Oklahoma’s offensive line put together an up-and-down 2015 showing. Strangely, it made for a pleasant surprise.
Known quantities fizzled. Senior Josiah St. John never developed into more than just a bit player. Hyped juco transfer Jamal Danley didn’t really register. Even though starting seniors Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati were reliable leaders, neither played like an NFL-caliber prospect.
Instead, the story of the season for OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s crew actually turned out to be the young guys he threw into the fire immediately.
Redshirt freshman Orlando Brown, sophomore Jonathan Alvarez and true freshman Dru Samia all had their share of expected stumbles along the way. In particular, the abuse they took at the hands of the Texas and Clemson defenses showed how long they have to go.
On the whole, though, all three showed promise throughout the season. They have the makings of bedrock contributors for as long as they’re wearing the crimson and cream.
This season, Bedenbaugh will be calling on his returning starters to play with more discipline and savvy. They’re no longer the unproven commodities. That distinction will go to the guys playing beside them in the trenches.
Much like the situation on the defensive line, the Sooners have injected more talent into the OL rotation in recent recruiting classes. Joining the three returning starters in the playing rotation will be some highly touted, but largely unproven, blockers. It appears as though as many as six others OLs are legitimately vying for spots in the rotation this season: redshirt freshman Bobby Evans and Cody Ford; sophomore juco transfer Ben Powers; redshirt sophomore Alex Dalton; redshirt junior Christian Daimler; and redshirt junior juco transfer Ashton Julious.
From the standpoint of talent up front, it has been a while since OU has had as much at its disposal as it does now. Four of the nine most likely rotation players -- Samia, Evans, Ford and Dalton -- were rated as four-star recruits or better by Rivals coming out of high school. Meanwhile, Bedenbaugh clearly landed a couple under-the-radar gems in Brown, who showed first-round-caliber potential at left tackle in ‘15, and Alvarez, who may take over for Darlington at center this season.
Overall, between what the Sooners are bringing back and the players competing for openings in preseason camp, OU does have the luxury of an offensive line that seems more solidified than it did 12 months ago. A serious upgrade up front will assure that the Sooners field a squad capable of returning to the College Football Playoff in January. With zero seniors among the key contributors this year, 2017’s unit is already starting to look like possibly the best in the nation.