Offensive line shaping up
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
9/15/09 at 4:08 PM
NORMAN — Right now, there is but one sure thing about an Oklahoma offensive line in flux.
"Guys that are executing well and taking it down and scoring touchdowns, that's who we'll go with," said position coach James Patton. "If they don't, new guys will get a chance."
That's why seven different lines rotated over the first 12 series of OU's 64-0 wipeout of Idaho State on Saturday night. Expect more of the same when Tulsa visits Owen Field this weekend.
Other than that, it's hard to project what the Sooners will get out of their O-line. It's hard to know what the line proved in Saturday night's cakewalk.
"I thought the effort was there. I thought we executed better," Patton said. "We didn't have as many dumb penalties and mental mistakes."
The same linemen flagged for eight penalties in a season-opening loss to BYU were whistled just once against Idaho State, when tackle Jarvis Jones false-started on a quick snap. That was it. That was encouraging.
But at the same time, Patton said, "We didn't play good enough Saturday night and we'll need to play a lot better this week."
It's not just that Tulsa is tied for the national lead in quarterback sacks with 10, or has made 23 tackles for lost yardage, second nationally to OU. It's the Sooners taking care of their own business.
Like when they had first-and-goal at the Idaho State 2, then second-, third- and fourth-and-goal from the 1 and couldn't score.
"Oklahoma football is known for pounding and running the ball," said freshman center Ben Habern. "We get on the 1-yard line and we can't punch it in against a I-AA team "
Guard Brian Simmons wasn't part of the unit that was turned away by Idaho State. But he felt his share of responsibility when the linemen met at the bench after the series.
"When you're within that 5-yard range of scoring, that's like the standoff for you," he said. "That's when the limelight is actually on you for a change. And for those guys to (stop OU short), it really hurt us."
Their pride stung, the Sooners responded. By the end of the first quarter, the line of Trent Williams, Simmons, Habern, Tyler Evans and Jarvis Jones was in the midst of anchoring three consecutive touchdown drives.
Habern, making his first start at center, and Evans, in his first college action, earned kudos for their overall play Saturday. Patton gave a positive review to Stephen Good, another freshman making his first start, as well.
Jones responded to his move from starting guard to starting tackle. Habern's sore back responded to Saturday's wear and tear. He said he felt fine when he woke up Sunday morning, and after Monday evening's practice.
So there are sources of optimism. The line, after all, had a big hand in the 55 points and 564 yards that OU's offense accounted for Saturday night.
There remains, however, plenty of uncertainty. Idaho State's goal-line stand proved that, while giving the Sooners' line a focal point for its new week.
"We don't know who the starting five is going to be yet, until we've practiced," Patton said. "Whoever has the best week of practice is going to play. Let's find how who wants to go out there first."
From there, we know at least one thing about OU's offensive line.
"The line that's in and scores should stay in," Simmons said. "I think that's how it should be the entire year."
Guerin Emig 581-8355
Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles, right, is driven out of bounds by Idaho State defenders Phillip Arias, left, and Jon Vanderwielen on Saturday. AP