By Michael Kinney
ATLANTA– Oklahoma landed in Atlanta Sunday looking to focus on the Peach Bowl. With No. 1 LSU waiting on them in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, their full attention may need to be on the Tigers.
However, the first questions awaiting OU coach Lincoln Riley wasn’t about what the Sooners need to do to slow down Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. They were on the three OU players who have been suspended for the playoff game.
For the first time, Riley confirmed Rhamondre Stevenson, Ronnie Perkins, and Trejan Bridges they will not be available for the semifinals.
However, Riley refused to go into detail Monday on why the three players were suspended. He would only say they will not play.
“They’re suspended right now,” Riley said. “That’s where I’m leaving it.”
Riley also announced that Delarrin Turner-Yell was injured during practice and is expected to miss the game
However, replacing the trio will not be as easy. That is especially true for Ronnie Perkins, who leads the Sooners in sacks from his defensive end position.
“We’re not a one-man show up front,” Riley said. “Haven’t been all year. Ronnie’s been a good player for us, but we’ve got a lot of good players up there, recruited a lot of good players, developed a lot of players. Our production, if you look at the front, has been pretty even across the board, and we’ve gotten it from a lot of different players. In several games, you go back and look, and several games where we’ve had a ton of sacks or a ton of pressures and rarely were they just coming from one person.”
One f those good players up front is defensive tackle Neville Gallimore. The senior will be playing in his third semifinal but has yet to advance to the title game.
“Guys already know what the deal is with us, the standard that we have for us as a group,” Gallimore said. “Despite what happens, we know what we got to do, and the primary thing is just focusing on the task at hand and make sure we play our best ball.”
On the offensive end, the loss of Stevenson in the OU backfield means a chance for another tailback to have an Impact. While Kennedy Brooks is expected to carry the load, Riley says a player such as TJ Pledger will have a chance to shine.
“T.J. is going to get some opportunities. He was a guy that we obviously felt like coming into the season — I remember it felt a lot like Rodney Anderson a few years ago when we still had Samaje and Joe. We kind of felt the same way about T.J. coming in,” Riley said. “We had experienced guys that had produced in the past that are very good players, but T.J. was practicing so well that we were just saying, man, we’re going to have to find ways to keep getting him involved because he’s just getting better and better. And he got injured as well and missed the first half of the season, but he’s come back, done a lot of work behind the scenes, a lot of confidence in him. I know he’ll be ready.”
Now that the Sooners have touched down in Atlanta and are in the middle of the gameweek, it’s time for them to get back to normal prearations.
For Gallimore, that means not worrying about the guys not on the field and focusing on the ones who are.
“I mean, you know, (Ronnie’s) our guy, but can’t really worry about that right now,” Gallimore said. “We’ve still got a job to do. Just trying to focus on that.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider