Oklahoma is expected to have one of the best defenses in the Big 12, if not the country, in 2014. Now, to meet those expectations, the Sooners will have to survive without a proven player on that side of the ball.
The school announced the suspension of linebacker Frank Shannon for the entire 2014 season on Monday. The suspension stemmed from an internal investigation regarding sexual assault allegations against Shannon. The Oklahoman obtained a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation in April that showed Shannon had been accused of sexually assaulting a female student at his off-campus apartment in January.
In a statement, university president David Boren said the investigation resulted in a year's suspension for Shannon.
"The final decision of the internal disciplinary process was suspension of the student for one year," a portion of Boren's statement read. "Federal privacy law and other legal considerations prohibit me from discussing the case further."
According to The Oklahoman, Shannon signed autographs at a meet-and-greet event earlier this month. He was listed in the media guide and had been practicing. But Shannon will not be part of the program for the foreseeable future.
The news of Shannon's suspension comes during an eventful offseason for coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma. In July, the Sooners brought in transfer wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from Missouri in April following a number of off-field incidents. The most recent one involved Green-Beckham allegedly pushing a woman down a flight of stairs. Oklahoma is reportedly awaiting an NCAA waiver for Green-Beckham's immediate eligibility, and the school has been criticized for seeking that waiver.
Oklahoma freshman back Joe Mixon also remains sidelined as an investigation continues into an alleged incident in which Mixon punched a woman in the face.
Shannon's situation is just the latest chapter in the Sooners' offseason, and now the team will have to make do without him. The good news for Oklahoma is that it has one of the country's strongest group of linebackers. Junior Eric Striker and sophomore Dominique Alexander were slated to start alongside Shannon in a defense that returned nine total starters. But Shannon's disciplinary situation had been lingering over the program since spring practice. With Shannon now out of the picture, it's likely reserves like Jordan Evans and P.J. Lindley will have to step in and help fill Shannon's void.
This news is certainly not the kind of distraction Stoops wants for a team expected to contend for a College Football Playoff spot. The Sooners beat rival Oklahoma State and then topped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to cap the 2013 campaign, and Stoops has talked about how that momentum carried into the offseason. Many think this team has the makeup to push Oklahoma over the hump and into a national championship. But the Sooners will be hard-pressed to maintain a positive trajectory if the program's off-field issues creep into the fall.