SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the weeks since a 44-10 loss at Oklahoma State, several Sooners have left the team -- with others rumored to be on the way out.
Head coach Bob Stoops has refused to address specifically any of the defections. But a couple of his players opened up about them this week as the team prepares for Friday's Insight Bowl against Iowa.
"It has affected us drastically in my eyes," sophomore linebacker Corey Nelson confessed Wednesday. "Just losing so many good players, so many good players that had so much potential. It made a lot of guys question whether they should stay here or not from here on out. It also just brought a lot of confusion to the players, trying to understand why these players were leaving, what was the main reason as to why they're leaving.
"It has affected us all. I think it's still affecting us today. But we're just trying to put it behind us, since we have the game this week. But it still affects us."
Six players alone from Nelson's 2010 class are not with the team in Arizona, including receivers Justin McCay and Sheldon McClain, defensive tackles Torrea Peterson and Eric Humphrey, safety James Haynes and tight end Austin Haywood, who quit the team midseason, then failed to work his way back after Stoops gave him a second chance.
Nelson said he expects more defections, too.
"I'm still kinda wary about which specific teammates are going to be off the team," he said. "It's still going on. It hasn't stopped. We still have a couple of guys that are kind of unsure about what the coaches want to do with them, kind of unsure whether they want to leave or not.
"It's still an issue the coaches are still trying to weed out, that the players are still trying to understand and cope with."
The Sooners tried to talk freshman running back Brandon Williams, the gem of the 2011 recruiting class, out of transferring to Texas A&M. But defensive captain Travis Lewis said other departures were a consequence of Stoops "deciding to put his foot down."
"The guys that weren't contributing, the guys that were going by the wayside and trying to get a free ride are no longer here," Lewis said. "If you're going to be at Oklahoma, you need to contribute, you need to do all the little things to make this team succeed. The players that weren't doing that, he said, 'OK, it was nice of you being here, I appreciate you, but go do your thing.' "
"I think along the way, we forgot about the little things we were doing right, like not missing a class," Lewis said. "Just being at practice and meetings on time. Little things we all took for granted through the season. Not that we forgot about them, but we started taking them for granted. You can't have that on your team.
"As our head coach, our leader, Coach Stoops felt like he needed to make some changes around here. And I agree with him."
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit questions to his mailbag and look for answers every Friday.