Depth emerges on OU offensive line

Clear silver lining to Sooners' injuries appears in the form of development

It was actually good for Oklahoma that starting offensive linemen Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati got injured – and then didn’t play against Tulsa.

The bye week gave them both a chance to get healthy. Darlington said he would have played the rest of the year at less than 100 percent if he didn’t have the time off. He injured his knee against Tennessee

It forced a couple of the Sooners’ young offensive lineman into game action, where things always move faster than practice. Almost unanimously, the Sooners believed that playing in a game will move things along faster for back-ups Alex Dalton and Jamal Danley.

Oklahoma, which had five players on its line against Tulsa who had never started before at those positions, had to rely on itself as a unit. In couldn’t lean on it’s leaders.

It was a huge boost for Oklahoma to play – and more importantly win – a game without its two seniors on the offensive front.

“It’s huge to get them in a game situation,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “. . . It was better for us for them to get in a game situation and have to rely on each other instead of the seniors. I think it was good for us to get them in and get some playing time.

“Now, they know what to expect. We’ll look at the film from last week and move on.”

What Dalton noticed on film during the last week has changed. He picked things up in the victory against Tulsa and noticed it again when he saw it on film. The nuances spoke louder to him. Getting those first game reps has changed the way he prepares.

“It’s an eye-opener,” said Dalton said, who made his first career start at right guard in place of Kasitati. “You get a feel for the game at this level. It’s a different pace, and it’s just kind of something you adapt to quickly. . . . You can prepare for it all you want when you’re not playing, but I think it’s easier to pick up when you feel it from the game.”

Danley, a junior college transfer, said the preparation is far different at this level than it was at East Mississippi Community College, where they just kind of threw the ball out without much preparation.

With some actual game film, Danley knows better what he has to work on moving forward: Hand placement, hip placement and footsteps.

Derek Farniok jumped inside to left guard for the second start of his career – but his first since 2013 Bedlam, when he started at left tackle. Jonathan Alvarez made his first start at center, which is the position he likely will play for the next three years after Darlington graduates.

“They grew up a little bit,” Darlington said of the offensive line. “Some of those young guys sort of took control and led the offense.”

Oklahoma found a little bit of adaptability on its offensive line, too. Three of the starters against Tulsa were playing out of their usual position – although it might become a more long-term home for some.

Kasitati was one of those players for a long time – capable of playing all five positions on the offensive line. He’s the kind of depth lineman that the Sooners have loved for years, the kind really any team would love.

He remembers his “light-bulb” moment years ago just before summer camp, but playing in a game changes things. It’s different than practice. It changes things for an offensive lineman.

“You sort of see the game in another way, at a higher level,” Kasitati said. “It flows better. You’re more confident in what you’re doing and what steps you need to take to make a block and how you need to approach each block.”

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