December 22, 2011

Column: Good riddance to the Sooners that leave team

Aaron Colen, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star


Flip back the clock to August of this year. Temperatures were still exceeding 100 degrees each afternoon, and the Oklahoma Sooners football team was the top-ranked team in the country.


ESPN was in the locker rooms and on the practice field in Norman, and the nation was introduced to "the sharks", the self-appointed nickname for the OU defense. 


They got a closer look at receiver Ryan Broyles, as he made that same defense look foolish on the field. Then-Heisman candidate Landry Jones got even more national exposure.


Fresh off breaking the team's BCS bowl drought against Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl in January, there was only one logical step for the Sooners to take: the national championship. OU was the team that was supposed to break the SEC's grip on college football dominance.


Now, let's get to the present. I scraped ice off my windshield this morning before driving to work, and OU is preparing for the Insight Bowl against Iowa. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 championship, and the SEC will win the national championship no matter what. And every time I look at the news, another scholarship player is leaving the team.


As far as August heat is from December cold, that's how different postseason Oklahoma is from preseason Oklahoma.


The Sooners' team traveling to Arizona will be significantly different than the one that went down to Tallahassee for what, at the time, looked like a huge win for OU. Injuries have hit the Sooners; Broyles went down for the season against Iowa State, and took OU's offense with him; Landry Jones didn't throw a touchdown pass in the games following the All-American receiver's injury.


Receiver Jaz Reynolds is also out with kidney issues. Running back Brandon Williams will miss the game with a neck injury, and is transferring after the season.


Ronnell Lewis actually finds himself in a similar position as the one he was in during the summer. Lewis's eligibility was in question during the offseason, and now he is ineligible for the bowl game after also being suspended for Bedlam, apparently for not going to class. Head coach Bob Stoops has said Lewis is going to make the move to the NFL.


Suspensions and disciplinary issues were an issue this season, and there were rumors of unrest between players and coaches, coaches and other coaches, and there was definitely unrest from the fans, as always.

It's hard to tell which of the rumors will come true, but the reality is that the purging of the program is for the best.


Obviously, you'd prefer not to lose a five-star recruit like Brandon Williams. Austin Haywood, the tight end who quit during the middle of the season and whom Stoops decided not to let back on the team, would have been an asset next year to a team that is losing both of it's other tight ends to graduation.


But the players who are willing to stick it out during this tough time should prove to be the kind of players a coach would want competing on the field. Stoops said Williams is transferring because of family reasons, which is respectable. 


On the other hand, players who quit or transfer because they aren't earning the playing time they want probably didn't have what it takes to be a champion anyway.


Sometimes, a program needs to be revamped. It may mean that the Sooners will suffer another three or four losses next season, but the heat of adversity usually burns off the unnecessary fat of a team that, for whatever reason, didn't fit together.


I wouldn't spend much time mourning the departure of the players who won't return in 2012. In the long run, this exodus will prove to be an example of long-term addition by short-term subtraction.