Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

With virtually all of our position previews for spring we have focused on the players. If there is a position where we really need to do that it is the Oklahoma State offensive line.

Last season started against Florida State with a defense that was so confident they kept it basic and the wheels on quarterback J.W. Walsh helped rescue the Oklahoma State offensive line.

However, starting the next week with Missouri State when Walsh went out with an injury the Bears began blitzing. A little delayed blitz worked really well as one MSU linebacker had a career day. It got worse with Iowa State and Kansas, two Big 12 basement dwellers, bringing defensive schemes that made it tough to watch the offense attempt to get out of the way of the defense and themselves.

A few switches and a young lineman getting healthy helped make it better at the end of the campaign, and now a new line coach may be good for another boost.

You can read about the players and again, our categories of Returning Starters, Contenders, and Waiting to be Discovered, but this is also about the new coach as Greg Adkins, a recent NFL assistant with the Buffalo Bills and a college veteran from Syracuse, Tennessee, Georgia, Troy, and Marshall, brings a wealth of credibility and some pretty good recommendations with him.

“You got a really good coach in Greg Adkins,” Hall of Fame and former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer told us over the phone. “That’s a hard thing to do is go in at a school like Tennessee and coach the same position that the head coach did and Greg did a fantastic job for us at Tennessee.

"He had a good pedigree and he had played the position. Mike (Gundy) really understands offensive line more than most former quarterback coaches really do. He knew he wanted somebody that would promote toughness and get the most out of players and that is what Greg will do.”

That is what is needed as the offensive line numbers will likely be thin and most around will have to contribute.

Returning Starters
60 Zach Crabtree, RT, So., 6-7, 300
74 Michael Wilson, RT/LT/RG/LG, Jr., 6-6, 300
64 Jesse Robinson, RG, So., 6-6, 320
57 Paul Lewis, OC, Jr., 6-3, 296
71 Brad Lundblade, OC, So., 6-3, 290

73 Victor Salako, LT, Jr., 6-6, 335
69 Devin Davis, LT, Jr., 6-5, 300
76 Colby Hegwood, OG, Sr., 6-5, 300

Waiting to be Discovered
51 Brandon Pertile, OT, Jr., 6-6, 300
78 Matt Mucha, OT, RS-Fr., 6-6, 285
66 Lemaefe (Junior) Galea’I, OG, RS-Fr., 6-5, 330
79 Jack Kurzu, OG, So., 6-4, 305
77 Jaxon Salinas, OG, So., 6-4, 310
68 Deionte Noel, OG, RS-Fr., 6-3, 310

I think there are certain aspects of this going in that to me seem pretty certain, but this will be fun with Adkins bringing a different set of veteran offensive line coaching eyes and instincts to the situation. Adkins has huge credibility and his reputation is of being a laid back taskmaster and that should fit well with the crew. I know this, he has made the effort to get to know these guys in the short time he has been here prior to spring practice launching on Monday.

Salako could go into the returning starters category as he started 12 games for 6-6 UAB before they dropped their program. In bowl practice in Stillwater, where he participated in practices, and in offseason he has shown a superb level of athleticism to go with his huge size. Oklahoma State rarely gets a player of his size and athletic skill. I would plan on him plugging in at left tackle and that would project returning starter and very much improved Zach Crabtree at right tackle.

You notice that Michael Wilson started at four different positions last season, every place but center, and the arrival of Salako allows the versatile Wilson to focus primarily at guard, and my guess is left guard.

Jesse Robinson is another very big man with good feet, and while he may not have torn up teammates in practice all the time he fared really well when getting his chance at enemy defenders. His first extensive action was against Baylor and then played well while earning the starts against OU and Washington in the bowl game.

Center may end up being one of the most competitive positions on the line this spring as Paul Lewis started all but one game and that went to walk-on freshman Brad Lundblade. They both played and Lundblade is determined. Lewis needed to focus on being better on the snaps and both needed to get better and stronger against the severe heavies they often have to face in the Big 12.

The continuing saga of Devin Davis is apparently still ongoing and we will see if he can get back on the field and how far he might be able to take his long comeback from ACL and major knee surgery now that he is over a year and a half removed from it. You have to root for a guy that just keeps trying.

Colby Hegwood has played some during his career, allowing us to put him in the Contenders category, but he will need to push it to earn a backup spot.

Chomping at the bit are two redshirt freshmen that worked very hard in their first season to make an impression. Both Lemaefe Galea’i and Matt Mucha did exactly that as there were moments they were considered for active duty and received reps with one of the first two offensive line units.

Galea’i came in big enough to play and pushed himself to learn the offense and pick up his physical play. Mucha was even more amazing, as being a very smart player to begin with he learned assignments rapidly and with the help of Rob Glass and the strength and conditioning staff and training table he packed muscle on his 6-6 frame reporting at 255 and very quickly jumping up north of 280 pounds. Mucha will be a “first off the bus” looking player in the future. He actually came close to losing his redshirt when Crabtree was out with an ankle injury.

Brandon Pertile did not play a down last season at Mesa (Arizona) Community College. The Florida native and former Georgia State player tore his ACL and had surgery prior to the start of the season. He visited Oklahoma State carrying medical records and was checked out by the OSU medical staff. Because it was an ACL and nothing more the thought was bring him on. Pertile will be out there this spring and likely will not do any of the contact work. He will be looked at for duty for this fall.

Jack Kurzu, Jaxon Salinas and Deionte Noel are players that have yet to prove anything, but get a clean start with that new set of eyes in Greg Adkins. Now is the time for any or all three to kick up their performance and win their way into the mix.

There will be more eager and new linemen coming in the summer and fall. The head start begins now, and it will be fun to watch with young linemen and a new offensive line coach that has one heckuva a track record and some really good recommendations.

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