
One of Oklahoma’s full-time starters from the defense last season is already lost for the upcoming 2019 season. Tre Norwood, a junior defensive back, is out for the season due to an injury suffered in fall camp. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley announced the injury today.
The injury is reported to be to Norwood’s knee, which was reported a couple days ago. Riley just now confirmed the status. Various reports noted the injury was a knee injury.
The loss of a full-time starter from last year’s defense is certainly a blow to the depth chart, especially for a team that had some concerns about the defense a year ago and hoped to improve this fall. Norwood started all 14 games for the Sooners last season, including the Big 12 championship game and College Football Playoff semifinal against SEC champion Alabama. Norwood had just one interception last year, but it was a big one. Norwood’s lone interception came in the final minute of the Big 12 championship game to help seal a conference title against rival Texas, thus helping Oklahoma punch their second straight ticket to the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma’s defensive secondary will still be able to rely on some returning starters this fall, but the loss of Norwood will open up a starting spot. Among those who may be ready to compete for the vacancy include Jeremiah Criddell, Chanse Sylvie, and Brendan Radley-Hiler.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is entering his third season as head coach of the Sooners this fall. After coaching the program to two straight big 12 titles in his first two seasons and seeing his quarterback win the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons, Riley has every right to be feeling confident in what his team will do in 2019. And if you needed an example of just how confident Riley is, his quote about the Big 12 competition will certainly prove to you just how much this guy is oozing in confidence.
Asked at a coaches luncheon about what teams in the Big 12 give him “sleepless nights,” Riley was open and honest about it. Nobody in the big 12 is causing Riley to scramble for some extra sleep.
“Every now and then you get asked these questions,” Riley responded. “In your mind, you go politically correct or tell the truth. So, the truth is none of ’em.”
Oklahoma is 18-2 against Big 12 opponents under Riley, including two victories in the Big 12 championship game. Only Iowa State (2017) and Texas (2018) have topped the Sooners, and they did so by a combined total of 10 points. Riley’s program is once again considered the team to beat in the Big 12 even though Texas appears to be closing in on being ready to make a run for a Big 12 title in the coming years.
Now, if the question was about what teams overall cause Riley to lose some sleep, perhaps the question might have been different. Oklahoma’s two playoff trips under Riley have not gone well with an overtime loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl in the 2017 season and last year’s loss to Alabama. Will Riley be well-rested when the College Football Playoff begins this upcoming season? Or will any team in the Big 12 manage to give him the case of the night terrors?
On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the NFL Draft will kick off a three-day event that bridges the gap between college football and the NFL on an annual basis. The Arizona Cardinals will have the No. 1 pick in the draft and there is a possibility Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray could be the top pick of the draft. If that proves to be the case, then the Sooners will pull off one of the rarest feats in the NFL Draft by having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row.
Last year saw Baker Mayfield leave Oklahoma to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft of the Cleveland Browns. If Murray is selected as the first player overall by the Cardinals (or any other team that moves up to the top spot), it will mark the first time since 1968 and 1969 when the top pick in the draft was selected out of the same school in consecutive seasons. USC’s Ron Yary was the top pick of the 1968 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and running back O.J. Simpson was the top pick of the draft by the Buffalo Bills the following season. That remains the first and only time the top picks in consecutive drafts have come from the same school.
If Murray does go first overall, some history will also be made that will separate this feat from the one previously accomplished by USC. This would also mark the first time two Heisman Trophy winners from the same school have been selected with the top pick in the draft in consecutive seasons. Granted, it hasn’t been too often the same school had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, to begin with, not to mention having two within the same four or five-year period, but it’s been a good couple of years for the Sooners with Mayfield and Murray.
It’s also worth a reminder both Mayfield and Murray were transfer players as well, adding another layer to the improbability of the rare milestone Oklahoma is potentially in line to pull off this week. Naturally, this would be quite a piece of recruiting propaganda for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was named head coach of the Sooners just two years ago following the retirement of Bob Stoops.