Revamped Oklahoma O-line remains work in progress

Sep 14, 2009 - 9:47 AM By MURRAY EVANS Associated Press Writer

NORMAN, Okla.(AP) -- Oklahoma's offensive line took the brunt of the criticism after the Sooners' season-opening loss to BYU in a mistake-filled outing that included nine penalties - not to mention the shoulder injury to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford.

A revamped unit fared much better on Saturday in a 64-0 romp over Football Championship Subdivision foe Idaho State, but Oklahoma coaches aren't done tinkering with the unit.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said coaches simply are trying to find a cohesive, successful group of players as No. 12 Oklahoma (1-1) prepares to meet in-state rival Tulsa (2-0).

"We think we've got seven, eight, nine guys who can play," Wilson said. "We're trying to find some consistency. Who are the guys who are going to play? The bottom line last night, if we scored, we stayed with the (lineup), if we didn't score, we just shuffled a guy in a little bit."

In the 14-13 loss to Brigham Young, the Oklahoma line struggled from the start, committing three false starts on the Sooners' opening drive. Junior Cory Brandon, who started at right tackle, was flagged five times during the loss and was booed during pre-game introductions on Saturday.

Perhaps the line's best player in the opener was senior Brody Eldridge, a tight end who moved to center during the preseason to shore up the position.

But when star Jermaine Gresham was lost for the season last week because of cartilage damage in his right knee, coaches moved Eldridge back to tight end, where he has been renowned for his blocking.

Senior guard Brian Simmons and Brandon fell out of the starting lineup, leaving Eldridge, senior Trent Williams and sophomore Jarvis Jones as the only linemen who started both against BYU and Idaho State.

The starting lineup against Idaho State featured Jones at right tackle - he played at guard against BYU - true freshman Tyler Evans at right guard, redshirt freshman Ben Habern at center, sophomore Stephen Good at left guard and Williams at left tackle, along with Eldridge at tight end. On subsequent series, Simmons and Brandon rotated into the lineup on the right side. In the second half against Idaho State, Tavaris Jeffries and Brian Lepak also each saw action.

"We're making some strides," Wilson said. "We're trying to get a cleaner direction on what we need to do and get a direction on some guys who are going to play hard. We played more guys. We got some young guys going. They'll continue to hopefully grow and gain and we'll see where it goes from there."

The offensive line committed only two penalties - a false start by Jones on the Sooners' first drive of the second quarter and a false start by backup tight end Trent Ratterree in the fourth quarter. Idaho State did make a goal-line stand on Oklahoma's first drive, stopping the Sooners on five plays after Oklahoma had a first-and-goal at the Bengals' 2, but otherwise kept the Oklahoma offensive machine humming.

Freshman quarterback Landry Jones, subbing for Bradford - who will be out two to four weeks - completed 18 of 32 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns and wasn't sacked, while reserve John Nimmo was sacked only once, late in the game. The Sooners rushed for 278 yards, including 101 on 12 carries by DeMarco Murray and 88 on nine carries by freshman reserve Jonathan Miller.

"I thought they did a great job," quarterback Landry Jones said. "I didn't really get ever pressured."

Coach Bob Stoops said coaches won't be afraid to continue to make adjustments to the unit as necessary to forge competition.

"It is going to remain competitive really every week because certain guys need to continue to play well," Stoops said. "If you are not, we need to put someone else in there."

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!