Bill Bedenbaugh hasn’t had to think much about the center position the past three seasons.
Creed Humphrey has been the guy for the Oklahoma offensive line since stepping into the lineup in 2018 and the results speak for themself.
Earning Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2020 and sharing the award in 2019, Humphrey has been eyed by NFL GM’s since his drew rave reviews during his redshirt season in 2017.
But now, as Humphrey finally moves on to the pros, Bedenbaugh will have to find a new leader at the heart of the line.
The early candidates? Chris Murray, Ian McIver, Nate Anderson and Robert Congel.
“Right now those guys are doing a good job. I feel pretty good about it,” Bedenbaugh said during a Zoom press conference on Wednesday. “They’re all competing, they’re playing.”
Bedenbaugh said McIver is the farthest along in the mental aspect of the position, which makes plenty of sense as he backed up Humphrey last season and appeared in five contests.
The man to watch may be Murray, however. A transfer from UCLA last season, the former 4-star recruit from Santa Ana, CA, had to move over from guard to start snapping the football.
“Chris to me, he’s a really good guard. But I do think his best position is center,” Bedenbaugh said. “Now it’s just the mental aspects. We ask our centers to do so much stuff. They’re the leader obviously of the offensive line, but the offense. They’ve got to get everybody going in the right direction. So it’s more studying things, getting to really understand the offense, getting to really understand what the defense is doing. It’s a lot different playing guard as opposed to center.”
Attacking the task of learning a new position, Murray believes in the end the move will be the right one for him.
“I certainly do feel ... I just feel natural at center. I feel very natural. I feel like it's a position where you need both athletic ability and be able to have mental calmness, and being able to, at a time when everything's flying around, slow everything down and calm everybody, but also be able to bring that intensity back up,” he said. “I feel like center is the best position for me, just because I feel like I can hit those areas that need to be filled in that spot.
"I'm excited, stacking every day, trying to get better every day. Nowhere where I need to be at, but not where I started, too. Every day I get a chance to get better and prepare for this upcoming season.”
Murray had a good role model at the position, as he grew close to Humphrey toward the end of last year and tried to learn everything he could from the Sooner captain, he said.
“I just wanted to really tap into what he was doing. He had the blueprint to do what was right and I knew that,” Murray said. “I think a big part that Creed helped me with was just seeing the field in an easier way. I feel like everybody sees the field in their own way and you kinda have to find that, but giving me just little indicators, just a little here and there, to help me find my own process of how I see things.”
Anderson will hope to push Murray and McIver for the job, as the former 4-star Frisco, TX, product saw no time in his redshirt freshman season in 2020.
Congel, the Arizona transfer, worked all across the interior of the offensive line for the Wildcats as well, providing experience to the center competition.
Regardless who wins out, Bedenbaugh is very pleased with how the competition has been for his unit thus far.
“I think they’re all coming along. They’re all playing pretty well,” he said. “It’s a good competition. As long as we continue to improve we’ll be fine.”