O-line run game emphasis paying off early on

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners averaged just 4.5 yards per rush last year, ranking just amongst the middle of the pack in the Big 12, and so the offensive line came into the offseason with a focus on that.

All throughout spring ball it was to block better in the trenches to establish the run game.

All throughout fall camp it was to block better in the trenches to establish the run game.

And throughout the first two games, that emphasis has paid off.

The Sooners are currently averaging a ridiculous 7.1 yards per rush. They've busted off 20 rushes of 10 or more yards.

Sixteen of those came in the most recent contest against Florida A&M.

OU has blasted into the end zone on the ground nine times already. That's nearly a third of all the times it rushed for touchdowns in 2011--it tallied 30 a year ago--in just two games.

So, that's undoubtedly a remarkable improvement.

"We've been running a lot better than we had last year, so pleased with our production but not satisfied," said center Gabe Ikard.

Right guard Bronson Irwin, who stepped into the starting rotation after Tyler Evans tore his ACL on the first day of fall camp, said, as the numbers may indicate, there was even a major leap from the first game to the second game.

He attributed that to being in the right schemes and executing them.

"Going from week one to week two, I think our identification was a lot better, which allowed us to cover guys up," Irwin said. "And that's what happens when you get a body on a body, you bust a big one."

Running back Damien Williams busted several big ones, in fact, including the program's seventh-longest touchdown run in history, an 89-yard sprint early in the third quarter.

Running backs Dominique Whaley, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, fullback Trey Millard, and Blake "the Belldozer" Bell also got in on the action, all running for 10+ yards on at least one occasion.

Four of the six scampered for at least 15 at one point.

So, if results are any indication, things are headed in the right direction here.

"I mean, It's again guys are getting better and you gotta [have] the five guys up front," said centers and guards coach James Patton. "But you're also looking at tight ends. And the thing that was really good the other night on those long runs is those blocks were happening downfield with the fullbacks and receivers.

"You know, those big runs secondary support's block and not only do we cover them up front, but that effort we need to continue to have at all positions out there."

It at least appears it will heading into a game where running the ball could be very crucial.

"You know, we're gonna face a defense that's only given up about 2.7 yards a rush [in] Kansas State," Patton said. "So yeah, we're gonna have a challenge every week here on out, and the goal is again just be efficient, you know, and getting hats on hats and using good technique."

And if they do so, OU will be able to continue the steady incline in its running game over the last couple years, which was at 4.1 yards per carry in 2010 before rising 0.4 yards per rush last year, and achieve its 2012 goal.

"Our goal this year is around 4.85 yards a carry," said rotating tackle Lane Johnson. "So, we put emphasis on that and I'm glad it's showing on the field."

The O-line just hopes the heavy focus keeps producing the results it's seen so far.

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