In a perfect world, Oklahoma's offensive line would look every year like it did last year – no problems, five clear starters and only injuries to worry about.
Experienced abound, Oklahoma had no problems last year.
This year isn’t last year. Oklahoma has had just two players start every game this season and only one has done so without fighting injury – redshirt freshman Orlando Brown.
Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has to do some matching for much of the season. He went back to youth after redshirt seniors Derek Farniok and Josiah St. John made three straight starts at left guard and right tackle, respectively. True freshman Dru Samia made his second career start against Kansas State, and Jonathan Alvarez jumped back in the starting lineup after sitting out two games.
It’s not necessarily a decision of experience vs. potential. For Bedenbaugh, it’s much simpler than that.
“It’s about winning,” Bedenbaugh said. “It’s about playing the best guys to win. I mean, it doesn’t have anything to do with their age. It’s the guys that can help us win are gonna play. If it’s all freshmen, it’s all freshmen. If it’s all seniors, it’s all seniors. It has nothing to do with getting somebody experience. It’s about winning games.”
With Samia and Alvarez back in the lineup, Oklahoma’s offensive line had one of its best games of the season. Bedenbaugh said his line has been inconsistent. It’s been like that all season.
Bedenbaugh is looking for linemen that show up every day. He’s never met a good lineman that doesn’t show up for practice – a “gamer.”
“I’ve never seen that on the O-line,” he said. “Never. I mean, there may be some receivers or running backs or whatever, but I hadn’t seen that on the O-line. You’ve gotta practice good to play good.”
For Samia and Alvarez, it’s about getting more experience: Practice reps and game reps. They have seen more since their first start. Bedenbaugh said he would have liked to have gotten Samia get a few more starts up to this point.
Alvarez now spends his nights watching additional film not just relaxing.
Bedenbaugh said that who earns the right to play will play. Everybody has to prove it.
“That’s what offensive line play is,” Bedenbaugh said. “We’re in a situation where we’ve gotta play young guys and I’ve gotta coach ‘em better and they’ve gotta play better. That’s the situation we’re in. . . . Just gotta keep working every day. That’s all you can do.”