USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma Sooners will return four of the five starters from the offensive line. This makes one of the bigger question marks fall upon Bill Bedenbough and what he will be capable of getting out of this unit heading into the 2013 season, a season most expect to center around the rushing attack.
Additions: Josiah St. John, Christian Daimler, Dionte Savage
|LT||71 Tyrus Thompson||Jr.||6-5||303|
|72 Derek Farniok||So.||6-9||319|
|LG||74 Adam Shead||Jr.||6-4||307|
|50 Austin Woods||Sr.||6-4||293|
|C||64 Gabe Ikard||Sr.||6-3||288|
|56 Ty Darlington||So.||6-3||266|
|50 Austin Woods||Sr.||6-4||293|
|RG||68 Bronson Irwin||Sr.||6-5||307|
|75 Tyler Evans||Sr.||6-5||315|
|RT||79 Daryl Williams||Jr||6-6||299|
|71 Tyrus Thompson||Jr.||6-5||303|
Storyline: The 2012 season started with the offensive line being one of the deepest units that the Oklahoma Sooners had at their disposal. Set up by a stable of running backs, this unit not only had the ability to spring a back into the second level or get a seal on the outside, they were more than adequate at giving the quarterback ample time to survey the field.
This luxury quickly dwindled as veteran and leader, Ben Habern made the decision to leave the game he loved due to ongoing injuries. All things considered, this was one in a string of several major blows to what Oklahoma was attempting to do offensively. Another setback came as Tyler Evans tore his ACL forcing him to sit out what would have been his senior season. Dylan Dismuke suffered a knee injury in December of 2011 after redshirting for a season. However, his knee never recovered and Josh Heupel delivered the news that it would end his football career short of it ever starting.
To recap, the 2012 season hadn't even started and the Sooners had lost three potential contributors on the offensive front. As if that wasn't enough, Nila Kasitati was the latest to suffer from a torn ACL during game play and will not participate in the upcoming spring practices.
While many regarded this unit as a hodge podge, they were effective, giving up only 13 sacks throughout the entire season while getting enough push for the backs to rack up 4.85 yards per carry. The 2013 offensive line will find themselves in a similar situation as the 2012 group seeing as it is a unit with plenty of options.
The Battle: The Oklahoma Sooners will certainly miss their best pulling tackle in Lane Johnson who had the ability to get to the second level and sustain blocks, yet they are returning four other starters. It would appear that Tyrus Thompson, Adam Shead, Gabe Ikard, and Daryl Williams are clear cut incumbents to retain their positions, but a few shake ups could persist.
There is much to discuss here as the possibility of Gabe Ikard being moved back to left guard is always lingering given that Ty Darlington had a great outing last season in time as a backup. While it is more unlikely in my opinion that Swiss-Army Kniff, Ikard would shift over to his "natural position," I see no need in ruling it out. This in turn puts Adam Shead up for another position which again makes it more unlikely. Ikard and Shead are two of the most solidified players in the trenches but will new coach Bill Bedenbough agree?
At this point in the game, Austin Woods remains listed as the back up to Shead on my chart. That is because Nila Kasitati will not be able to regain his spot during spring practices.
The second battle that Oklahoma fans will see comes from Tyler Evans and Bronsin Irwin. As mentioned earlier, Evans tore his ACL forcing him to sit out last season. Luckily, he had a redshirt available to him allowing him to return as a fifth year senior. Fact of the matter is that while Irwin started last season, he left room for improvement. Evans will be looking to capitalize and retain his old spot.
In the off-season, the Oklahoma Sooner picked up a couple of JUCO transfers in tackle, 6-6 305 Josiah St. John and guard, 6-5 345 Dionte Savage. Once Kasitati is cleared to play, things could get interesting. Savage is a more than capable player who has the ability and drive to crack the depth chart opening it up to a three way battle between Woods, Kasitati, and Savage for the backup to Shead.
Last but not least is St. John. There is a bit of an expectation already placed upon this transfer's head. He will make a great case as to why he deserves playing time at either of the tackle positions. Derek Farniok is still a raw talent that has promise but will need to see some work during the spring. If St. John proves his worth in the early going, I would bump him up to the backup over Farniok.
Overview: No one is quite sure what Bill Bedenbough will see when he gets his new inherited offensive line into workouts. However, one thing that is sure is that this will once again be a unit with plenty of personnel at his disposal.
With the rumor still swirling that OU will move to a run heavy offense this upcoming season, the offensive line will need to get nastier in opening up running lanes for the talented backs in the backfield. Run-blocking will be essential and vital to the success of the Sooners this season regardless of what their offense looks like.
The primary goal for this unit will be to remain healthy. No fan wants to see the lineman drop like flies like we all quickly grew distaste for during the 2012 season.