Oklahoma LB Evans poised for breakout year
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans might need to give the Sooners a little more than the typical freshman-to-sophomore jump in production.
The school has taken steps to suspend starting inside linebacker Frank Shannon for a year, but has been unable to enforce the decision. In a news release on Monday, Oklahoma president David L. Boren said the school's internal disciplinary process has voted to remove Shannon for a violation of its Title IX policy, which covers sexual misconduct.
Shannon's situation could give Evans a chance to have a bigger role. Evans started one game last year while Shannon was injured, against Texas Tech, and had a career-high eight tackles and a pass breakup. The Norman native missed much of the second half of last season with an ankle injury, but recovered and started the spring game while Shannon was out for what the team called personal reasons.
Now, Evans could end up starting during the regular season.
''I'm expecting Jordan to have a great year,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. ''He's a guy that's really come on and he's probably the biggest guy we've got (at inside linebacker), and he's all of 220, 222 (pounds). He had a really good spring and summer. He's very natural in there and we're expecting Jordan to really make a difference for us this year.''
Shannon started all 13 games last year and led the team with 92 tackles. He had a career-high 16 tackles against Texas last season and had 2.5 tackles for loss against Iowa State the same year, including two sacks. That production will be difficult to replace, but if Evans needs to step in and does so successfully, Shannon will have played a significant role.
''Frank was my mentor coming in as a freshman,'' Evans said. ''Sometimes, you think the older guys don't want to mess with you because we came in to take their spots. But Frank is a different kind of person. He actually mentored me and talked to me and helped me out. The (Texas) Tech game when he was hurt, they were telling me, the trainers, that he (Shannon) was in the doctor's office screaming for me, whooping and hollering. He's definitely a team player.''
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said it hasn't been much of an adjustment dealing with the possibility that Shannon won't play.
''We coach the players that are there,'' Mike Stoops said. ''It's pretty much how it goes. All we can control are the players that are on the field, and that's all we ever can control. That's all we do. Coach the players that are there. We get guys hurt week in and week out who aren't available, next guy up's gonna come in and do the job. It's just how it goes.''
Evans said Shannon has been getting most of the first team repetitions. Senior Caleb Gastelum has shared some of the first-team reps with Shannon and Evans.
''Caleb is a very good linebacker,'' Evans said. ''He's smart and does what the coaches ask of him. That puts him in the right positions to go make the play. He's a downhill player and he works hard every play.''
Evans focused on improving his strength and technique and gaining weight in the offseason. He said he realizes the possibilities ahead, whether Shannon plays or not.
''It's a great opportunity,'' he said. ''But I'm really just trying to get on the field any way I can to help my team, whether it's linebacker, certain packages or on special teams.''
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