MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

April 28, 2014

Sooners offensive line still has some growing pains

NORMAN – The spring was a developmental period for Oklahoma’s offensive line. Two returning starters were sidelined with injuries for the duration and a third missed more than half of it.

The 15 practices were there for some young players to prove they would be ready to play in August.

How did it turn out?

“It was just OK. A lot of them are inconsistent,” OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said.

The spring game showed that. OU’s first-team offense struggled to move the ball, much less score points. The absence of left tackle Tyrus Thompson, left guard Adam Shead and right guard Nila Kasitati was noticeable.

All three were out due to injuries. All three are on schedule to be fully healed by the start of offseason workouts in June.

What Bedenbaugh hoped to see was younger players getting into a position to push them. Guards Tony Feo and Dionte Savage, who were both junior college transfers last season, seem to have done that. They’re both heading into their senior seasons. Center Ty Darlington, who has been Gabe Ikard’s heir apparent for the last two seasons has done the same.

“Some of the other guys it’s one good play and two or three bad plays and it’s way too inconsistent right now,” Bedenbaugh said. “We’re doing some good things but it’s got to improve at a faster rate.”

One of the most pressing issues OU has is finding a third tackle to spell Thompson and right tackle Daryl Williams. The Sooners didn’t have one they were comfortable with last season. That was obvious when Thompson went down late in the year and Bronson Irwin had to move from guard to tackle.

Why are the growing pains so important for OU?

The offense is still transforming from the spread attack it employed from 2009-12 to the one that evolved last season to feature more fullbacks and tight ends.

OU wants to be a more physical offense next season, one that relies heavily on running the ball and improves on the 5.2 yards per carry it averaged.

“I don’t think it’s the total number of yards which a lot of people get caught up in that. I think it’s more yards per carry and being efficient in the run game. I think that’s the most important thing,” Bedenbaugh said. “We want to average, and I haven’t talked to the guys about it, but we want to average 5.5 and higher. If we can do that — not just overall yards per game but the average yards per carry would be one of the tops in the country.”

The offensive line’s ability will largely decide whether OU can exceed the lofty expectations established for this offense.

Bedenbaugh doesn’t believe the Sooners are anywhere near where they need to be. It’s April, and that feeling is not surprising. The finished product doesn’t take the field until August.

“You want to build chemistry and continuity, but those guys have been playing together for a long time and we still have 29 practices in the fall and in the summer and they’ll go through the summer together,” Bedenbaugh said. “I don’t foresee any issue like that.”

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