In his first spring practices at Oklahoma, new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will have four starters back from last year and a few players who have playing experience as well. He recently told Jessica Coody of Sooner Sports TV that the best way to play the line is to be tough, physical, mean and nasty.
“I’m going to coach them hard and I expect them to be great,” he said.
But the problem isn’t that OU’s front wall isn’t tough and physical, because they had been tremendous in protecting Landry Jones in the pocket. The problem is that they hadn’t been mean and nasty when it comes to opening running lanes. Bedenbaugh, a former West Virginia line coach, is more of a spread offense guy, and the Sooners need to learn how to block better for the running game to develop.
Guard Tyler Evans (6-5, 315, Sr.) is expected to return to the lineup this year after tearing up his knee last fall, when he was penciled in at right guard. It appears that Evans could be battling against Bronson Irwin (6-5, 307, Sr.) for his old spot. Irwin did a fine job as Evan’s replacement, but he could improve. That's what this spring is all about at right guard.
The other two interior positions are solid. Gabe Ikard (6-3, 288, Sr.) was the Big 12’s best center last year and is expected to be the leader of the line again this year. Adam Shead (6-4, 307, Jr.) returns to the left guard slot where he started every game last year.
Ty Darlington (6-3, 266, Soph.) was the nation’s second-best center coming out of high school a year ago. He subbed for Ikard against Baylor when the starter had a minor head injury and got reps the rest of the year. Again, for Darlington, this spring will give him a chance to catch Bedenbaugh's eye and make a case for even more time this fall. Unfortunately for Nila Kasitati (6-4, 309, Soph.), the leading candidate to be Shead’s backup, he went down with a torn ACL early in the 2012 season and will miss spring ball, too.
Daryl Williams (6-6, 299, Jr.) started the first nine games at right tackle before suffering a sprained knee and missed the final three games. He’s expected to start at RT again this year. Tyrus Thompson (6-5, 303, Jr.) filled in admirably for Williams in the final three games. Thompson also replaced Lane Johnson at left tackle for a couple of games. Johnson has graduated, so Thompson is the odds-on favorite to take over left tackle in 2013. With those two spots locked down, Derek Farniok (6-9, 319, Soph.) may need the most work this spring. He saw some action as Williams' backup at RT, but still appears pretty raw.
The last key objective for the offensive line this spring will be integrating two JUCO newcomers into the mix. Josiah St. John (6-6, 305) from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas is expected to make a pitch for playing time at tackle in 2013. Meanwhile, Dionte Savage (6-5, 345) will try to crack the lineup at one of the guard positions. A former teammate of Damien Williams at Arizona Western College, Savage was a second-team JUCO All American last year.