Darlington ready to grow up

Senior center - once understudy and young pup - is ready to be the leader of a fresh-faced line

DALLAS – It was less than a year ago, that a bare-footed Ty Darlington waddled into the Adrian Peterson Meeting Room, just minutes after an early preseason practice.

A fresh face to the gathered media, which just hoped he would be as good of a speaker as his predecessor – Gabe Ikard.

Darlington just hoped he could be like Ikard on the field: Consistent, talented and a great leader. He was the “young pup” on an offensive line that featured seven seniors within its rotation and more than 80 combined starts.

He still had time to learn.

Sitting inside the Omni on Tuesday, Darlington knows he’s no longer that understudy, learning from Ikard and playing side-by-side with long-time starters Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson.

“It’s crazy how time flies,” Darlington said. “Now, I have to be the old guy.”

He’s the only returner on the offensive line to start every game last season and one of only two with any consistent starting experience at all. It has been a quick transition for Darlington, who said Tuesday that he’s ready to be a leader.

He said it with the same confidence that also made Ikard an easy player to follow.

It’s a very different dynamic,” Darlington said of being the leader on the offensive line. “It’s one that I was prepared for. . . . They showed me how to work and how to go to work every single day, how to mentally prepare. I learned a lot from those guy.”

Darlington joked about how there were more centers at Big 12 Media Days than there were quarterbacks, saying that centers have to be as big of leaders as quarterbacks are. That’s his job now. He’s learned everything he can learn.

He has to teach now – teach someone to be ready to sit in his chair.

“It’s cool for me to sit here now and know that someone else will be sitting here next year that’s going to be leading the offensive line,” Darlington said.

Jonathan Alvarez and Alex Dalton were the first names off Darlington’s lips about who that might be, but he hinted that Alvarez might earn a starting spot at guard – although that wouldn’t rule a switch back to center after Darlington moves on after his time at Oklahoma.

Before Darlington can teach his own understudy, he’ll have to lead the entire offensive line – one that has plenty of questions after graduating three starting seniors.

Despite being offended a little by the question, Darlington admitted that the change in offense, which will put less reliance on the offensive line, will be a good thing for the group that is in need of game experience but doesn’t have “a drop-off in talent” from last year.

“The whole notion of that question hurts my pride,” he said. “. . . It does make sense because it’s not as predicated on us being able to move guys off the ball as it was last year.”

It’s not the only thing different from last year. Darlington himself is very different. He’s become the old dog, who needs to teach his line mates a few new tricks.

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