Oklahoma's Austin Box sidelined

NORMAN, Okla. -- Linebacker Austin Box could miss the start of Oklahoma's season because of a back injury that is expected to sideline him for three to six weeks.

Coach Bob Stoops announced through a school spokesman Tuesday that Box had a "disc issue" flare up in his back that was not a result of contact during practice. Box, who was among those in the mix to replace departing starters Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds, could be out for at least the Sooners' season opener Sept. 4 against Utah State and possibly through the first four games of the season.

"It's more reps for the other guys, more than anything. Nothing was solidified. Austin had been playing well but there's a number of guys that were in contention," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "We'll keep massaging that here over the next couple of weeks until we get started."

Venables said the injury would most directly mean more front-line practice time for Tom Wort, who missed last season with a knee injury.

Venables started training camp by talking about how he'd forgotten how many "nicks" Box had endured during his time at Oklahoma and saying he was hoping the player would be able to stay healthy this time around.

Box has started six games at middle and outside linebacker over the past two year but missed three games as a freshman in 2008 with two separate knee injuries and then missed two games last season due to injury.

"It's tough. He's frustrated," Venables said. "He's invested a lot in the program, and he's had a terrific offseason. He'll battle back. It's something that sounds like, being optimistic, that it's a manageable situation.

"He just needs a little bit of time to fight through it."

Box's setback provides the latest trouble spot for Oklahoma at linebacker.

During training camp last year, Mike Balogun was ruled ineligible and Wort suffered a season-ending knee injury. Reynolds had three knee surgeries, then missed time last year with a hamstring injury.

"I've gotten used to it," Venables said.