After starting nine games at guard and one at center in a productive 2015 season for the Oklahoma Sooners, Jonathan Alvarez, a senior who played his high school ball in Mesquite, Texas, made the positional switch to center and replaced Ty Darlington as the starter entering last season. Unfortunately, 2016 wasn’t as kind, as the 6-3, 321-pound, Alvarez went down with an injury just three games into the season.
The versatile lineman, known for his unselfishness and leadership qualities, was able to get back on the field in Lubbock against Texas Tech but found himself in a backup role to emergent starter and former walk-on Erick Wren. And injuries again forced Alvarez to miss Bedlam and the Sugar Bowl to finish the season. On the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top center, heading into 2016, Alvarez is most likely to begin this season still behind Wren on the depth chart.
But if he can stay healthy, the talented upperclassman has shown he has the talent and experience to get back to being a major contributor in the rotation at multiple spots on OU’s line if need be. However, the Sooners also have freshman Creed Humphrey now in the mix at center (if they don’t choose to redshirt him), so the rotation is crowded with talented guys pushing each other to become the best offensive line in the nation. And to add to the quality of players in the unit, Alvarez can also slide back in at guard if necessary and help keep the offense moving downfield.
A guy like Jonathan Alvarez truly highlights the embarrassment of riches in the Sooners’ most potent positional unit. The fact that a big, athletic offensive guard with the football IQ and versatility, who for the betterment of the team made a smooth transition to center, enters next season a backup to a former walk-on is remarkable. It shows just how deep and talented the Sooners offensive line goes, and this couldn’t be more crucial heading into 2017.
Alvarez could start on most teams in the conference, and any team would love to have him. His talents and character exemplify why the line figures to be the team’s true catalyst (and potentially game-saving force) while Lincoln Riley integrates and stabilizes a whole new cast of playmakers next season. If over the next few years Riley and the staff are able to even come close to building this kind of depth on the other side of the trenches, then OU would most certainly be back to a level not seen in nearly a decade.