Kittle trusts three-man tackle rotation

NORMAN, Okla. — Bad news has surrounded the offensive line throughout fall camp, but good news at the tackle position has started to reverse that trend.

Though center Ben Habern and right guard Tyler Evans are absent from the expected starting five, the big guys on the exterior O-line have provided positive feedback from tight ends/tackles coach Bruce Kittle.

In fact, he's got what he feels is a solid three-man group to help carry this unit up front.

"It's really great," Kittle said. "So, we're kinda working through that. What we want to do is have a three-man rotation just because of the number of plays we do."

That three-man rotation will consist of two starters and a roamer who will do just as that suggests, moving back and forth.

Daryl Williams, Lane Johnson and Tyrus Thompson make up the three.

So, who will perform what role?

"Just with Lane having played right tackle last year, he's probably the guy that's going to flip for us," Kittle said. "Ty will be left side. Daryl will play right and then Lane, whether he's starting or not, he'd take one off and then flip over to right to give Daryl a break."

One thing that makes Johnson the prime candidate to shift back and forth compared to the other two is simply his experience.

"Oh, I think without question," Kittle said. "I mean, when Lane went down, he played right tackle for us at Florida State. We're down in that kind of environment and he had never played offensive line until we got him in there the spring before, so I think without question there's a little bit of an edge on that. And he's been traveled. He's gone into those hostile environments. He's kind of gone through the game thing, two-minute offense and all that kind of stuff.

"So, [I] think he does have some of that where Tyrus really hasn't played [as] an every down guy in a game yet. So, there's no question that there's a learning curve that goes with that well. Absolutely."

A learning curve that the young guys not even in the three-man rotation must get through.

One of those is redshirt freshman Derek Farniok.

Farniok is in a battle at the right tackle position with Williams, though he's not quite there yet, in large part because he hasn't gotten any actual live game action while redshirting upon arriving as a three-star recruit back in 2011.

"I would say Derek's just kind of a notch behind him," Kittle said. "So, he's still just, you know, he's a younger guy. He's just a sophomore year. He's a redshirt freshman kid. So, just kind of getting his body to be as quick as he needs to be and kind of learn that. So, he's probably a year away from being an every down kind of guy, but he's right there and he's doing a great job in the role that he's got."

And that is pushing the guys in front of him, including that trio.

Head coach Bob Stoops, along with Kittle, has said time and time again that the offensive line has enough depth to get through the injuries it has already sustained.

And this level of competition from Farniok, as well as the three others, exhibits that potential.

"The tackles are all doing well," Stoops said. "In particular, the trio of Lane, Daryl and Tyrus Thompson, and Derek Farniok continues to make strides."

The Sooners hope they continue to make those strides heading towards the first game of the season on Sept. 1 against UTEP in El Paso.

For now, all signs are pointing in that direction.

"I think, up to this date, we probably had our best day as far as pass protection, working," Kittle said. "The defense is finally starting to put on [a very stiff challenge] and all that kind of stuff and it's been really good for us. So, they're performing very well and I couldn't be any more pleased with them, so I'm real excited about the season."

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