When Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis announced they would return for their senior seasons, it was cause for celebration in Sooner circles.
Both are All-American caliber players. Their presence adds to the popular belief OU will enter the 2011 season as the prohibitive favorite to win the national championship.
But it also made a math problem the Sooner coaching staff has to solve just a little bit tougher.
The NCAA scholarship limit is 85. The Sooners have 19 verbal commitments for players who will sign on National Signing Day Feb. 2. They also had a relatively small senior class with only 15 on scholarship this past season.
Basic addition says if 70 scholarship players return and 19 are added, the Sooners are over the limit.
When the prospect of that happening was raised to Sooner coach Bob Stoops after the Fiesta Bowl, he wasn’t concerned.
“We always have attrition,” he said the day after the 48-20 victory Connecticut. “There’s always issues.”
The Sooners need some to sprout up before August. Stoops’ lack of concern was understandable because they always do.
One of the more common ones is for juniors to enter the NFL Draft. Underclassmen had until Saturday to do so. No OU players opted to.
That’s only one form of attrition.
It’s not uncommon for at least one or two of those players who have verbally committed to OU to opt to go somewhere else. Verbal commitments are non-binding and players have been known to change their minds at the last minute.
One, Euless Trinity (Texas) High School quarterback Brandon Carter, could be leaning in that direction. Rivals.com reported Carter, who is being recruited as a defensive back or wide receiver, took an official visit to TCU over the weekend.
It’s also common for at least one player not to qualify academically.
But the most common way for the scholarship crunch to ease is for some current players to transfer or give up football.
When asked if he knew of any players who had made that decision, Stoops said he didn’t.
“No, but that stuff always happens around spring ball or coming into the (fall) semester,” he said.
It’s a problem OU doesn’t have to solve immediately.
Three members of the current recruiting class — Southmoore quarterback Kendal Thompson, Brookshire, Texas, running back Brandon Williams and Cibolo, Texas, defensive tackle Marquis Anderson — have already enrolled and will start school when the spring semester begins Tuesday.
Their scholarships will count on last season’s total, which would put OU at 73 heading into spring practice.
Stoops also planned on giving a scholarship to tight end Trent Ratteree, who had 10 catches for 198 yards this past season and has started eight games the past two seasons.
There’s also the matter of scholarships being committed to kickers Patrick O’Hara, Michael Hunnicutt and Bryce Easley. O’Hara handled 30 of the Sooners’ 100 kickoffs this past season. Punter Tress Way, who has a scholarship, handled the other 70. Hunnicutt and Easley never played.
How all that is handled depends on what happens between now and August. Stoops doesn’t see any reason to sweat over it. The problem will be solved by August.