Maybe the biggest personnel question mark for the Oklahoma Sooners this season will be the offensive line.
But Lincoln Riley is currently working toward answering at least some of those questions.
Primary is the center position. Who replaces three-year starter and two-time captain Creed Humphrey?
Fifth-year senior Ian McIver (6-3, 311) has backed up Humphrey for two years. Senior 2020 transfer Chris Murray (6-3, 279) was a guard last year but he began his career at UCLA as a center. Fifth-year senior and transfer Robert Congel (6-4, 319) was a guard at Arizona, but walked on at Texas A&M as a center, played guard and also got time snapping the ball in Tucson. And redshirt freshman Nate Anderson (6-4, 279) has gotten snaps there this spring as well, Riley said.
“Those four guys right now are getting reps at center,” Riley said, “so we’ve got some nice depth. Yeah, those guys are doing a good job so far.”
The offensive tackle spots aren’t in flux like center, but the competition at both positions might be some of the most intense on the team.
Junior and Tennessee transfer Wanya Morris (6-5, 313) was a two-year starter in Knoxville and is a former 5-star recruit. Sophomore Anton Harrison (6-5, 317) got plenty of game reps at left tackle with the first team as a true freshman in 2020. Redshirt freshman Stacey Wilkins (6-6, 316) was in line for first-team reps last year when he chose to opt out, but he’s back. Sixth-year senior Erik Swenson (6-5, 329) is a two-year starter at left tackle but Riley said is getting time inside as well. And redshirt freshman Noah Nelson (6-7, 307) has gotten early looks this spring.
“Yeah, it’s still early enough we’re working the majority of those guys at multiple positions, Wanya included,” Riley said. “We’ve got a group of tackles we’re excited about and we’ll continue to see how it evolves. We’ve got a few guys like Wanya and Anton, Noah Nelson, Stacey Wilkins — those guys are probably straight tackles only.”
Things seem more settled at guard, where fifth-year senior Tyrese Robinson (6-3, 326) on the right side and fifth-year senior Marquis Hayes (6-5, 335) are both two-year starters. But fourth-year junior Brey Walker (6-6, 353) has gotten playing time there. And sophomore Andrew Raym (6-3, 304) came up as a center, starred at offensive tackle in high school and got 61 snaps at guard last year, could step in.
Clearly, if Swenson is getting snaps at guard, then Riley and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh must be looking to upgrade the level of production there — if only by increasing the competition.
Three names that will be looking to make a mark this spring are young or inexperienced but came in as talented prospects and might just need their chance: redshirt freshman Aaryn Parks (6-5, 301), third-year sophomore Marcus Alexander (6-3, 315) and fourth-year junior Darrell Simpson (6-7, 358).
“We still have the handful of guys like Tyrese (he started two games at right tackle in 2019) and Erik Swenson (he has one start at right tackle and 18 at left tackle) and a couple of those guys are going to be able to play both and also give us some flexibility there as well.”