What you see here are four of the five incoming freshman (in order Irwin, Woods, Thompson, and Shead) and the future of the OU offensive line (along with Daryl Williams not pictured). It's no secret to any Sooner fan with a pulse that the OL has to make significant improvement in 2010 for OU to contend in the South Division. No unit struggled more last year and while a lot of that had to do with injury, that in no way excuses how poorly they played at times during 2009. There are two ways to approach this unit in 2010:
1. They lost their two best/most consistent players in Trent Williams and Brian Simmons, so the likelihood that the OL struggles again in 2010 is high.
2. There were so many injuries last year that essentially everyone coming back saw significant playing time and that will only help them be better prepared this year.
Check out the analysis after the jump
My take on the OL tends to lean more towards #2, but admittedly that is the OU fan in me coming through. I tend to think that between the experience they gained last season and the virtual impossibility of having as many injuries two years in a row, the OL will be much more consistent just from having the opportunity to play together as a unit on a regular basis. I don't think that fact can be underestimated, I think knowing who is going to be lining up next to you and having confidence in that person makes a huge difference week to week. I think this line will get that chance this year and the difference will be evident by their play in the trenches.
This breakdown is going to be a little different than the previous positions we've covered. There's just two many players to give individual breakdowns, so we'll try to consolidate the analysis and give a general overview. Feel free to get more in depth in the comments. Quick comment, despite previous reports that Ben Habern and Jarvis Jones would be out for the spring it is now been confirmed by Coach Stoops that both will participate (probably limited) in spring practice once the return from spring break.
The Starter/The Backup:
LT - Donald Stephenson 6'6"-285-RS SO / Eric Mensik 6'6"-270-SR
LG - Stephen Good 6'6"-291-JR / Bronson Irwin 6'5"-322-FR
C - Ben Habern 6'3"-288-RS SO / Brian Lepak 6'4"-275-SR
RG - Tyler Evans 6'5"-280-SO / Tavaris Jeffries 6'4"-309-SR
RT - Cory Brandon 6'7"-310-SR / Jarvis Jones 6'7"-297-JR
There is plenty to be excited about here as with two exceptions, everyone listed above saw significant playing time at one point or another in 2010. Those two exceptions include Stephenson, who was suspended for 2009, and the true freshman (and absolute beast according to those measurables) Irwin. Irwin is already on campus and I think he has a legitimate chance to push for a starting job at either guard spot. Stephenson has been somewhat of an enigma since signing with OU. He has yet to play in a game after two full years on campus, but throughout that time the coaches have never questioned his talent. By all accounts, he appears to have finally "got it" and seems to be ready to finally live up to the potential we've been hearing about for the past two years. The fear is that at some point he could slip up again and then OU is left with a gaping hole at LT. Brandon struggled at LT while filling in for Trent Williams at different times and protecting Landry's blind side is obviously pretty important. Good is probably the strongest kid on the team, however he routinely struggles to hold his spot on the line. Given his strength, you would have to believe that it is a technique issue with him so hopefully another full off season will help him to get that worked out. Habern had a fairly successful freshman season up until the point he broke his leg in the Tech game. As mentioned above, he has been cleared to resume practice (ahead of schedule) after the players return from spring break so that is excellent news. This unit will be under a ton of pressure all spring and fall practice and will be the focus of every Sooner fan this off season. I think they come together as a unit and have a significantly better year in 2010.
Daryl Williams 6'5"-270-FR
Austin Woods 6'4"-295-FR
Bronson Irwin 6'5"-322-FR
Looks like the kid has a little bit of a mean streak in him, I like it.
Bronson Irwin - NUC Top Prospect-football combine (via NUCfootball)
Adam Shead 6'4"-320-FR
Adam Shead Sophomore Highlights (via InsideTexas)
Tyrus Thompson 6'5"-290-FR
Tyrus Thompson (via hhorne)
Irwin and Woods are already on campus so that only increases their chances of playing this year. Irwin has already cracked the two deep and the only reason Woods has yet to do so is he's projected to play center and OU has two established players there already and that's without mentioning the coaches currently working RS FR Gabe Ikard at C this spring as well. My guess is that the other three listed here all redshirt in 2010, gain some experience in that year, and prepare themselves to compete for a spot in 2011.
OU had one of the top OL recruiting classes in the country and before they leave I fully expect them all to contribute in some way. The coaches made this unit a priority in recruiting and I expect them to do the exact same thing during practice. Because of that, I expect this unit to come into the season with a big time chip on their shoulder and use all the doubters as motivation to have an excellent season.
Let's hear what you think in the comments.