2017 Oklahoma Offensive Line Preview
On February 17th, 2013, the hiring of Bill Bedenbaugh became official as the offensive line coach at the University of Oklahoma. The James Patton and Bruce Kittle Era of offensive lines at Oklahoma came to a screeching halt after the depth and production of the offensive line reached a low-point in Bob Stoops’ tenure in Norman. The 2017 season will be year five of having Bill Bedenbaugh, and the results could not be anymore drastic from 2013 to now.
The last of the Patton and Kittle offensive linemen found his way out of Norman as Christian Daimler announced his transfer to Texas A&M early in the off-season. With all five starting offensive linemen returning from a year ago, the amount of playing time would have been limited regardless. Last year’s offensive line is responsible for Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine rushing for over 1000 yards each, and the rushing attack was ranked 18th in the country in yards per game at 236.8. They even led the Big 12 in sacks allowed while only giving up just 1.6 sacks per game. To add on, Lincoln Riley and company were also second in the country in total offense with 554.8 yards per game. The stats back up what most predicted at the time–Bill Bedenbaugh was an excellent hire five years ago.
Projected Starting Lineup
This will be the third year for Orlando Brown to be starting for Oklahoma. A year ago, his performance garnered him the Big 12 Offensive Linemen of the Year, and he was also voted as a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and the Football Writer’s Association of America as well. His style of play has been questioned as the “Big O” seems to find himself finishing a block or throwing a player after the whistle is blown. However, it is that nastiness that has made him into the player he is today.
Brown was one that many kept their eye on as an early NFL departure, but he decided to return back to Oklahoma early into the draft process. The top NFL prospect only gave up one sack in 659 snaps a year ago, and many have him pegged early as a first-rounder for next summer’s draft.
The former JUCO product took over for the injured Cody Ford in the Ohio State game. Powers started in the last ten games of the season, including his best performance of the season in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn where he was holding his own and winning battles against future NFL defensive linemen.
The junior will need to continue to progress as Cody Ford is back to 100% health, but Powers did get the nod in the spring game as the starting left guard.
A former walk-on that worked his way up-the-ladder and found himself in the starting rotation after Jonathan Alvarez went down after the Ohio State game. Wren has been highlighted on the Remington Award Watch List as the nation’s best center heading into next season. The senior was crucial in replacement of guys like Ty Darlington and Gabe Ikard in the role of a center who is keen enough to make the right calls and do his job diligently.
The Californian started as a right tackle in the 2015 season as a true freshman before moving inside after the Houston game in the 2016 season. Samia moved to a more natural position as his body and game fit him more as an interior linemen opposed to a tackle. He has started in 22 games already in his career, and will begin his third year in the starting rotation barring any sort of setback.
Evans did not play a snap in the season opener against Houston a year ago, but then started in the last twelve games as a freshman. The Allen, Texas product is very athletic and is a natural right or left tackle. His presence was felt early as he played 594 snaps in his first year and only allowed two sacks on his side of the line. Evans’ potential is as high as anyone in Bedenbaugh’s meeting room, and his athletic ability should allow him to grow more heading into his third year in Norman.
Names To Watch
6’4″ 364 LBS
The sophomore is coming off a gruesome injury during the first drive of the Ohio State game that saw him break his fibula. Ford came into the 2016 season with a lot of off-season hype and earned the starting job at left guard for the Houston opener. He is now at or near 100% health and will push starter Ben Powers at that same spot to try and earn that job back. At 360 pounds, he will need to burn off some of that post-surgery weight this summer.
The freshman reaped a lot of praise from Coach Bedenbaugh this spring as he enrolled early. Bedenbaugh talked about him during a post-practice event during the spring practices:
“I don’t want to put too much on him, but I’ve never been around a guy like that at that position, playing center.”
“He’s not out here missing calls. I mean, does he make mistakes? Sure he does, but not any more than anybody else. It’s been pretty impressive up to this point.”
He was seen in the spring game playing with the second string already, and there is a lot of buzz around the former 4-star recruit heading into this season’s fall camp.
6’5″ 314 LBS
In one of the crazier stories with a college coach dropping a recruit prior to National Signing Day, Swenson fell into Oklahoma’s lap after Coach Jim Harbaugh essentially dropped him a month or so before he would sign the first Wednesday of February in 2016. He has quietly risen up the depth chart for Bedenbaugh, and was playing with the second-group in the Spring Game. He will likely back-up Orlando brown and Bobby Evans.
The Ohio native lost his starting spot after the opener against Houston last year, but he also played with the second-group in the Spring Game. The fourth-year junior has enough game experience to hold his own if his name is called on to play.
Alvarez started for majority of the 2015 season, but struggled before having to sit-out three games due to injury a year ago. He does have thirteen starts under his belt during his career at Oklahoma, but has a lot of work to do to get back into the starting rotation this fall. However, Alvarez is capable enough to make a contribution if needed-to-be in 2017.
The offensive line unit has received some early hype heading into 2017. Phil Steele, publisher of his award-winning pre-season magazine, has already pegged the unit as one of, if not the best in the country:
Big stack of offensive lines (all but one conference Is done and top OLine so far is Oklahoma pic.twitter.com/Oml2ROLB0w
— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) May 10, 2017
Coach Bill Bedenabugh’s unit has a whopping 87 starts under their belt. He already has a plethora of depth on campus and Tyrese Robinson, Marquis Hayes, and Adrian Ealy, who were four-star recruits in the 2017 recruiting class, have not even arrived on campus yet. The offensive line that many Oklahoma fans dreamed of is finally here, and it is in part to one person and one person only: Bill Bedenbaugh.