NORMAN – Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh doesn’t necessarily want a two-deep across the O-line. He’ll take it, but first he’s looking for about seven or eight guys that have the ability to play up front – and start up front.
The only way seven players can fill ten spots is with versatility, and that’s a key factor in Oklahoma’s offensive line this preseason camp.
“Ideally, you’d like to have a two-deep,” Bedenbaugh said. “Like I said before, that doesn’t happen very often. What you’d like to have is eight guys: A starting 5 and then a tackle that can play both positions and a backup center. I don’t know how it’s going to work out.
“We’re still young and inexperienced so we’ll see how it shakes out. But ideally you’d like to have a two-deep. There’s been very few times in my career that that’s happened.”
So how does that actually break down?
Bedenbaugh said the left side of the line is pretty set with Orlando Brown, Cody Ford and Jonathan Alvarez from tackle to center. The right side is still a bit of a rotation, even though Dru Samia started at right tackle as a true freshman.
The key cog is redshirt freshman Bobby Evans, who is linebacker Tay Evans’ younger brother. Bobby Evans tore his ACL as a senior at Allen (Tx.) High School and spent a year recovering. He’s fully healthy though, and Bedenbaugh said he could start at right tackle, which could cause a heavy domino effect.
Ben Powers is slated in at right guard, but he said that Samia has been working right behind him. Powers doesn’t have the versatility of Samia and said he is learning just how to play guard first.
“We have to know what the guy next to us is doing, in order for us to perform what we can do,” Ford said. “If we don’t know what they’re doing, then we’re all out there playing blind.”
Evans is working exclusively at right tackle now after having been recruited as a left tackle out of high school. Bedenbaugh said that Samia, who gained a noticeable 30 pounds in the offseason, will play both right tackle and right guard in practice, even if he starts at right guard.
“It's not a big deal. Best five guys on the field,” Samia said. “If me going down to guard is what it takes, it's what we've got to do.”
Envision that starting offensive line for a minute: Brown, Ford, Alvarez, Samia, Evans. It would be a massive starting unit, averaging 314 pounds per man and standing 6-foot-4 per person. No player would weigh less than 300 pounds, and everyone is at least 6-foot-3.
Alvarez would be able to play three different positions on the line, and Samia might be able to fill in at four positions. Samia, Brown and Alvarez have all taken significant steps in leadership.
“(Bedenbaugh) gives us all opportunities and challenges us each and every day,” Evans said. “We have to come out here and work. No spot is guaranteed, and we all understand that. We try to work hard every day.”