OU's Ben Habern ends playing days

Updated: August 1, 2012, 9:14 PM ET
By David Ubben | ESPN.com

Oklahoma senior Ben Habern's career is over.

The Sooner center won't return to the team after offseason neck surgery that fused together two vertebrae, despite expectations that he would return at full strength this fall. Habern started 30 games for Oklahoma during his career and was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team entering 2012. He also accompanied Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to Big 12 Media Days last month as a team representative.

"Our coaching staff knows this was a difficult decision for Ben," Stoops said in a statement. "Ben has been a consummate leader for our team, both on and off the field. We appreciate the toughness that Ben has displayed, and we wish him the very best as he completes his education at OU."

Habern also missed five games in 2011 with a broken arm and the final two games of 2009 with a broken ankle. He had played through lingering back issues, and the neck surgery sought to fix a problem in his spine that had been present since high school.

The 6-foot-3, 286-pound Argyle, Texas native was expected to join guard Gabe Ikard as the two best and most experienced members of one of the Big 12's best offensive lines.

Ikard will likely move to center, and backup junior guard Adam Shead will likely replace Ikard at guard.

"We just need to focus during two-a-days, have a great two-a-days, just get prepared, just be sharp going into the season and just make it a mentality where we're going to run the ball," Ikard said. "As an offensive line, you take pride knowing that you're going to run it and they can't stop it. That's what we need to do."

In Wednesday's statement, Stoops also said Trey Franks, Quentin Hayes and Jaz Reynolds were each reinstated from offseason suspensions, but only for preseason practice. The school announced they are still suspended indefinitely from playing.

"They'll miss considerable games. We haven't determined that yet exactly but it'll be multiple -- multiple, multiple," Stoops stressed.

Receiver Kameel Jackson was not reinstated, and his suspension will be re-evaluated "at the conclusion the current academic session," according to the school.

Oklahoma's season opener is Sept. 1 at UTEP.

Stoops also confirmed previous reports that wide receiver Courtney Gardner and offensive lineman Will Latu would not be available this season.

However, Stoops pointed out there was some good news. He said receiver LaColton Bester, a late recruiting addition to a receiver position decimated by suspensions and Gardner's absence, arrived on campus Wednesday and prized cornerback recruit Gary Simon is expected to arrive Thursday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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