Oklahoma football: Offensive line set to improve in 2022

Oct 20, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners CO-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 20, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners CO-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oklahoma football offensive line is arguably the most important position group on an entire football team. You will struggle to protect your quarterback and run the football without offensive solid line play.

If you can’t always score consistently or move the ball, that means putting your defense in tough positions. Oklahoma had some ups and downs early last season up front; by the end of the season, there was a sizable jump in play. Bill Bedenbaugh and new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby are responsible for setting these young men up for success in 2022. The signs point out that they will.

Andrew Raym is no longer a freshman. Raym struggled last year playing the center position, one of the toughest in Lincoln Riley’s offensive schemes. The center is responsible for a majority of checks and alignments. Oklahoma went from Gabe Ikard to Ty Darlington. Erick Wren, then, of course, Creed Humphrey.

The Sooners had made going from center to center look easy; it’s not. Raym has high-end potential, and many believe he will turn into a star, but starting as a redshirt freshman is tough, and Raym had some growing pains. He struggled to get the calls right and had issues from a leverage standpoint as he was a guard transplant to the center. But the growing pains should mainly have been obtained, though at times, Raym looked comfortable, and the offensive line for Oklahoma was terrific when he did.

Jeff Lebby’s veer and shoot scheme is much easier philosophically for the center, so Rayma will be able to play.

Bill Bedenbaugh hates failure.

There is no way Bedenbaugh felt last year was anything near the lofty expectations left from some of his past units.  He is not one to sugarcoat things either. He was critical after a horrible performance from his team last season against West Virginia.

"“The talent’s there. The ability’s there…….And every guy in that room has the ability to start and win games for us. But it’s gotta be every day, and that’s the mentality you have to take. You can’t have a great day and say, ‘Oh, OK, I’ve arrived.’ Because really, any position, but especially offensive line, you never arrive. It’s a constant grind of continuing to get better.”-Bill Bedenbaugh"

Bedenbaugh continued to chip away on his guys, and by the end of the year Kennedy Brooks was let loose running all over opponents when utilizing one scheme. Still, the unit had lapses and got unnecessary penalties. That will, of course, need to be cleaned up for next season. The good news is things were trending up.

Overwhelming talent will finally break through.

Anton Harrison and Wanya Morris are arguably the most talented tackle duo in college football. Both have spent time being mock drafted in NFL Round 1, and though neither have fully lived up to their billing, the flashes have been there for both players.

Harrison is a freak who can do it all, and Morris is a strong anchor who made the SEC All-Freshman team a couple of years ago. Chris Murray and Andrew Raym are very gifted interior players. All four of these young men have an NFL future; then, Pro Football Focus second-team All-Pac 12 guard McKade Metteuer is coming via Cal.  The Sooners have one of the stoutest starting five in the country, and former five-star Brey Walker and others are competing for starting roles. Each of these players has at least two years of experience in a college football program, which cannot,be sold short either. Mike Farrell listed three Sooners in his Farrell 50 OL edition. 

Jerry Schmidt is back.

Oklahoma argued for the best offensive line in the country from 2016-2018. They won the Joe Moore award in 2018. Schmidt and former head coach Lincoln Riley did not see eye to eye philosophically. Jerry went south to College Station, and Riley hired his friend Bennie Wylie. The drop-off in the Sooner’s strength and conditioning program was clear-cut and evident on the field of play. The Sooners had less play strength at the line of scrimmage, and there were rumors of a less than accountable culture regarding strength and conditioning after the move.

Schmidt is the best in the business, and the players are clearly noticing how much more difficult Schmidty workouts are compared to Wylie.  The Sooner’s opponents will soon feel the difference too.