Spring Football: Wickline's Annual Experiment

I was asking Oklahoma State offensive line coach and magician Joe Wickline about his offensive line with spring practice approaching. He pointed to the board in his office and said there it is. But he cautioned, "It doesn't count until you walk out at Reliant Stadium (on Aug. 31 against Mississippi State). The guys that walk out there when it counts, that will be the offensive line."

Spring has become a time for offensive linemen to go through the experimental lab of Wickline. Whether he is trying to send a message and motivate or he is truly checking to see if a guy that has played left tackle would be the best fit at right guard or if a back-up guard might be the answer to who will be the next center, Wickline likes to mix them up a little in the spring.

The goal is to find the best five offensive linemen on the team, and fitting them into a spot on the starting offensive line, then plugging in the next five on a second offensive line. A by-product of the process is that tackles learn more about what it's like to be a guard, guards learn what the center is dealing with, and on game day everybody has a greater appreciation of how to take five guys and play them as one striking force.

Gone are veterans Lane Taylor, the Cowboys right guard for the last three and 3/4 seasons, hard-nosed center Evan Epstein, who is also off to try and make a team for Sundays, and true leader and survivor Jonathan Rush. There are some holes to fill.

Let's start on the right and go on through to the left.

Right tackle Daniel Koenig returns. An emotional player that plays edgy, the 6-6, 310-pound athletic Koenig will have steady Brandon Webb moving over from left to right guard to fill the vacancy left by Lane Taylor. Webb played most of last season and has emerged as a really solid guard.

Newcomer and rapidly improving Michael Wilson (6-6, 290) looks like he could back up Koenig. A battle between veteran backup Eli Dickerson and junior college product Chris Grisbhy is shaping up behind Webb.

Center is so important in this offense and to Wickline. Last season, Epstein struggled some with a bad ankle. While he played tough in many games, back-up Jake Jenkins played the fourth quarter against Arizona, the entire game against Louisiana, and some against Texas.

It gave Jenkins some good experience and made Wickline comfortable that he could be the future. Behind Jenkins are young pups Paul Lewis and tough Zac Veatch, who is now 6-4, 290 pounds. Travis Cross is also cross-trained to play virtually every position on the offensive line.

There is a logjam of talent at tackle, so the grand experiment this spring will be moving starting left tackle Parker Graham (6-7, 315) to left guard which allows Devin Davis (6-5, 298) to play tackle. Those two on the same side of an offensive line could mean tragic consequences to opposing defenses.

For now, new incoming junior college addition Brandon Garrett is set to back-up at tackle, and the versatile Cross is at left guard behind Graham.

The numbers are a little thin with 12 scholarship players and three or four walk-ons in the spring. But in addition to addition of Garrett this spring there are three pretty good prospects set to join the team in the summer.

One thing is certain, Wickline may have some concerns but because he does Oklahoma State fans don't have to worry about how good the offensive line will be come August 31 at Reliant Stadium.

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