By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — The walls surrounding Oklahoma already seemed to be crumbling after Saturday’s loss to Texas. More of the facade it erected in the first five games fell away Monday.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is scheduled to have season-ending back surgery today. Sooner coach Bob Stoops made the announcement Monday afternoon at his press conference.
“He’s had a chronic back issue. It isn’t one specific injury. It’s something that’s bothered him for the last couple of years that’s not improving like they want it to.”
Phillips, a sophomore, started the first four games. He was held out of the last two games due to the back ailment.
Phillips only made seven tackles, but was a disruptive force on the interior defensive line. Without him, OU will continue to rotate redshirt freshman Jordan Wade and junior Torrea Peterson at the defensive tackle spot.
Stoops said losing Phillips will not change the scheme of the defense. But it’s a crippling blow to the unit that looked the Sooners’ unquestioned strength in the first month of the season.
Now OU has lost its nose guard to go along with linebacker Corey Nelson, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury on Oct. 5. Nelson will join Phillips at the hospital today. He’s also scheduled to have surgery.
“It’s gonna have a big impact on us guys on the d-line because he made such a big impact,” OU defensive end Charles Tapper said about the loss of Phillips Monday night. “He dominated the middle and was like a big brother to the whole d-line. Losing him is mentally hard as much as it is physical.”
It couldn’t come at worse time for the Sooners. The defense is going through changes due to personnel losses. The loss of Phillips along with Nelson removes two defensive pillars.
“It’s tough,” defensive end Geneo Grissom said. “You can see a completely different defense out there without those two. They are great leaders and great football players. We’re going to have to bounce back and have some guys step up.”
OU would love to be able to lean on its defense while it’s trying to figure out why its offense has grounded to halt. Through three conference games, it has scored just four touchdowns and looked out of sync throughout the loss to Texas.
Now, both sides of the ball seem to need rebuilding — at least some foundation repair — as the 18th-ranked Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) prepare to face Kansas (2-3, 0-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.
“We’re taking a hit in the middle, but it’s part of the game,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.
The Sooners will move forward by rotating Wade and Peterson at the spot. Highly touted junior college transfer Quincy Russell could eventually work his way into the picture, but seems to be trailing Wade and Peterson in terms of having the trust of the coaching staff.
“I think it’s just consistency with any young player,” Mike Stoops said what Russell has to do to become a factor. “They’re gonna be inconsistent, and him being here so late, trying to get caught up.”
If Russell doesn’t make up the gap, the Sooners will move forward with Wade and Peterson.
Both are young. Wade made his second career start against Texas. Peterson has played sparingly until this season.
“We’ll get better. We’ve got a lot of players that haven’t played a lot but they’ll get better. The more they play they’ll get better,” Mike Stoops said. “They have the talent to do that and that’s what we have to do is continue to improve our technique and being more physical at the point of attack.”