Spring Football: O-Line Set To Be Solid Again

STILLWATER - In maybe the most ideal conditions so far this spring with light winds, 73 degrees and sunshine, the Oklahoma State Cowboys started their final week of spring football with a two hour-plus workout on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena. Prior to the practice, the players reviewed with their coaches the tape of the Friday scrimmage.

It was a scrimmage that went for some 75 plays and was kept brief due to some players being banged up with minor injuries.

The Cowboys will have one more practice on Wednesday and then play the spring game or "finale" in front of the fans at Boone Pickens Stadium starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday as part of the Legends Weekend. Admission to the finale is free.

One of the real constants for Oklahoma State during the Mike Gundy era has been the consistent play in the offensive line. Check out these numbers as the Cowboys averaged 7.2 yards per play of total offense in 2011 and then gained 7.0 yards per snap last season.

Running the football, which is the true pride of an offensive line, has been good as well. In the Big 12 championship season of 2011, the Cowboys averaged 5.4 yards each time they ran the ball. They averaged the same 5.4 yards per snap running the ball last season.

Those aren't the only identical numbers from the past two seasons as the line gave up just 12 sacks, an average of 0.92 sacks per game, each of the past two seasons. There is a case to be made that the Oklahoma State offensive line has been the best and most consistent in the Big 12 over the past three seasons.

Last season, Brandon Webb emerged at offensive guard. The son of former OU All-American guard Terry Webb and an All-State player at Owasso (Okla.) High School, Webb had been ready to move into the starting lineup but there was no room. Webb finally got his spot and did not disappoint, and he will be a leader on the line this season.

Now a returning starter, Webb says with Joe Wickline that you never take your position for granted.

"I don't think I'll get too comfortable, but it's definitely better to know that you've played and that you know exactly what to do," Webb said. "It's all about making yourself better as a person to make the best team."

Next to Webb at center is more of a newbie in junior-to-be Jake Jenkins. Being a junior is not exactly new, but Jenkins made the two deep last season backing up the tough, stubborn Evan Epstein.

When Epstein had a sprained ankle against Arizona, Jenkins started the Louisiana game and played more as a backup in keys Big 12 games to give Epstein's ankle injury, a stubborn ailment, a break. Jenkins said the center position, which makes the calls for the offensive line, is a key position but his experience in watching veterans like Epstein and previous two-year starter Grant Garner has really helped.

"You always watch and learn from the previous guys," said Jenkins. "You pick up on things they do and how they do them. They show you things too, so you just kind of learn from them. It's kind of like learning from an older mentor, where you just watch and pick up things along the way."

Something that hasn't changed at center is the uncanny success at snapping the football. Oklahoma State is a gun formation team and going back to Andrew Lewis, then Grant Garner, Epstein, and now Jenkins the snaps have not been a problem.

That is something you cannot take for granted. Jenkins credits the extra work they do with the quarterbacks virtually every day after practice. As for this season's offensive line with talented tackles in returning starter Parker Graham and experienced Daniel Koenig along with Devin Davis, the line should fall into place and really already has.

"We might have a couple spots to fight for but ultimately we're coming for the same goal - to create the best unit we can," added Webb. "It's moving along pretty well, and we're making strides as a unit."

A major reason for the continued success is that good offensive line play at Oklahoma State is not just a tradition, it is a right of passage.

"We try and keep it like a brotherhood," Webb explained. "We all hang out together, try and invite everybody over. In that corner of the locker room, no one really comes over there because no one wants to mess with the O-line. If they don't come with enough people, it's not going to work out well for them. We have play fights all the time, but no one ever wants to play with us."

That is except for running backs like Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland and quarterbacks Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt. Those guys will tell you they wouldn't want to play without them. The brotherhood of the O-line lives on and lives well.

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