Oklahoma football: Sooner O-line prime reason why offense is so explosive

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 07: Offensive lineman Bobby Evans
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 07: Offensive lineman Bobby Evans /

Beginning in 2015 and continuing into this season, no team has been more productive and explosive on the offensive end than Oklahoma football.

It’s no coincidence that the Sooners’ prodigious offensive production has paralleled the arrival of Lincoln Riley in Norman, Oklahoma. Riley had a history of coaching well-oiled, points-producing offenses before he joined Bob Stoops’ coaching staff as a 31-year-old offensive coordinator prior to the 2015 season.

Great offensive teams are generally thought of as a by-product of an All-American quarterback or the combination of great quarterback play and a complementary cadre of outstanding talent at the other skill positions. Those factors are certainly must-haves to field an elite offense, but there is one more critical, often overlooked and under appreciated element that can separate a good offense from a great one and is the defining difference in the truly great offensive units.

The “big uglies” who play up front on the offensive line don’t get the headlines or nary a mention in the game coverage, but without what they do, the quarterback would be running for his life, the receivers wouldn’t have time to get open and the running back(s) would be swallowed up in a swarm of tacklers.

That may be a bit of an overstatement, but the fact remains that the successful execution of an offense is a much dependent on the performance of the offensive linemen as any other position.

Oklahoma is fortunate to have a history of outstanding offensive line play. That is a big reason why the Sooners have enjoyed so much success in the Big 12 and nationally over the past two decades.

Last season the Sooner offensive line was considered one of the best in the country, and that holds true again this season, with a number of the first- and second-team O-linemen back for another year. And that’s after the Sooners lost a consensus First Team All-American in left tackle Orlando Brown.

“Big, physical, athletic and long…Look to finish and punish, even at the expense of technique.” — Joe Moore Award committee on the Oklahoma offensive line

This years offensive line is led by starters Bobby Evans and Ben Powers at tackle and guard, respectively, on the left side, redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey at center, and Cody Ford and Dru Samia manning the right side. Behind this massive group, which averages 6-foot, 5-inches and 316 pounds, quarterback Kyler Murray leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency and total offense and ranks second and fourth nationally in those two categories, and the Sooners are averaging a Big 12-best 209 rushing yards per game and 6.2 yards per attempt.

In pass protection, the Sooners have allowed just eight sacks in six games.

The Oklahoma offensive line is one of 14 college teams selected for the midseason honor roll and a candidate to win the Joe Moore Award, presented annually to the best offensive line in college football.

Here is how the Joe Moore Award committee, headed by former Auburn offensive lineman Cole Cubelic, described the OU offensive line:

"“Big, physical, athletic, long group. That left side, man! They’re back to their old physical selves. prove that pass protection doesn’t have to be passive. Look to finish and punish, even at the expense of technique.” Next: Phenomenal offense + pathetic defense = danger ahead"

The Oklahoma football program received some other good news this week when it learned that senior linebacker Curtis Bolton and junior wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown had been named midseason All-Americans by the Associated Press. Both are second-team selections.