Box Boosts Linebacking Corps

Junior linebacker Austin Box's career at OU has been a roller-coaster ride. He's been a productive starter for a team on its way toward a national title appearance, and he's been sidelined because of injuries on multiple occasions.

The most recent chapter in Box's story is one that would describe the latter.

Box missed the No. 1 Sooners' first five games of the season because of a back injury he sustained following OU's final scrimmage of summer practices. After five games and a bye week, though, Box made his first appearance of the season in the Sooners' 52-0 victory over Iowa State, a game that was slightly ahead of his expected return date.

"It was one of those things where everybody reacts differently to it, and we didn't really know how long it was going to be," Box said. "It really was just at my pace and how I felt, and I felt when like I came back it was the time where I felt okay enough to be back out on the field."

Box made one tackle in the win over the Cyclones, but minutes prior to kickoff he was pacing back and forth in the zone and anxious to make some kind of game contribution for the first time.

"It really was kind of an out-of-body experience, as I'd describe it," Box said. "All the work that's put in throughout the year and then to have it delayed for six, seven weeks with the injury, you know, it was hard.

"I just had to keep fighting through, and it was just really great to be back out on the field."

Box may not be able to make an immediate impact on the field. He still needs to get back to full game speed and knock off some of the rust, but he has been making some progress, said OU head coach Bob Stoops.

"Austin continues to get better and better," Stoops said. "The last game he felt good after. So, he'll continue to work in there. Austin continues to get more practice time, and we'll just see where it goes."

In the meantime, the Sooners will continue to go with redshirt freshman Tom Wort, whose 37 tackles is tied for third best on the team.

"Tom in the last couple of games has played really well; [he] is only getting better," Stoops said.

Even if the experienced Box does not get much immediate playing time, he provides depth to the linebacking corps and an option for when one of the starters need some rest.

"It just adds depth to the team," said junior linebacker Travis Lewis. "He could switch those guys out if Tom doesn't got his head on right. But if he doesn't have his head right on, put Box out there; give Tom a breather."

Wort may need a breather this Saturday when the Sooners head to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the No. 11 Missouri Tigers' fast-moving offense, so Box's return is a welcomed one.

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