It seems the Year of COVID was particularly hard on college football freshmen.
Some, like Oklahoma’s Andrew Raym, came in with great fanfare and even greater promise, and yet over the course of a shortened, disrupted season, progress was hard to find.
“You know, Raym was a guy that I thought was gonna start at some point last year,” said OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. “Then had the COVID situation, the contact trace, just had a bunch of things off the field that never really allowed him to gain the consistency to be on the field in a full-time role.
“And that was just part of the last year. It happened to a lot of guys.”
In Raym’s case, he was a consensus 4-star prospect and Under Armour All-American from Broken Arrow High School near Tulsa, a precociously powerful blocker with a good frame for college football — 6-foot-3, 300 pounds — and a high football IQ that gave him versatility to play almost any position on the line, with a bit of a mean streak on the field.
Raym was ranked the No. 41 overall prospect in the country by 247 Sports. ESPN ranked him as the No. 7 offensive tackle in the country, 247 Sports ranked him as the No. 1 offensive guard, and yet if Creed Humphrey jumped to the NFL last year, Raym might have played center for the Sooners.
“He’s unbelievably talented. We know that,” Bedenbaugh told SI Sooners Wednesday on a video press conference. “Yes, he can play a bunch of positions. He’s really focused on right guard right now. Can play left guard. We had him doing some center. He played some tackle — right tackle — last year into fall camp. But I think where he’s going to, you know, be a player for us is on the interior right now, any of those three positions.”
Raym showed up to training camp as advanced as just about any freshman offensive lineman the Sooners have had during the past decade, and — even with five returning starters — it seemed just a matter of time before he settled in somewhere and established himself.
But that didn’t happen last season — Raym got into nine games, played left guard and special teams and finished the season with 61 offensive snaps — and it still hasn’t happened this spring, Bedenbaugh said.
“The guys that hadn’t been here, the inexperienced guys, (COVID) hurt the most,” Bedenbaugh said. “You know? So I mean, it wasn’t like a guy that's played here and been here three years and misses a week or 10 days. Well, that doesn't affect them as much as a true freshman that hadn't been here. Those 10 days, I mean, they're devastating to a young guy that hadn't been here.”
With Humphrey now off to the NFL Draft, the Sooners have an immediate opening at center. But head coach Lincoln Riley said snaps at the center position so far this spring have gone to 2020 UCLA transfer Chris Murray, two-year backup Ian McIver, 2021 Arizona transfer Robert Congel and redshirt freshman Nate Anderson.
Raym is working at right guard, where rising senior Tyrese Robinson is a two-year starter.
“Just kind of focused on guard,” Bedenbaugh said. “He’s snapping, you know, after practice. He hasn't taken a bunch of reps in a team setting at center, but I feel good if he had to do that.
“But yeah he's doing a heck of a job right now. He's got to just relax and play, you know what I mean?”