No. 19 Oklahoma needs youngsters to boost offensive line
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma's offensive line is considered a possible weak link on an otherwise loaded team.
The 19th-ranked Sooners lost starters Daryl Williams, Tyrus Thompson and Adam Shead from last year's unit that paved the way for 465 yards per game, and none of their replacements has started a game at Oklahoma.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh told his unit that there are doubters.
''We were always reminded,'' left guard Jonathan Alvarez said. ''Coach Bedenbaugh reminded us just to piss us off every day - `This is what people think of us. This is what people think we are.'''
Oklahoma is implementing a new offense with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback, so the challenges go beyond replacing players. The Sooners get their first chance to see what they have up front Saturday against Akron.
''We've gotten a lot better,'' Alvarez said. ''We're starting to mesh really well, we're starting to pick up things better, we're coming together and I think we're doing a lot better than we were at first.''
Ty Darlington, a senior captain, started all 13 games at center for the Sooners last year. His role has changed now that he's the most experienced member of the line.
''I have to see the whole field more,'' Darlington said. ''Whereas with guys like Daryl and Tyrus, they saw things for me and helped me a lot. Now, I'm having to see things for other guys from the center spot and help other guys see things, make calls, adjust to the whole scheme of the play.''
Nila Kasitati will start at right guard. The 6-3, 319-pound senior started six games last season while splitting time with Dionte Savage.
''If you guys or anybody could see the player he is when he's healthy - I think he's the best guard in this conference,'' Darlington said. ''There's no doubt in my mind. He's very good, if we can keep him on the field.
''I've bragged about Orlando Brown for the last couple weeks,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''He's had a great camp and really worked hard. He has the strength and frame for it.''
Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is pleased to see Brown's development.
''We knew somebody had to emerge at tackle,'' Riley said. ''He hasn't been the only one, but he's been maybe the one that was a younger guy and hasn't played, and we knew we had to have someone emerge there. His work this summer - I can't say enough about it. He's playing pretty well right now.''
The right tackle is Josiah St. John. The 6-6, 308-pound senior played in eight games last season, with no starts. The left guard is Alvarez, a 6-3, 297-pound sophomore who played in just one game last year.
''I always knew that Dru was going to be a good athlete,'' Alvarez said. ''I just didn't expect this soon. Right now, Nila and everyone is working with him to get him up. We're expecting a lot of out of him.''
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