There are still questions about Oklahoma’s offensive line for the 2016 season. The shift, however, has gone from tackle to the interior guys.
The only spot that seems secure is center with Jonathan Alvarez ready to become the next leader of the line as a junior.
He has big shoes to fill in guys like Gabe Ikard and Ty Darlington. Alvarez said he can’t worry about that. The only thing he can do is just be who he is.
“I don’t want to try to fill another man’s shoes,” Alvarez said. “I’ll be there and voice my opinion if something needs to be said. If everything is going great, I’m just going to sit back and encourage people. I don’t feel like I need to be the new Ty. I’m just going to be me.”
Being him sounds like it should be good enough. Following a quality sophomore season, Alvarez is expecting big things as a junior. Perhaps the biggest adjustment will be in terms of leadership.
With Darlington and Nila Kasitati in Norman last year, Alvarez didn’t have to be the go-to guy in terms of vocal leadership and leading by example.
Heading into his junior year, and Alvarez is, as of now, the oldest potential starting offensive lineman for the Sooners.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Alvarez said. “I feel like I just got here. I just have more all-around confidence than ever before.”
A change in position might have helped that. Recruited to play center, Alvarez found a home at guard last season. It seemed clear he would move back to center. For whatever reason, it’s just an easy natural fit for Alvarez.
He can’t really explain it. The move should help him, but it’s not something that Alvarez said 100 percent needed to happen for him to succeed.
“Honestly, it didn’t really matter to me,” Alvarez said. “Wherever I’m needed, I’ll play. I don’t care if he puts me back at guard after spring. If that’s where I’m going to be, that’s where I’m going to be.”
The competition is intense right now in the offensive line room as multiple guys see this spring as their opportunity to put their best foot forward. Guys like Cody Ford, Jamal Danley and even veterans like Christian Daimler know they have a shot if they keep pushing.
With some new faces trying to take over, it’s also a different feel in the room as Bill Bedenbaugh continues to adjust to his personnel.
“It’s definitely different,” Alvarez said. “There’s a lot less experience in the room and a lot more questions being asked and trying to feel your way through. Everybody is starting to pick up things really fast. Coach B is a great coach. He can get points across really fast and you can pick it up really easily.”
The biggest difference you might notice with Alvarez is his hair. Gone are the long locks, he said it was time for something new just like it’s time for him to emerge as the guy for the offensive line.