Justin Hite - Sooners Illustrated

Oklahoma Sooners have benefitted from versatility on the offensive line

The search for the best five has been bolstered by cross-position competition

NORMAN – Louisiana-Monroe tested new Oklahoma right tackle Bobby Evans early. The redshirt freshman was playing in his first career game, and the Warhawks ran a delayed blitz in the first quarter.

The defensive end took Evans, who had no tight end on his outside shoulder, two steps inside before the linebacker came off the edge. Evans recognized it – and so did Dru Samia, who was making his first start at guard. The handoff was nearly flawless, and Evans picked up the blitz with ease. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield never even got sniffed on the play as he converted it for a first down.

The Oklahoma Sooners might have more versatility on their offensive line now than they have in the recent past, despite swimming in youth. There are four linemen who can play at least two positions on the line.

It’s making for better competition and making it easier for offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh to find the best five linemen to get on the field.

“He just rotates us in and out,” Evans said. “He just tries to put the best five out there. That means none of our spots are guaranteed. You’ve got to work hard to stay.”

Evans has worked at both left and right tackle in practice. Samia has started a both positions on the right side of the line. Cody Ford has worked across the line, and Jonathan Alvarez moved to starting center after starting at left guard last season.

“The biggest thing is we’ve all been in together,” Oklahoma starting left tackle Orlando Brown said. “. . . The chemistry is there. The focus is there. I don’t think there’s a drop off when someone comes in or someone goes out. We’re all competing the same. We’re all trying to be as dominant as possible.”

The competition for starting spots might even be higher than in the past. Usually, position groups are battling within themselves – right tackles vs. right tackles and left guards against left guards. But this season it different. Evans has to hold off Samia the starting spot at right tackle, while Samia also holds down the right guard spot.

It has also helped in communication. Samia has played right tackle extensively, which helps him to move Evans along even quicker. Evans called Samia a great mentor despite coming in with the same recruiting class.

The results speak for themselves as Bob Stoops point to the offensive line as the best unit group for the second game in a row.

“It just shows a ton of unselfishness,” It helps with trust, trusting the guys as far as what they can do. That’s the biggest thing. We’re all in this to win. We’re all in this together, just to be the best offensive line in the country. Whatever group is in there, we’ve all got the same goals, the same mentality in mind.”

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