Only one other lineman in Bedenbaugh’s 18-year career, the last three of which have been with the Sooners, was able to come in as a true freshman and start – not even Trent Williams, who Bedenbaugh called the best offensive tackle in the NFL.
Samia sat deep in a leather chair Monday with a crowd of reporters surrounding him. He’s not an imposing figure, especially from a seated position, and is listed at just 280 pounds, which is very small for a starting offensive tackle.
His secret isn’t in his size. It’s in his iPad.
“We don’t have enough time to go through everything, so the kid carries his iPad with him everywhere he goes,” Bedenbaugh said. “He’s always watching tape. He’s always asking questions. He’s always asking Ty what’s going on, and that has helped him.
“You have to have that to be a good football player. Not everybody has it. He wants to be a great offensive lineman. And he’s gonna become one eventually.”
Louis Vasquez, an All-Pro guard for the Denver Broncos, came to Texas Tech as a 6-foot-6, 330-pound freshman and started from Day 1 at guard. That’s the only other time Bedenbaugh has seen a player as young as Samia play such a big role on the offensive line. And he said that Samia probably should have started more games up to this point in the season.
Samia became the first true freshman to start at offensive tackle at Oklahoma when he lined up for the first snap against Akron. He didn’t get another start until last weekend against Kansas State
“It’s just constantly getting better every day, getting better in my technique and with my assignments,” said Samia, who lived and worked out with his uncle during high school. “Obviously knowing the play book better, and how to study film. So overall, I feel like I’ve grown. I still have a lot of stuff to work on.”
Samia didn’t have any concrete expectations when he came to Oklahoma from his hometown of Danville, Calif., as a four-star prospect out of San Ramon Valley High School. He was a Scout Top 300 player, ranked as the No. 136 overall, and the 13th-best offensive tackle.
He just wanted to contribute right away, although he didn’t know exactly how.
Bedenbaugh knew that Samia had the mental make-up to play early but wasn’t sure how he’d develop physically, where Samia said he has improved in his hip explosion through work with strength coach Jerry Schmidt.
“Even if you’re mentally ready, it’s hard to be physically ready at that age,” Bedenbaugh said. “He’s a good athlete, but he really worked his technique on his own even before he came here and then really got better this summer. It’s showing up and he’s gonna be a great player for us.”
Samia still lacks in strength, but he makes up for it by being a technique guru – even if he denies that he is. He knows that he doesn’t have imposing size, so Samia makes up for it with time on his iPad – not playing Clash of Clans or watching Netfflix.
He knew his deficiencies, but they didn’t matter.
Now more confident, Samia has lost all those first-game jitters – better for having started the first game of his career as early as he possibly could. He wanted to make a different early.
“All I know is that I came in here with a mindset that I needed to get to my work right away,” Samia said. “I didn’t want to sit out a year. I wanted to contribute to the team as early as possible, so it was just working hard.”