OU line coach brings a new feel

Second-year coach Bill Bedenbaugh has Sooners' offensive line playing with a new vigor

Adam Shead has been around a long time – five years to be exact.

He’s seen the development of Oklahoma’s offensive line through the past half-decade, but it has been the past two years that have truly changed the Sooners’ front line on offense.

More specifically, it’s new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who joined the Sooners’ coaching staff two years ago after coaching at West Virginia, Arizona and Texas Tech. He’s been an offensive line coach for almost 20 years.

It’s showing in the trenches for Oklahoma.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about you beating the guy in front of you,” Shead said. “That’s what he’s brought. It’s a fighter’s mentality.”

Like many other fresh-faced assistants, Bedenbaugh has changed the way Oklahoma looks at the position. Not too long ago, the Sooners were built on a small offensive line – one that could hold up to the massive play count and high-paced offense Oklahoma was running.

Oklahoma hasn’t slowed down much, but the front line has gotten more ruthless. There’s a nastiness to them that descends from Bedenbaugh. It’s something co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel hasn’t seen since 2008.

“They’re lean still,” Heupel said. “. . . Coach Bedenbaugh does a tremendous job of teaching those guys to understand schemes, defenses, anticipating what they’re going to get. That’s why we played the way we did the other night.”

Bedenbaugh coaches a certain way. He was brought up to coach players how to play in a very specific sense. It’s his style.

Neither he nor his players would elaborate on exactly how he coaches, but it has definitely changed the Sooners – even if Bedenbaugh doesn’t think it’s that much different than before he arrived.

“It’s tough and physical and playing hard and giving great effort all the time,” he said of his coaching style. “I mean, that’s what it is, and not accepting anything less than that.”

Beyond that, Bedenbaugh has brought a level of recognition to the Sooners’ offensive line. While it can’t be discounted that Oklahoma’s offensive line is as experienced as ever – maybe one of the deepest and most experienced offensive lines in the country, nay college football history.

The offensive line understands more of the total system Oklahoma has put in place.

There’s a mauling part of the attack, but the Sooners’ front five – and whoever else rotates in – have been better picking up blitzes and recognizing from where the defense is coming.

“You can’t just come up there and look at one thing,” Bedenbaugh said. “You’ve gota see everything. . . . In everything that they’ve done, they’ve gotten better.”

Under Bedenbaugh’s watch, Oklahoma has a tough, rugged exterior rooted in a fourth-quarter, power-running attack. Shead said that started with Bedenbaugh’s introduction to the program.

Bedenbaugh laid out exactly what he wanted and expected from his offensive line on the first day he arrived. He pulled no punch. He spared no expense.

“It was a pretty big deal,” Shead said. “You knew he was serious about being physical because what he said when he first walked in. ‘You may not play with the best technique. You might mess up some plays, but you’re gonna play hard and you’re gonna play physical.’ He meant it.”

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