Heading into the spring with the offensive line, there is the known and the unknown. Let’s start with the known. Josh Henson takes over as offensive line coach and Oklahoma State fans are familiar with the former Cowboy offensive guard and assistant coach. He is a hard worker and he understands Oklahoma State, fortunately, he was on the staff last season as an offensive analyst, so he comes into his new chore as the offensive line coach with an extensive working knowledge of the offense and at least a working knowledge of the offensive line. A coach that is adamant about technique, Henson has a veteran two-year starter at center in Brad Lundblade, a three-year starter at right tackle in Zach Crabtree, a red-shirt sophomore with a full season as a starter at left guard in Marcus Keyes. There is also Larry Williams coming back after starting half the season at guard before an injury sidelined him. Williams is senior along with Lundblade and Crabtree. Johnny Wilson is a solid back-up at center and could be looked at for further duty on the offensive line. We know that former starter Jesse Robinson and fourth-year junior Matt Mucha are getting their degree in May and have left the team.
Now the unknowns, can Deionte Noel and Lemaefe Galea’i show any improvement and compete to claim a starting position or be counted on as a back-up. There is also junior college transfer Shane Richards, who is the biggest lineman on the team. Can he contribute?
“You mentioned Junior and Deionte Noel and to me, you know I said those other guys were the future, well these guys are the present,” Henson said recently in an interview. “They are older guys, they are juniors and you never know in a season from a depth standpoint who you are going to need. Mike Wilson, after Larry Williams went down, came in during his senior year and did a phenomenal job for us as far as the rest of the season. So when Larry went down, it was next guy in. Guys like Junior and guys like Deionte, and Shane Richards and Johnny Wilson have to be ready to play for us this season and next season also. Those guys have to be ready to play this next year.”
The young pups that came in last year include, the very promising Dylan Galloway, who is sometimes spoken about in very similar fashion to the way Keyes was talked about last spring. There is also Matt Kegel and Teven Jenkins, both look good physically and the question is how much ground can be covered to prepare them to contribute this season.
“These next two seasons I would say, there's a class coming up in Dylan Galloway, Matt Kegel, and Teven Jenkins, I think those three kids have some talent,” Henson said. “I like the (Arlington) Hambright kid that came in at mid-year, but he'll be gone in a couple of years. This class, from a high school recruiting standpoint and the next class, you know, along with those three kids that I just mentioned and Marcus Keyes, that will be the future of the offensive line after this season.”
They could play a role earlier than that out of necessity. There is a large cast of walk-on offensive linemen and that could be called upon. Henson knows he has to coach all of them that way. He has his plan, it has always been the way he coaches the offense line and it was the way he was trained when he made the conversion in college after coming to Oklahoma State as a linebacker.
“Every coach will coach differently, one thing that I'm a huge believer in with coaching the offensive line is being a great technician,” Henson explained. “It's all the little things that add up to one big thing. Because on the offensive line, it is like that "Any Given Sunday" to use the Al Pacino movie title, it is very true for our position. Inches of hand placement, difference of a step, those little things right there add up to be the difference in winning a block and then, therefore in winning or losing a game. Being very detailed at your craft, being detailed in what you do every day, it gets monotonous and it takes thousands and thousands of reps to master something, so he doesn't have to think about it, he just does it. That work ethic is what we really need to improve in, so that we can be consistent and give ourselves the best chance to be consistent on Saturday and the best chance to win up front.”
Every offensive lineman is going to be coached and at least at the beginning, Henson is going to look at every player in his group as an answer. He needs answers and until they prove they can’t be an answer then they will have a chance to plug in somewhere. Spring on the offensive line is going to be a search for answers. With three definite players plugged in, that leaves seven questions on the two-deep to be answered.