OU's line living up to expectations

Oklahoma's front five played its best game of the season against WVU

Oklahoma had all the promise, and it was a long list.

The career starts and games played on the offensive line were staggering.

The group rolled almost 12 deep, and even with Dionte Savage, Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati missing time, the Sooners’ never missed a beat.

A graphic showed that the Sooners’ starting five would have been the second largest offensive line in the NFL.

Oklahoma had everything, except accomplishment. After the first three games, they’d dusted off two minor conference underdogs, and the group up front wasn’t satisfied with its performance against Tennessee.

“They're all good players, and they all have high expectations,” offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. “When you don't meet those expectations, hopefully you're disappointed. All those guys were, as well as me. Obviously, it's about getting better every single day and every single week and playing at your best. Whatever that is, that's what we expect, and we had a pretty good showing.”

If the Sooners’ offensive line continues to play like it did at West Virginia as an average, Oklahoma’s most-hyped front line will exceed expectations.

Whether it was because of the two tight Big 12 Conference games Oklahoma had played against West Virginia before last Saturday or because they had something to prove or maybe because Bedenbaugh was returning to Morgantown for the first time, the Sooners did have something to prove.

The unit played its best game of the season, gaining more than seven yards per carry on traditional run plays and keeping quarterback Trevor Knight upright the entire game.

“Those players really respect and appreciate the hard work coach Bedenbaugh puts in with them,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoop said. “He has a close relationship with all of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of the issue. But they also are a prideful, mature, experienced group that if they haven’t played as well as they can, they’re gonna know that. And they’re gonna want to change that and make sure that they improve. That was probably on their mind as well.”

Any regular unit would have been satisfied with a performance matching the Sooners’ first three games. But this year, Oklahoma is no regular unit. They are the top offensive line in the country, maybe the best in the country.

When a six-plus yards per carry average isn’t good enough, it’s a rare to expect so much.

“There’s a lot of big guys who can’t play,” Bedenbaugh said. “These guys are athletic. They’re smart kids. They’re tough. You put all those things together, and then you have the passion to be a great player. You’ve got something special.”

The starting unit averages 325.8 pounds per man, even though center Ty Darlington is south of 300 pounds. Beyond the starting five, Oklahoma still has Savage (343 pounds) and Kasitati (315 pounds). Back-up tackles Derek Farniok (329 pounds) and Josiah St. John (300) pounds aren’t welterweights either.

Live action matters, too. Oklahoma has 124 starts and 176 games played on its front line. It had the size and the experience, but until last Saturday, it hadn’t lived up to expectations – no matter how high they were.

“We’ve all played a lot of football,” left guard Adam Shead said. “We know it’s time to move it up to the next level.”

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