At the start of spring the offensive line was a concern, but progress is being made rapidly under new offensive line coach Josh Henson. The Cowboys first major scrimmage of the spring was evidence of that.
It's no secret that Oklahoma State is loaded in the skill positions on offense. In Friday's first major scrimmage of the spring quarterbacks Mason Rudolph, Keondre Wudtee, Taylor Cornelius, and Jelani Woods all did some good things. The running of especially red-shirt freshman L.D. Brown, but also Jeff Carr and Ja'Ron Wilson was strong. Brown broke off several double-digit gains in helping to move possessions and drives down the field. Wilson had probably the longest run of the scrimmage and on the very first series, Carr had a running play that took the first team offense into the red zone. The receivers were present with LSU transfer Tyron Johnson leading the way with two scoring receptions. None of that gets done without the work up front. On Thursday night the offensive line had a home-cooked meal at the home of new offensive line coach Josh Henson. Henson's wife Shauna can cook and the pictures on Twitter showed the offensive linemen doing a good job of cleaning plates. It's too early to say the offensive line is cleaning up in practice and they have some very stout challenges from the other side of the line. Defensive ends Jordan Brailford, Jarrell Owens, and Cole Walterscheid have been really good throughout the first three weeks of spring and defensive tackles D.Q. Osborne, Darrion Daniels, and converted end Trey Carter have been tough to handle inside.
"I think the first thing we're getting back is effort," Henson said before practice on Wednesday, a day where the defense had the upper hand in drills and in team period. "It's not where we want it, not where it needs to be from a finishing standpoint, but we're getting back good effort and I'm getting back a lot of questions. I'm getting, 'how can I do this? Coach, teach me what you are saying here.' So, I think when you are getting those things then you know that their minds are turned on to learning football, learning about their craft. I think from that standpoint that they are very engaged."
Speaking with several of the offensive linemen, they are very engaged and the attitude is better. It is a productive attitude in practice and in meetings toward improving and believing in what they are being taught.
Right now, the first team offensive line is pretty solid and from left to right has red-shirt freshman Dylan Galloway, who could be the next Marcus Keyes; than at left guard Marcus Keyes; senior and three-year starter at center Brad Lundblade; right guard Larry Williams, and three-year starter at right tackle Zach Crabtree. Galloway gets better everyday, but there is still a better than average, say 90 percent chance that California three-year starting left tackle Aaron Cochran (6-7, 350) will wind up as a graduate transfer at Oklahoma State. For now count on Galloway and I've been impressed with what I've seen.
The real work for Henson comes with establishing a second team line and here is where there are some "projects" answering the call. Left tackle is competitive with last year's junior college transfer Shane Richards (6-8, 325) and this year's mid-term addition from junior college national champion Garden City C.C. is Arlington Hambright (6-5, 305). Left guard looks like one-time scout teamer Deionte Noel (6-2, 325). From center over it is Johnny Wilson, either Junior Galea'i or Matt Kegel at guard, and then another red-shirt freshman Teven Jenkins at tackle.
"I think there are some guys that are understanding that they are getting their shot and I honestly think those guys are stepping up to the challenge," Henson said.
They did in the scrimmage as the second team offensive line did some good things. They blocked up on some big plays and they saw some action against the best defensive linemen and, in many cases, at least stalemated and gave the skill players opportunities to make plays.
The offensive line is not the finished product, but you can see improvement, and while a little motivation could have come from Shauna Henson's kitchen on Thursday night, I think most of it is coming from Josh Henson's coaching on a daily basis. Offensive line play is not easy. It is one of the more difficult and, certainly, most physical positions. A coach that is respected, trusted, and liked at that position group can be a difference maker.
I believe if the offensive line keeps progressing at the pace they have so far this spring, the group will not be nearly the question mark that it was going into the spring. Yesterday's scrimmage is a good example of that.