The Oklahoma Sooners will be without tight end Geneo Grissom and starting defensive tackle Casey Walker when they open the season against UTEP on Saturday.
According to SoonerScoop.com and NewsOK.com, Grissom has been suspended for the opener for violating a team rule. The junior, who switched from defensive end to tight end prior to the season, was listed along with junior college transfer Brennan Green and true freshman Taylor McNamara on the team’s most recent depth chart.
With or without Grissom, the Sooners have no experience at the tight end spot. The team lost James Hanna and Trent Ratterree to graduation, while Austin Haywood, who appeared in several games as a sophomore, abruptly quit the team last October and then transferred twice during the offseason.
SoonerScoop.com and The Oklahoman have also reported that Walker, a senior defensive tackle, did not travel to El Paso with the team and will not play in Saturday’s game.
Earlier this week, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops confirmed that Walker was questionable for the opener. The tackle is dealing with a non-football injury that Stoops referred to as “a personal issue.” The coach didn’t provide any additional insight into Walker’s situation and had no timetable for the player’s return.
With Walker out, senior JaMarkus McFarland and senior David King, a converted end, will start at the tackle spots.
The defensive line will already be without starting senior defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who is suspended indefinitely. Walker was expected to be a key player for the defense, particularly in McGee’s absence.
Walker started eight games in 2011 and recorded 17 tackles despite playing through a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery. He also missed part of preseason camp with a “slight” hamstring injury that was not expected to be an issue.
As The Oklahoman’s Jason Kersey noted earlier this week, the Sooners won’t need to be at full-strength for nearly a month thanks to a surprisingly manageable early schedule. They face at UTEP this weekend, then host Florida A&M in the first meeting between the two teams. Kansas State comes to Norman on Sept. 22, sandwiched between two bye weeks.
The final nine weeks of the season, however, will be grueling, as the Sooners play through the Big XII and face Notre Dame and West Virginia in big non-conference games. It’s possible that the team could have Grissom, McGee and Walker back before that stretch, along with suspended receivers Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds and defensive back Quentin Hayes.