Problems in the Middle

Tom Wort came to Norman in January and the early start helped him make his way up towards the top of the depth chart and after the news came down about Mike Balogun it looked like there was little doubt he would get plenty of minutes, but an ACL injury in practice last week will force him to miss the '09 season.

After Thursday's scrimmage, the news started to become all too familiar for the Sooner faithful.

First, OU head coach Bob Stoops informed the media that freshman linebacker Tom Wort had injured his knee on the way down from deflecting a pass in midair.

But the extent of the injury was unknown at the time.

On Friday, the news Sooner fans really didn't want to hear was just the news they had to accept.

"Tom [Wort] did tear his ACL, his anterior cruciate ligament," Stoops said. "So he'll rehab, get it strong, and they're looking to do surgery probably the week of the BYU game, and obviously from there, guys all have all the other linebackers, count them up, minus Tom.

Even though all the other linebackers are healthy at the moment and Wort wasn't set to be a starter, it's still a major loss for the Sooners, considering his progress throughout the summer and early fall camp.

If there's any doubt about that, just ask OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

"[He was playing] real well," Venables said to the media Friday.

And the players will say the same thing.

"It hurts losing Tom," said sophomore linebacker Austin Box, who also battled a knee injury that forced him to sit out during the Big 12 Championship last year.

As for its effect on the depth chart, there are still some younger guys at the linebacker position that have been impressive so far throughout fall camp.

"We're looking at some of the younger guys, Ronnell Lewis, Jaydan Bird," Venables said. "So that will be our group of guys, our main group of guys, [now we have to figure out] who can play, you know, in a game when it counts."

In fact, that was the thing that most impressed Venables about Wort.

"You know, he's never played in a game [here]," Venables said. "But he was ready to play in a game. [I] felt very comfortable with him going into a game, so we need to get somebody else in a hurry, get them a bunch of reps to try to get them to that type of level to play."

If there's any positive to draw from Wort's loss prior to the Sept. 5 season opener against BYU, it's the fact that it's not an unfamiliar situation.

"It isn't like we haven't been here before," Stoops said.

Indeed, when the Sooners lost linebacker Ryan Reynolds against Texas last year, it was a major loss.

But this one is a pretty big loss as well.

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