Everyone knows the Oklahoma State offense is centered around the passing game and rightfully so; it has a potential Heisman contender in Mason Rudolph and a Biletnikoff Award hopeful in James Washington. All that is great because it worked for the most part last year, until OSU faced Baylor, OU and Ole Miss. The problem the OSU offense faced when it got to those final three games was the lack of a running game and a weak pass protection. Last year, the offensive line gave up 32 sacks, which was an improvement from 40 the year before, and ranked 114th in the country in rushing.
OSU has the whole starting line returning this year, though will likely see Junior College All-American transfer Larry Williams step in and replace Brad Lundblade and join two preseason 3rd team all-big 12 lineman in Victor Salako and Michael Wilson. The ability to have all five starting lineman return doesn’t happen often, but is it the best thing?
Cowboys fans are hopeful that another year of experience and growth will help the line improve, which means the offense should improve. The hope should be that this offensive line can facilitate a rushing attack, making OSU not a one-dimensional team, which would help the passing attack. If the line doesn’t improve, then the Pokes shouldn’t expect to be much better than the last year.
Let’s look at the importance of an offensive line in football. The Dallas cowboys and Demarco Murray is a great example of how the line can affect the offense. Dallas has an offensive line full of Pro Bowlers that turned a good running back in Murray into a great one who had a career year in 2014. When he was traded to the Philadephia Eagles, which has a considerably less decorated offensive line, Murray’s numbers dropped by more than half. Murray is a good running back, but the ability to run behind a great line propelled him. In the college realm, two teams with upper-echelon rushing attacks are Alabama and The University of Oklahoma. Both these teams have two things in common, they both had a 1,000-plus yd. rusher last season and they both have three or more offensive linemen on the preseason all-conference team.
Former OSU Lineman Sam Mayes said the offensive line can be have an impact on more than just the offense.
“If the line is bad and the offense has short drives, then the defense will on the field more,” Mays said. “I think OSU had one of the best defenses in the Big 12 but has to see so many snaps that they don’t play up to their potential.”
Mayes went on to say if the line is playing well, the offense could run a normal spread instead of a spread with only three receivers, keeping a cowboy back and tight end in to block.
Anthony Fogle, co-host of The GMen and former OU defensive back, talked about the need for offensive line help for OSU during the show on July 27.
“Oklahoma State needs to use the running back and different things to cover up the weakness of the offensive line,” Fogle said.
These running backs can help the line, but it is also a two-way street; meaning the backs can take pressure off the line but the line can help create holes for the backs to run through.
The battle for main running back will be between Chris Carson and transfer Barry J. Sanders. Sanders, son of OSU great Barry Sanders, comes from being the backup to Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey at Stanford where Sanders had 51 carries this past season.
The running backs and offensive line hope they can accomplish a goal that Head Coach Mike Gundy set last year of 150 yds. rushing per game. They achieved the goals three times after the goal was set, passing 150 yds. against Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State; three teams with notoriously bad defenses.
Although none of these linemen are former Cowboy Sam Mayes, the hope is they can work as a unit to give the Cowboys offense a chance to run the ball when they want and hopefully give them a chance to win a Big 12 title or more.