Welcome back to another epic installment in our 2020 Countdown to Kickoff series! There are 75 days remaining until the Oklahoma Sooners are scheduled to open the upcoming college football season. Speaking of starts, I want to use this day to highlight the 75 combined career starts for OU’s returning offensive linemen.
Before I dive into the returning O-line, first I want to point out how much of a difference a year makes. Going into the 2019 season, Creed Humphrey was offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s lone returning starter after the Sooners sent four OL in the NFL Draft. The script has completely flipped now, as Oklahoma brings back an entire starting unit as the 2020 season approaches.
Now without further ado, allow me to re-introduce you to some familiar faces up front:
C Creed Humphrey - 26 career starts, RS Jr.
Humphrey is the Oklahoma’s man in the middle and by far its most experienced returning offensive lineman. The Shawnee native is entering his third season as a starter, and in a short time he’s already gained recognition for being one of the nation’s top centers in all of college football. This offseason he was named a Preseason First Team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, and in 2019 he was named one of three finalists for the Rimington Award.
RG Tyrese Robinson - 14 career starts RS Jr.
In 2019, Robinson stepped into the vacancy left by Dru Samia at right guard, and he held down the fort throughout the season with 12 starts at the position. His two other starts on the year came at right tackle in back-to-back weeks against Texas Tech and Kansas due to some injuries that caused the OL to shuffle early in the season. Going into his second campaign as a full-time starter for the Sooners, expect Robinson to pick back up right where he left off.
LG Marquis Hayes - 13 career starts, RS Jr.
While Robinson replaced Samia in 2019, Hayes took over for the departed Ben Powers . When it comes to playing in the trenches, sometimes availability is the best ability, and Hayes can attest to that after starting in all 13 games he played in. The one contest he missed was Oklahoma’s matchup against South Dakota in Week Two. Now going into this season, here’s to hoping Sooner fans see more plays like this from No. 54.
RT Adrian Ealy - 12 career starts, RS Jr.
Ealy assumed the role left formerly manned by Cody Ford at right tackle, and in his first year of significant action he made 12 starts in 12 games. The only games he missed were against TTU and KU due to an undisclosed injury. Still, when he was on the field, his impact was felt in a big way, leading to a Second Team All-Big 12 selection by the league’s coaches in December.
Oklahoma's Adrian Ealy on the OL's success replacing four starters.— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) December 26, 2019
"Just knowing the guys that was here before us, I really feel that they have a big factor within us — bringing the mentality to us knowing how we needed to approach the season."#CFBPlayoff | #BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/Pe93Z4Mj0l
LT Erik Swenson - 8 career starts, RS Sr.
The oldest of Bedenbaugh’s 2020 bunch, Swenson learned to hone his craft at left tackle over the years behind the likes of current NFL-pros Orlando Brown Jr. and Bobby Evans. Although he was eventually replaced by Virginia grad transfer R.J. Proctor down the stretch in 2019, Swenson was able to gain valuable time as a starter in eight prior contests. Now entering his fifth collegiate season as a Sooner, he and his OL unit are poised to challenge for the Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s top offensive line group.
Having said all of this, high-upside redshirt freshman Stacey Wilkins could be the favorite to seize this position — whether it’s opening day or at some point later in the season. He’s just that promising.
RG Brey Walker - 2 career starts, RS So.
A five-star recruit from Oklahoma’s 2018 signing class, Walker saw his first significant collegiate action at right guard in two starts he made versus the Red Raiders and the Jayhawks while making 13 appearances on the season in total. As long as Tyrese Robinson remains healthy, Walker will likely hold his place as a backup in the Sooners’ rotation, but having a player with his talents acquire legitimate experience against Big 12 competition is invaluable to the unit as a whole.
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