Wilson talks about the state of the offensive line

Oklahoma offensive line coach and running game coordinator Kevin Wilson talks about his linemen's offseason progress and just how good the Sooners can be in 2004. Could center Vince Carter (pictured left) redshirt next season? See inside for more details. (Allsport/Ronald Martinez)

NORMAN, OKLA. — It is always interesting to catch up with Run Game Coordinator and Offensive Line coach Kevin Wilson as much as we can. Kevin loves golf and he is moving into a new home, so he is very busy this summer but he isn't planning any major trips with his family. He is hanging around Norman and just having a good time.

So, before heading out to the golf course with the Head Ball Coach (Bob Stoops), Wilson had a chance to sit down with OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill. And as usual, Wilson has his own way of explaining things, and it is always an interesting read.

JH: How is your golf game doing?

KW: "My golf game is in a funk. We played a lot earlier, then camp hit and our family is in the process of moving so I have gotten into the anti-golf mode here. I went out the other day with a couple of guys and I have lost to Coach Stoops the last couple of times we played. We still do a little handicap deal, but I have to buckle down because he is getting too much of my money."

JH: From what you can tell, how are the workouts going for your big guys this summer?

KW: "I think things are going well. We have limited contact with them during the summer. The rules from the NCAA say that we can't go over to watch them lift or go over there to watch them run. However, the majority of the guys are here.

"I think that Randy McAdams, the freshman offensive tackle that we have, just played in the Oil Bowl and will come into camp in July. Cameron Schacht and J.D. Quinn are here, and we are waiting on (Brandon) Braxton to finalize his grades. We need to see what his latest test score is and see how things work out for him. All of the other guys are here as far as the big guys go.

"They have looked good, and I think that Jerry Schmidt is the best at what he does. I know that he does a great job as far as a lifting coach and conditioning, but he tries as much as he can to work guys with exercises that are position-oriented. We don't put 80-thousand-something people in our stadium for a bench press competition. He does a great job of trying to do agilities, or as much as he can without pads and without balls to help our guys to become better at the skills that they need, whether it be on offensive position for skill or big guys. So, I think they are doing well. Jerry and his guys always do a fantastic job.

"I have given my guys some outlines of skills that they can be working on with Jerry that will help them. Whether that is dealing with footwork, hand skills or drills, and I think they are doing well. Basically, what you are doing during the summer is that you are laying a foundation that will take you through a 14 or 15 or a 16 week grind. That is especially true at our position with the big guys up front, and the d-line where we take such pounding on a daily basis.

"So yeah, you want to be strong and you want to be in shape, but you want to lay a foundation that gives you the ability to go out the week-in and week-out that will allow us to practice well throughout the week and then show up on Saturday and win those games for us. To me, the key to the offseason is to see those big guys building the core and foundation that will get them through the season."

JH: Since Bob has been the head coach at OU it seems that OU has always been one of the best conditioned teams in college football. However, was fatigue a factor in the final two games last season.

KW: "I don't know. I guess that is always one of those mysteries as coach. I have always felt since I have been here that Bob has a great pulse of our team — when we need to practice harder than we are practicing or maybe we are doing too much and we need to back-off. Whether that being in our contact or in our conditioning, he has a great feel for that just as an observer.

"I think that Jerry (Schmidt), as a strength and conditioning coach, has a great feel on our kids as well. Bottom line is that you go back and all of those things are excuses and reasons why we didn't play well. We are always trying to find a way every year, especially as good as we are and we have a chance to be really good again to avoid pitfalls.

"There is going to be a day or two where you are not in sync for whatever reason. Whether it is stars or bio-rhythms, reading the headlines, getting cocky or arrogant or taking someone lightly are all justifications, but there are days when you play out of sync and you still have to be good enough to overcome those little flaws that you have in your game and still win. That also holds true in the NFL. We have had one perfect NFL team and that was the Miami Dolphins of 1972. There were many other teams that were great. but there was that one night where they couldn't overcome what was against them and they got beat. The Chicago Bears were great, but there was that one night during the 1985 season.

"The bottom line is to win them all is very difficult. You look in basketball and football at the parity in college sports and that is where those head guys and the game planning is so important. Whether it is just making some adjustments or just the flow of your practice week, or whether it is some schemes that you have come up in your adjustments in how to attack someone. There is just a little edge needed to get you over the hump. We will be good enough this year to overcome those things, or at least that is your goal. We are going to have one, two or three games where that is going to happen.

"The flipside of what we are talking about in our struggles at the end and everybody asking how we can justify that happening. Well, on the flipside of that I can't believe that we are 77-points better than Texas A&M or good enough to put 65 on Texas. So, there are certain days when certain things go for you or against you. Bottom line is hopefully this year we will have that foundation and we will be more mature, stronger, and be better focused and we will be a better team.

"Then, you hope that you are strong enough and lucky enough that when we are not at our best we will still be good enough to win. I can promise that there will be a day when we will not be hitting on all cylinders. It is not like Tiger Woods is not trying to play well and he is struggling. Why, well who knows? We will learn from these mistakes, because we are a veteran group. I think we have a nice coaching staff and we will learn from that and hope to be good enough to make a strong run again."

JH: How is the rehab for Vince Carter coming along? And what are some of the goals you have this summer for the other offensive linemen?

KS: "It is going to be interesting to see with Vince as we get into two-a-days with the everyday practicing, to see how he does. He is lifting and running with Jerry, but I don't know if I can say that is exactly what it is going to be like when you get out there and you are going through two-a-days.

"One of the reasons why the medical staff thought to hold Vince out of spring and to have the surgery is to give him a chance to be an everyday practice player and to have a great senior year. He has been such a good player that to me, in fairness to Vince, I am not going to put him out there if he is not going to have a good year. We have a redshirt year if we need it, and as good a player as he is I have always felt good about Chris Bush. I think Chris Chester coming in there helps us immensely, and I always have my man John Flynn in the hole.

"We have four guys who can snap it up and I think we can play and play against anyone with. Vince has been a great player and I don't want a great player out there and not be at his best. We will see how the summer moves. I am counting on him being in there, but I don't know, because there is no crystal ball.

"A key for a couple of guys in the offensive line are at offensive tackle, where we have Chris Messner and Akim Millington who are young tackles that we want to continue to get stronger. We want them to gain some weight and be more physical in their development as young players. I think they are heading in that direction.

"I saw Chris Messner the other day and he is over 290 and looking very good. He is starting to look like a big, strong lineman that we need him to be. Chris Chester, coming into center, we will probably keep him inside. If need be we could put him back as a short-yardage blocking tight end. He is in that 270 range when spring ended and we need to get him up about 280 to 282. He looks strong and looks good. I didn't put Chris on the scale, so I would be guessing to say what he weighed.

"It is about some younger guys gaining some size, some strength and some physicalness that those guys are going to need to be great players for us. From what I have been told Wes (Sims) is having a fabulous offseason — the best he has ever had. I have always felt that Jammal (Brown) and Davin (Joseph) are very talented and I think they are working at it well. Kelvin Chaisson is an experienced player.

"This group is like last year's D-line. They have been pretty good, but now we have all of them back and we have three seniors, some good seniors in the mix. Hopefully, we have some strong leaders and hopefully it will be a line that will be tough enough and good enough to make us a championship team this year."

JH: Jammal Brown is projected as a first round draft choice. In your opinion, what does he have to do to reach those projections?

KW: "First of all he is going to be a tremendous athlete by their standards. He needs some weight, as he is about 300 pounds. And by pro guys, that is a little small. He makes up for it with some great quickness. I think some of those teams will like him and some won't. Some will like a more massive style player.

"Fundamentally, I have to do a better job, and that has been our challenge. In the spring one of my big coaching points was if you are not going to work at this to be a great player, you should have came out this last year and been a late draft pick. We are coming back for you (Jammal) to be a great player and for you to do something special here.

"I have not tried to overload him fundamentally with a lot of adjustments. He came over from defense and he is a talented player that I have not tried to over-coach. I took the adage of just keeping it simple for him and just let him play hard and get after it. I have challenged him to pick up the mental aspect of his game and to have a better awareness and more savvy as an lineman per say. Then, he is going to need some strength, but he is very talented.

"When they talk about all these guys who are first round draft choices, and I have said this for years, Teddy Lehman was projected as a first round draft choice, but how many teams are picking a linebacker and then how many teams actually like him? He might be a first round draft pick, but maybe only two or three teams actually like him in the end. If someone else is available that they want or if they decide they need to draft another position, then that is when guys fall down in the draft. Teddy and Derrick Strait were both phenomenal players that tested well in combines, but ended up being second and third round picks.

"Not everybody is going to take Jammal Brown as a first round pick because not everyone wants a tackle. Will he be that high? Well, he is definitely that talented."

"I am really impressed with Wes Sims. One of the best things for you guys if you get a chance to come to practice is to come up there to pass pro when we go at it one-on-one everyday. You need to watch Dan Cody lock it up with Wes and Jammal going against Jonathan Jackson on the edge. Then you have Davin against (Dusty) Dvoracek inside and there are some great battles. We are going to have a covey of pro scouts watching those guys run around, and it is going to be a lot of fun over there."

JH: In the spring one of the main goals was to improve the running game, something that you are always working on. Now you bring in the No. 1 running back in the country. What are the expectations for the running game this year?

KW: "Number one it needs to be better. Last year we were hot and cold with it. In the middle of the year I thought we ran it really good. We came through Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M really well, and then we kind of backed off. We maybe didn't run it as much as in hindsight as we probably should.

"We lost a little bit of our balance, and in losing our balance we may have lost a little bit of our physical toughness, our physical edge that I feel you need to be a championship team. That might have been as much as anything, and again my fault. But also, one of the errors when you go back and say what happened at the end. You look at our numbers and our running total fell off in our attempts and our balance and our offense fell off as well.

"I have to do a better job in the behind the scene's work with Chuck. Chuck does a great job of keeping our offense attacking on the edge, and we do a phenomenal job of taking care of the football. However, if I go back and look at last year we lost a little bit of toughness on the edge. That might have been my fault as far as emphasizing it as much.

"I think KeJuan has always been a very, very solid player. Tashard Choice is stepping up. We felt last year that he might have been one of our better backs, especially after Renaldo (Works) went down. However, we were so far into the year that we just redshirted him. We thought he was very good last year, but he didn't have a very good spring game. But we gave some of the other guys a lot of reps to force their issue to see. We still think Tashard is pretty solid.

"We have Donta (Hickson), D.J. Wolfe behind them, and you have Adrian coming in. Adrian looks great since coming here and he has tested well for Jerry, from what Jerry has said. I think our tight end position is improved and that is going to help us.

"Also, with J.D. Runells and Dan Townsend. we are going to be a lot better at fullback. All of those things go hand-in-hand to having a good run game. Last year I thought we ran it OK, and sometimes during the year like at A&M we had over 300 yards. Then the next week against Baylor, we had only 80 yards in 20 attempts. We just need to keep that balance and keep that attitude, and I think we came out of spring moving that way."

JH: You are getting a lot of preseason mention as the No. 1 team in the country. One publication even said that you were going to be the best college team in college football history. Do you, as a staff, like to hear that kind of talk?

KW: "I think it is better than being called up and somebody saying to you that you guys are really struggling, no good and in a hole. When I first got here all those good offensive linemen were sophomores and freshmen. I said at that time that I think this line could be the strength of your football team. They were young and they weren't what we needed at that time, but I thought they could be good.

"I think right now they are one of the strengths of the team. At the receiver position we lost Antwon Savage, Trent Smith and all these 1000 yard record catchers, and now look how strong the receiving core is with B.J. (Brandon Jones), Mark (Clayton), Will Peoples, Mark Bradley, (JeJuan) Rankins and Travis (Wilson).

"We know how well Jason and the depth at quarterback is. We have four seniors up front on defense with Lance sitting in the middle. We have two phenomenal safeties, so it is a very, very talented team If it is the best of all time, it doesn't matter. We need to be the best that we can be.

"I made the comment the other day that everybody around here talks about that we are making a bid for National Championship No. 8 and I am thinking that I just want to win my first National Championship. I just want to win one for me. I want to win one for Jammal and Davin and their team. And no disrespect, because tradition is what makes this place special.

"But is this the best team of all-time? No, because the best of all-time is always an argument that nobody ever knows. And if you are really good then you are going to finish and be tough when it counts. We saw last year that we weren't. So, hopefully this year we are going to learn from those situations and grow. And if we did, that was a negative that we can build on and be a better football team this year.

"I don't think it puts more pressure on our football team because of last year. Hopefully this group will be smart enough because of all the individual success and all the notoriety that came last year, and all the pub this team could have been. We still know that team did not win a championship.

"Oklahoma has been about a bunch of champions in football, both nationally and in conference. Hopefully we can keep that in perspective, keep our focus and keep our intensity and our toughness. I don't know if we can be the best of all-time, but I know if we are going to be champions we have to be tough early. And if we are going to be a championship team, we are going to have to finish strong."

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