Spring Football: Rebuilding The O-line

STILLWATER - Despite some very dark clouds and a threatening thunder storm the Oklahoma State Cowboys got all of their planned work in on Wednesday, the second day of spring practice. It was more installing of the new offense and more of checking out the new players on defense during the two-hour, 20-minute practice closed practice inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

There is so much attention on the offense with new coordinator Dana Holgorsen and all the footballs in the air being thrown by Brandon Weeden and a quartet of young quarterbacks and walk-ons but much of the practice, behind the skill players working on the east side of the field, in the end zone are the offensive linemen.

Besides sophomore Lane Taylor, who emerged at guard last season, this year's offensive line will be new. Earlier in the day the pro scouts were eyeballing top 10 NFL draft pick Russell Okung and fellow seniors Andrew Lewis, Andrew Mitchell, Brady Bond, and Noah Franklin. That was a good group but Wickline, who has been known to operate in unique ways, has a big chore this spring.

"I've watched some of it just to see the development of the younger players," said head coach Mike Gundy, who now has more time to observe different position groups. "I've watched some tape. We have faith in the system and the way Coach Wickline works. It gives me a chance to move around more and have an opinion."

"That is what we are doing, his reputation has proceeded him for years," said Holgorsen of Wickline putting together the offensive line.

"He is going to get that done and the offensive line will know what to do. My job as offensive coordinator is to mesh the offensive line and the skill guys and get them into one group and we'll do that throughout spring."

With the departure of those guys that were on the field in the morning for pro day other guys are getting a chance, and one of those is Enid product Casey LaBrue. The former All-State lineman for the Plainsmen is 6-3, 290 pounds and as a junior eager to earn a job and happy he is contention being listed for now as the second team center.

"It feels tremendous," said LaBrue. "I've worked hard and it's been a long ride. I started out at Missouri State and came here and was third string. I've worked my way up a little bit and now I'm going to get into the rotation a little bit."

Now to move into the starting lineup, LaBrue, who Wickline has said has the best shotgun snap, will have to beat out the only returning starter on the offensive line as Wickline has moved guard Lane Taylor to center.

"Just another role that I'm going to have to fill in," said the 6-2, 301-pound Taylor. "If I need to play center, I'll play center. If I need to play guard, then I'll play guard.

"Playing guard last season helped me with knowing all the positions there in the middle. Actually, Andrew (Lewis) texted me Tuesday morning and told me not to miss on too many snaps."

Wickline loves to test his linemen by putting them in different positions and on different sides of the ball. He creates discomfort and uncertainty and sees who can rise above it.

"It's like musical chairs and the depth chart will change two or three times just this week and probably change 10 times before the end of spring," said LaBrue. "There's no telling where I'm going to end up or where he's (Taylor) is going to end up. It'll be a battle."

LaBrue is a junior and has been through a lot, as have some of the other o-line candidates. Tackle Levy Adcock is a junior college product, as is offensive guard Andrew Morgan.

Jonathan Rush has survived two shoulder injuries and persevered. Nick Martinez is a junior. The pups are talented redshirt freshmen Parker Graham at tackle and Brandon Webb at guard. All of them would love to know how it is going to turn out, but the process is just beginning.

"It's hard sometimes because you don't know what (Coach Wickline) is thinking and you want answers from him, but you just have to keep fighting and you have to stay in it," said LaBrue.

While the process is a long way from being done, the new offense is going in and the one veteran on the line, Taylor, likes what he sees.

"I like the new offense and it seems like it will be really effective as soon as we get it all down," said LaBrue. "The faster he (Weeden) gets the ball out the better it is for us."

A quick release can make any offensive line, experienced or not, look polished and comfortable. The offensive line and the rest of the squad will put in their final practice of the week Thursday afternoon and then on Friday depart for destinations ranging from home to the beach and the unknown for spring break.

The Cowboys return to practice on March 22.

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