A fan favorite and media favorite Gabe Ikard, also an All-American at center, left for the NFL last year, finally leaving the heir-apparent Darlington to take his place.
“You have to prepare on that side,” Darlington said. “You can’t just go out there and expect to roll the ball out there and play. He’s taught me a lot.”
Darlington has looked and sounded the part thus far. He’s shined at camp and spoke with the media for almost 15 minutes earlier this week.
On an experienced line, Darlington might not have to play such a big leadership role, but at center it will be vital. He’s prepared, with a little help from Ikard.
“He really showed me the ropes and showed me how to go about your business of being forced to be a leader at the center position, especially on the mental side of the game and how you have to prepare,” Darlington said.
Darlington will be the center anchor of an experienced and deep offensive line. He said this week that there are up to 10 guys that could play – just on a rotation and even without injury.
Most of them are seniors or redshirt seniors and have been in the program from much longer than Darlington’s three-year tenure. Thus, practice is necessary to realize leadership.
Darlington wasn’t much of an off-the-field leader in high school. He was too focused on becoming the valedictorian and a doctor.
He no longer wants to do to medical school. He wants to be a coach, and that has allowed him to take on more leadership responsibilities off the field.
He has organized faith groups with quarterback Trevor Knight and works with the FCA. He has become more involved in SAC, where he serves as vice chairman of the Big 12 Conference and helps collect feedback from student athletes to return to the autonomous issues group.
That’s how he knows the bylaw – 32b, the deregulation of food – that allows for the Oklahoma football team to have unlimited snacks during practice and three meals per day during summer camp.
“I’m definitely busier than I’ve ever been,” Darlington said.
Darlington currently checks in at just heavier than 290 pounds, exactly the weight offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh wants for his center. Darlington isn’t a natural 300-pounder, but he’s worked at putting the weight on, just like he’s worked at being the leader the Sooners need.
“My plate is definitely full, but I’m sure I can do an excellent job at everything,” Darlington said.