NORMAN — Offensive lines are built by a process. The goal is to get a center, two guards and two tackles to work in unison. Spring practice is typically the initial phase in the operation.
For the Sooners, the construction project is a little different. Some of the parts they know they will have in August are not available now. Left guard Adam Shead and left tackle Tyrus Thompson are both being held out of spring drills due to injuries. Their absences allow the Sooners to focus on testing and improving their spare parts.
Center Ty Darlington, who is expected to step into the spot vacated by All-American Gabe Ikard, admits there really isn’t a lot of depth midway through spring practice. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has done a lot of mixing and matching thus far.
“I think in the long run this is going to be really good for us,” Darlington said. “We’re getting so many reps now. Literally, everyone in our meeting room is getting meaningful reps. It may be inconvenient now to have some guys that aren’t getting to practice, but we’re going to be so much better as a group.”
In an ideal world, OU builds complete cohesion among a group of five starters. Bedenbaugh is big on building the offensive line as a unit that acts and reacts as one.
However, that utopian world rarely exists. Injuries are a fact of life in football, and offensive linemen are more susceptible to them than most. They are large men who have to block other large men with bodies flying all around them. The opportunities to roll ankles or twist knees or suffer something else that causes horrendous pain are constant.
The Sooners dodged them for most of the 2013 season. Nevertheless, Bedenbaugh had to do more shuffling than a blackjack dealer late in the season because of injuries to Shead and Thompson.