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Monday, September 7, 2009
Sooners facing uphill challenge without Bradford



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


News that Sam Bradford has either a Grade 2 or Grade 3 sprain of his throwing shoulder means that he won’t be back in the starting lineup for at least a couple of weeks.

Bradford likely won’t be ready to play before October. And even that could be pushing his return before he is ready to play.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday that Bradford’s upcoming status with the Sooners is undetermined.

“It will be a fairly long process, meaning it will probably be a week or two before we know more about it,” Stoops said. “A lot depends on how he feels and how he recovers through the week. In the end, it will be awhile.”

Stoops said that the loss of tight end Jermaine Gresham, out with a sprained knee, has changed how his offense works. Gresham was expected to be the Sooners’ leading receiver and an important checkdown receiver for a young offensive line with four new starters.

Not having a Heisman Trophy winner and a projected preseason All-American tight end has led to a dramatic change of production from an offense that set an FBS record last season for scoring.

After a 14-13 loss to BYU in the Sooners’ first game, the Sooners rank 73rd nationally in rushing offense, 90th in scoring offense, 92nd in passing offense and 95th in total offense.

“It affects us in a big way, there’s no denying that,” Stoops said. “Jermaine is a big presence and a go-to guy for us. It changes the complexion of our offense, but you just deal with it. It’s the same kind of things with him as Sam, and hopefully we’ll have an idea within a few days to see what the doctors and Jermaine decide to do.”

The Sooners won’t be pushed over their upcoming home games against Idaho State on Saturday and next week against Tulsa. And then they have a week off before they travel to Miami.

Getting both players back by then obviously is the goal. It would provide the Sooners with two games -- the game against the Hurricanes and against Baylor the following week -- to get their rhythm back by the crucial Texas game.

It won’t be easy. But the Sooners have been one of the most effective teams in the nation at overcoming adversity and injuries in recent seasons.

Stoops was able to coach around the preseason loss of Rhett Bomar after he was dismissed from the team in training camp before the 2006 season. Despite playing untested quarterback Paul Thompson, the Sooners still won the Big 12 championship that season to start their recent run of three consecutive titles.

That season was also marked by the loss of Adrian Peterson, who missed the final seven games of the season with a broken collarbone.

And despite early conference losses to Texas in 2006 and 2008, the Sooners rebounded to claim the title in both seasons.

Texas coach Mack Brown said that Stoops’ past history makes him confident that the Sooners will be able to overcome Bradford’s injury.

“Bob does a great job,” Brown said. “They’ve overcome more injuries than anybody and bounced back and won. Oklahoma will be good and I’ll say it will start this week. It was a one-point loss [to BYU] with two great players out and they still nearly won. It’s a credit to them.”

Stoops is the highest-paid coach in the Big 12. He'll be earning every penny of that salary over the next several weeks.