ATLANTA — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged for the first time Monday that three Sooners, including starting defensive end Ronnie Perkins, won’t play in Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal game against LSU.
Just hours after arriving for the Peach Bowl, Riley told reporters that Perkins, along with backup running back Rhamondre Stevenson and backup wide receiver Trejan Bridges, won’t suit up for the contest in which the winner advances to the CFP title game.
Perkins, a second-team All-Big 12 pick, is OU’s best pass-rusher who leads the team with six sacks and is second with 13½ tackles for a loss.
The three players reportedly were suspended for unknown reasons on Dec. 18. Riley said at the time he was aware of the report, but offered no details.
“Everyone did travel,” Riley said during a late-afternoon news conference. “The availability of the three guys that you have mentioned, those guys won’t play.”
He said Perkins, Stevenson and Bridges are eligible to practice with the team this week and will serve on the scout squad even though they won’t play Saturday.
When asked about the transgression the players committed, Riley said: “I don’t want to air guys’ dirty laundry out. … They get enough of that in this world, so they won’t be available to play.”
Riley said he made the decision to bring the players to Atlanta, noting they can help OU win in a different way.
“Those guys won’t play for us Saturday, but they can do a lot of things offensively and defensively … give them looks, special teams,” he said. “So again, they have got to find a way to help this team win. It won’t be on Saturday, but they can certainly help us through the week.”
The pain of it all
As if having three players suspended wasn’t bad enough, Riley’s team suffered a big injury late last week when safety Delarrin Turner-Yell fractured his collarbone in practice.
Riley confirmed the injury Monday, saying, “He got hurt in practice. Right now, our expectation is that he won’t play … but we’ll see as the week goes on.”
Turner-Yell, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, was second on the team with 75 total tackles — including 60 solo stops with 5½ tackles behind the line.
Also, starting nickel back Brendan Radley-Hiles suffered a head injury earlier this month and is questionable for Saturday as is 1,000-yard running back Kennedy Brooks, who’s been battling a neck injury.
However, Riley said last week that Brooks will play.
Running back Trey Sermon, who started three of the first four games, played in just nine games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
OU is playing in the College Football Playoff for the third year in a row and fourth time in the six seasons since the inaugural playoff back in 2014.
The Sooners were the No. 4 seed in 2015 and 2018, as they are this season, and were seeded second in 2016.
OU is 0-3 in the semifinals, falling to Clemson (37-17) in 2015, Georgia in two overtimes (54-48) in 2017 and to Alabama (45-34) a year ago.
Only Alabama and Clemson, with five appearances each, have more CFP berths than OU.
Oklahoma has three Louisiana natives on its 2019 roster.
Sophomore Adrian Ealy, a 6-6, 328-pounder who played his senior season at East Ascension after starting his high school career at University High, has started 11 games at right tackle.
Ealy missed the Texas Tech and Kansas games with an injury.
Also on OU’s roster are defensive lineman Troy James of Madison Prep in Baton Rouge and safety Chanse Sylvie of Calvary Academy in Shreveport.
James, a sophomore, has played mostly on special teams in four games, while Sylvie, a junior, has five tackles while playing as a backup in 11 games.
By the numbers
36 — Wins for Riley in his first three seasons as OU’s coach, a modern-day NCAA record.