OU football: The Sooner O-line is outstanding, but not invincible

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

On paper it is indisputable. The Sooner offensive line is a definite team strength and may just be the key to another championship season for Oklahoma football.

College football uber-analyst Phil Steele rates the Oklahoma offensive line as the best in the country heading into the 2017 season. Better even than SEC juggernaut Alabama and Big Ten heavyweight Ohio State. That’s saying something.

Game experience and skill level are the chief reasons for the Sooners’ high critical acclaim as an offensive-line unit. OU’s offensive line is anchored by All-America and reigning Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year Orlando Brown at left tackle. The group averages a massive 6-feet, 5-inches and 323 pounds, and the five returning starters pack plenty of experience, with a combined 92 career starts among them.

In addition to Brown, the other members of Oklahoma’s top-rated offensive line are Bobby Evans, who mans the tackle spot opposite of Brown, guards Dru Samia and Ben Powers and center Erick Wren, a former walk-on who is being seriously challenged by highly touted freshman Creed Humphrey.

There is some future stability in this group, with three of the starting five expected to be back for at least one more season after this one. Wren is the only senior among the O-line starters. Brown, Powers and Samia are juniors and Evans is a sophomore. Brown, however, is most likely gone after this season and probably will be a first-round NFL pick in the 2018 draft.

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This is the best offensive line the Sooners have put on the field since at least 2014 and perhaps as far back as 2009, when the Big 12 truly lived up to its name with a dozen members.

It will be up to OU’s 2017 front line of offense to provide protection for two-time Heisman-finalist quarterback Baker Mayfield in the passing game and open up holes for the Sooners young group of running backs. If the offensive line does its job well, there’s no telling how good this offense can be this season.

Sooner offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh doesn’t want them to get too caught up reading their own press clippings, though. It’s nice to have the writers say nice things and heap praise on you, but you still have to go out and prove you are deserving with your performance on the field.

Bedenbaugh is entering his fifth full season as an Oklahoma assistant. Before that he was an offensive line coach for several of the most explosive offenses in the country, serving on the staffs at Texas Tech, Arizona and West Virginia before Bob Stoops brought him to Oklahoma.

“You can’t listen to what other people are saying. It doesn’t matter, because they really don’t know,” Bedenbaugh told James Hale, an OU Insider for 247Sports.

“It doesn’t matter what they are saying now, and that is what I have to keep pounding into their (the offensive line unit) head,” said the Sooner offensive line coach. “What anybody says outside of here does not make a difference, but what we say matters. We (the coaching staff and players) are out there every single day and constantly improving and what we think about matters.”

Hale may have said it best In an article for 247Sports: “The Sooners O-line is good, but they have learned in this (training) camp against a growing OU defensive front that they can’t just throw out the footballs and have success. They have to show up with the right attitude or they can get beat just like anybody else.”

Excellent advice to live…and play by.