Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Coming out of spring practice, Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis was penciled in to start for the consensus preseason No. 1 Sooners. And five-star wide receiver signee Trey Metoyer, the top-ranked player in the Sooners' 2011 class, was due to make an immediate impact even in the Sooners' loaded recieiving corps.
With barely more than two weeks before the Sooners' season opener against Tulsa, though, those projections aren't looking so accurate, as neither participated in Thursday's practice. Per CBSSports.com RapidReporter Tim Willert, Bob Stoops told reporters Thursday that Lewis "has some personal matters he's tending to" and that "we'll see" if he proves available for the opener. He added that Metoyer's eligiblity was "still not totally resolved" and again declined to name a timetable for when it might be.
Those statements will only add fuel to the burning speculation that neither Lewis nor Metoyer will be academically eligible to play this season. The Oklahoman reported that Lewis "needed to improve his academics this summer," suggesting that his absence might be due to those academics not having improved enough.
Metoyer, meanwhile, attended a junior college over the summer in order to meet the NCAA's qualifications standards. But according to one report Metoyer won't even be eligible to play for his JUCO. That report is disputed by Stoops' statement and other reports that suggest a ruling is still forthcoming from the NCAA clearinghouse, but in any case Metoyer's eligibilty is still very, very much up in the air.
Even given Metoyer's great promise, any set of wideouts featuring Ryan Broyles will be OK. But if Lewis is ineligible, it's another blow for an Oklahoma defense already reeling from the injury to star linebacker Travis Lewis and the tragic passing of Austin Box--and that wasn't projected to be especially dominant to begin with.
Auburn and Oregon proved last season it's possible to be No. 1 without a top-drawer defense, of course. But it looks like the Sooners may wind up putting that theory to the test A.S.A.P.