The loss of Oklahoma’s top defensive recruit in its Class of 2013 is disappointing but not crippling for the Sooners.
Freshman defensive end D.J. Ward is projected to miss six weeks after having his spleen removed on Tuesday. But the Oklahoma native wasn't poised to make a major impact on the Sooners defense in 2013 even though he enrolled early to participate in spring football with an eye on making an immediate impact during his first season.
It is a major setback for Ward however, as he’s faced with spending more time watching from the sidelines after missing his entire senior season of high school. His last full season of playing football was 2011 when he was a junior at Lawton (Okla.) High School. He missed his final prep campaign after transferring to Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass then Moore (Okla.) Southmoore and being ruled ineligible to play. He also missed the majority of spring drills as he waited to be cleared to participate, so being able to spend as much time on the field as possible was important for Ward this August. Now, his development has taken another step backward.
Meanwhile, the Sooners should able to handle the loss with ease. Sophomore Charles Tapper is a different player in his second year in Norman after arriving to campus as a raw, yet talented, prospect at defensive end. He’s currently running with the No. 1 defense along with junior Geneo Grissom.
The impact of Ward’s injury will start to hit the Sooners as they try to encourage competition and create depth at the position. Freshman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has been impressive during preseason camp and could be poised to provide depth in Ward’s absence. Fellow freshman Matt Dimon has also impressed teammates early on. Sophomore Michael Onuoha, who could eventually battle Tapper to start, should return from a shoulder injury early in the season to provide additional options for defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.