MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

March 31, 2013

New coach making subtle changes for OU

NORMAN — It isn’t exactly a transitional spring for Oklahoma’s offensive line. There are returning starters at every position.

However, what happened in the past doesn’t seem to matter. If it did, OU coach Bob Stoops wouldn’t have made it in an offseason priority to bring in new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

Whether it’s style or substance, the difference is in the eye of the beholder.

“There are subtle things, technique kind of different ways to rip our hands and roll our hips, stuff like that,” said center Gabe Ikard, who has been held out of most contact drills because of an injured right hand. “I love the stuff he is doing with us. We’re already showing improvement and just very … looking good right now and making some good strides.”

Bedenbaugh doesn’t want to re-invent how the Sooners block. The kind of changes he’s trying to make are on the psychological level more than physical.

Schemes and techniques are essential, but there’s an ingredient that is hard to obtain.

“I just want to fit into the piece of the puzzle of getting this team to win a national championship. I’m just a part of it,” he said. “I think everybody works together. My mentality is about toughness. I’m big on fundamentals, I’m big on technique, but I think if you’re a tough person, tough-minded, physically tough, then you can overcome some of those things. You’re not always going to be as perfect as you want to be. You’ve got to get as close to it as you can, but I think your toughness overrides that a lot of times.”

Toughness and togetherness are the overriding themes for the Sooners’ offensive line this spring. In past years, the unit was broken up with centers and guards working under one position coach and tackles and tight ends working under another.

The thought at the time was it works better for players individually. It was junked this spring.

“We’re more together,” guard Adam Shead said. “Before it was more a guard and tackle or maybe a left guard and center. Now it’s more about having everyone on the same page.”   

The Sooners have two more weeks of practice to do that this spring. The finale will come in the Red/White Game on April 13 at Owen Field.

The game will be when the offensive line gets to show what it’s worked on for six weeks, and if the group can turn into the gritty unit that fits Bedenbaugh’s expectation for it.

“Toughness isn’t going out and beating somebody up. Toughness is mentally knowing your assignment, knowing your technique. Well, how do you do that? You do it by studying tape as much as you possibly can. Being physical, playing through pain — that’s toughness. Toughness is an expectation as much as anything,” Bedenbaugh said. “You try to recruit it. You try to get to know it the best you can, and then you just coach it as much as you possibly can.”

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