Oklahoma Sooners need to strengthen will on the offensive line

Oklahoma Sooners line issues are mental and physical

Daryl Williams had everything that you could want in an offensive lineman. He was big. He was skilled. He had quick feet.

But most of all, he was nasty. Williams was so nasty that when he was with Oklahoma, it made everyone else on the offensive line a little bit nastier.

Williams is gone, and the Sooners have lost that edge.

“It's there, but it's not there consistently enough,” Oklahoma center  Ty Darlington said. “We've got some guys that, . . . I don't think it's a lack of will, but there are different levels of caring. Everyone obviously cares. We put a lot of time and effort into it, but it's really gotta eat you up. It's gotta be a burning desire to block someone else, to dominate someone else and to play for the guy next to you and to protect the guys with the ball.”

That tenacity was in Wiliams’ character. It wasn’t something that could be taught or learned. He came ready to play with every block. Watching Texas defensive linemen run through double teams like it was nothing proves that the offensive line is not just missing the skill of four players who made an NFL camp.

It’s missing that it factor.

“Some of it’s your nature, but I think a lot of it is the tone we set as leaders and what you accept every day in practice and the level of intensity and the level of competiveness that you approach every day with,” Darlington said. “. . . That’s something that myself and Nila have to set that standard where it’s unacceptable to be anything less than tenacious.”

No. 19 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) struggled up front against Texas. Everyone said the blame isn’t just on the offensive line – except for Darlington, who took blame as the unit’s leader.

Coach Bob Stoops pointed to running backs missing blitz pick-ups or quarterback Baker Mayfield holding the ball too long. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said that receivers running incorrect routes led to a sack on one occasion.

Some of that is scheme and can be corrected. Oklahoma’s line issues aren’t in picking up blitzes or identifying pass rushes, though.

It’s in one-on-one blocking.

“We need everyone getting their job done, winning individual battles, and all too often we're just having a guy lose an individual battle,” Darlington said. “For the most part, we're on the right guys, but we did not get the job done in staying on blocks or finishing blocks. They played harder than us. They played tougher than us. They played more physical than us.

“You can't sugarcoat that at all. It has to be a look in the mirror moment.”

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