Spring Position Preview: Offensive line

Sooners hope Sims, Carter and Skinner can anchor the o-line in '02

The Oklahoma Sooners continue their strength and conditioning program with spring practice scheduled to start March 27th. Normally during this time we keep our eyes pealed on the skill guys, those guys that can wow us with their tremendous speed and agility. And we often forget that there are some big guys that are working really hard as well.

Once again the Sooners will be regrouping in the offensive line. The Sooners graduated Frank Romero and Howard Duncan, their top two offensive linemen form a year ago. Both players were very gifted and both should be drafted in the upcoming NFL draft.

Starters coming back from last year's offensive line will be sophomore center Vince Carter, sophomore left tackle Wes Sims and senior right guard Mike Skinner. Sophomore's Jerod Fields and Jammal Brown also played considerable time at right tackle a year ago and shared that position for a number of games.

New offensive line coach and run coordinator Kevin Wilson will anchor this years o-line around Sims, Carter and Skinner, and hopes that several young players will step up to the fill the void at right tackle and left guard.

Here is a rundown of the players who will be major factors for the Sooners in the offensive line in the spring and the progress they have made this off-season.

WES SIMS: Athletically, there is not a more promising offensive lineman on the Sooner roster. Blessed with tremendous athletic ability, Sims, along with defensive tackle Tommie Harris are the strongest Sooners on the team with a 450-pound bench. Sims also runs the forty-yard dash in 5.05 seconds and that is moving for a player that weighs in at 310 pounds. As talented as Sims is he still needs to step out and realize that he needs to go hard on every play. When he finally gets into that mold, he will be one of the most talented players in the country.

VINCE CARTER: Without question, Carter will be the starting center this year for the Sooners. Carter has his weight up to 278 pounds and has put in a good off-season. Getting bigger and stronger still remains a key for Carter this fall as the plan is for the sophomore to play at 290 pounds this season.

JAMMAL BROWN: If Sims isn't the best athlete on the offensive line then it is Brown. It really depends on how you look at it. Sims is stronger and runs well straight ahead, but Brown is a converted defensive tackle who has great agility, great feet, quickness and a super feel for the game. Brown has his weight up to 295 pounds and he may be the best pure talent on the offensive line. Brown is expected to start at right tackle.

JEROD FIELDS: Fields will also be in the mix at right tackle and will give Brown a run for his money. Fields started and alternated with Brown while Sims was injured last season. Fields' play was solid, if not spectacular, and at end of the season Brown had moved ahead of him by a slight margin. Fields has really come on the last couple of weeks of off-season workouts. Understand that with Fields the off-season is not what he is cut out for. Running and agility drills are not his cup of tea. However, he has really improved the last couple of weeks and this will help his game in the long run. Fields is better when he can actually hit somebody and that will take place soon enough. Fields weighs in at 310 pounds and he will always have to pay attention to his weight.

MIKE SKINNER: Skinner is the veteran of the group and has performed well this off-season. He knows how to go about his work and he is a good leader for a young offensive line. Skinner continues to work hard on his quickness and footwork, and he has his weight down to around 295 to 300 pounds. Skinner will start at right guard.

BRETT RAYL: Rayl is another super athlete that comes over from the defensive line. Rayl has his weight up to 280 pounds and will be one of the top four offensive tackles on the squad. He will start out backing up Sims at left tackle.

Left guard will also be hotly contested and provide much of the depth along the offensive lineman.

KELVIN CHAISSON: Chaisson is a talent that the Sooner coaches love and he has emerged as the favorite to start at left guard. Coach Wilson moved Chaisson from tackle to guard, because he felt it was a better fit for his athletic ability and his long arms. Chaisson is a natural offensive lineman, who has played offensive line all his life. That is important when you consider how many linemen that OU is converting from other positions. Chaisson understands how to play in the offensive line and that will pay off for him in the spring. Chaisson has his weight up to 285 pounds and will be a major factor at left guard in the spring.

CHRIS BUSH: Bush is a converted tight end who has tremendous talent. He can run and move better than practically any other offensive linemen on the squad. Bush also loves the block and thus his passion for the game is a major plus. However, Bush is woefully inexperienced in offensive line play and he is basically learning a new craft on the run. Bush is not a natural offensive linemen and he is struggling to pick everything up from scratch. That includes getting into a stance, back-peddling for pass protection and learning how to use his hands. Everything is awkward for Bush at this time. How quickly he picks up the nuances of playing in the offensive line will determine just how quickly he becomes a major factor at left guard.

CHIKE OZUMBA: Ozumba could be the wild cart at left tackle or left guard. He will work at both positions and could also wind up backing up Skinner at right guard. Ozumba is the quickest offensive linemen on the Sooner squad and the Sooner coaches like his upside. He has only played offensive line for one year, but showed tremendous progress last season. Ozumba played left tackle in the OSU game and played well in the Sooner loss. Ozumba now weighs 285 pounds. It would not be shocking to see Ozumba emerge as a starter somewhere along the line, probably at left guard.

BRAD DAVIS: Davis is a journeymen offensive lineman that earned some playing time a year ago because he knew what to do and he stuck with the program. Davis has his weight over 300 pounds and he will start the spring as the backup center.

JARROD BARCLAY: Barclay is walk-on who will be a junior next year. Barclay has talent and has worked his way up to the second unit at right guard. Barclay weighs 288 pounds and always seems on the verge of making a breakthrough. Barclay benches close to 400 pounds.

O-Line Notes:This spring sophomore Cliff Takawana won't be a factor. Takawana is not currently working out with the team and he is not expected to go through spring football. Takawana is suffering from a similar ailment that sidelined Dan Cody all of last year. His football future is a little bit up in the air, but the Sooners hope to get him back for two-a-days. How quickly Takawana returns will determine if he can get into the mix at left guard. If healthy and totally committed to the program, Takawana would be a major competitor for the left guard spot.

As it is, he will miss valuable training and practice time that will be tough to overcome quickly during two a-days. If Takawana can resume workouts this summer then he might be able to get back into shape quickly enough to be a competitor in the fall. If he misses summer workouts then he will have virtually no chance to win a starting job during two a-days.

Also, don't expect many freshmen to have a major impact on the offensive line in the future. Coach Wilson has only played one true freshman during his entire collegiate coaching career. He is not totally against it, but the freshman will have to be very special to get the call.

Jeff Lebby of Andrews, Texas and Abner Estrada of Carrollton (Turner HS), Texas are the two most likely to give it a run as freshmen, however they need to hit the weights hard this summer and gain the physical size that Wilson requires for the offensive line.

Projected Pre-Spring Depth Chart
Left Tackle
Wes Sims (6-5, 310, So.)
Chike Ozumba (6-3, 285, Sr.)

Left Guard
Kelvin Chaisson (6-5, 285, RS-Fr.)
Brett Rayl (6-7, 280, RS-Fr.)
Chris Bush (6-4, 260, RF-Fr.)

Center
Vince Carter (6-3, 278, So.)
Brad Davis (6-0, 300, Sr.)

Right Guard
Mike Skinner (6-4, 300, Sr.)
Jarrod Barclay (6-3, 288, Jr.)

Right Tackle
Jammal Brown (6-6, 295, So.)
Jerod Fields (6-7, 310, So.)

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