Gabe Ikard, Adam Shead take center stage

Last week, Oklahoma center Ben Habern espoused how this offensive line figured to be the Sooners’ best in five seasons. Turned out, Habern won’t be a part of it.

Wednesday, Bob Stoops announced that Habern has decided to give up football due to lingering neck and back issues. Habern had undergone neck surgery this offseason to repair a recurring disc problem that had been bothering him since his freshman year. Habern, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, would have been a four-year starter.

The silver lining for the Sooners is that they have another proven center in Gabe Ikard. And a rising star in Adam Shead, who will be able to take over for Ikard at left guard.

In a seamless transition, Ikard made seven starts at center last season after Habern suffered a broken forearm during third game of the season. In games with Ikard at center, the Sooners scored 62, 55, 47, 38, 58, 41 and 38 points. Like Habern, Ikard too made the preseason All-Big 12 team.

When Ikard slid to center, Shead entered the starting lineup, and instantly became the best run-blocker on the line. Shead, now a sophomore, was instrumental in the success of the Belldozer, OU’s short-yardage package that utilized the power running of backup quarterback Blake Bell.

Even without Habern, the Sooners still have depth on the interior of the line. Bronson Irwin, a third-year guard, has played in spots the last two seasons, and will be asked to take on a bigger role. The Sooners are also high on Nila Kasitati, a redshirt freshman. Two sources, however, told SoonerNation this week that Kasitati has been dealing with a heart issue, and, according to several tweets by teammates, underwent a procedure Tuesday morning.

OU could also call on freshman Ty Darlington, who was ranked the No. 2 center nationally by ESPN for the class of 2012. During Big 12 media days last week, Habern raved about the progress Darlington had made over the summer.

“That’s one guy that’s going to turn a lot of heads,” Habern said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he got some playing time this year. He’s a strong kid that’s got some athleticism to him.”

Overall, it’s been a dreadful news week for the Sooners. On top of losing Habern, the Sooners found out that highly touted junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner would not be making it to campus until January. Junior-college offensive tackle Will Latu also failed to qualify.

The same day, running back Roy Finch rolled his ankle playing basketball, then Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray), the No. 2 running back recruit in the country according to ESPN, officially decommitted from the Sooners to look at a handful of SEC schools. It was also revealed that reserve offensive lineman Dylan Dismuke had given up football after suffering a significant knee injury.