Of­fen­sive line a plus

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

Ok­la­homa State coach Mike Gundy is pumped about next sea­son’s of­fen­sive line.

— Ok­la­homa State’s of­fen­sive line was go­ing through drills on the far end of the Sherman Smith Train­ing Cen­ter while coach Mike Gundy of­fered his thoughts about how good that group could be next fall.

Well, not that spe­cific group. Not all of them any­way.

The five of­fen­sive line­men who were work­ing as the first team that day at a spring prac­tice in the mid­dle of April in­cluded maybe two play­ers who will start when Mis­souri State ar­rives at Boone Pick­ens Sta­dium on Sept. 1.

Yet Gundy’s out­look wasn’t tem­pered.

“I would be shocked if our of­fen­sive line play is not bet­ter than it was last year,” Gundy said.

“The po­ten­tial six guys who could play the ma­jor­ity of the first few games have enough ex­pe­ri­ence, strength and ex­per­tise to be suc­cess­ful, in my opin­ion.”

For the ma­jor­ity of spring prac­tice, the of­fen­sive line con­sisted of Johnny Wil­son at cen­ter, Shane Richards and Deionte Noel at guards, Teven Jenk­ins and Ar­ling­ton Ham­bright at tack­les.

Richards and Ham­bright red­shirted last year. Noel played spar­ingly in a backup role. Jenk­ins filled in for in­jured starters on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions. Only Wil­son started more than a cou­ple times, fill­ing in for Brad Lund­blade at cen­ter, then tak­ing over at right guard to serve as a starter for the ma­jor­ity of Big 12 play.

So the ex­pe­ri­ence of the spring crew wasn’t ex­ten­sive. But that will change in fall.

Mar­cus Keyes, a twoyear starter at left guard, was out af­ter shoul­der surgery. Right guard Larry Wil­liams was out await­ing an NCAA rule change that re­sulted in him be­ing granted a sixth year of eli­gi­bil­ity.

Dy­lan Gal­loway, who was the backup at left tackle and will com­pete with Ham­bright for the start­ing job in fall, was also out fol­low­ing shoul­der surgery.

Keyes, a ju­nior with more than 20 starts un­der his belt, had to ad­just to be­ing on the side­lines for the spring.

“It was kinda weird sit­ting down and not get­ting into the ac­tion,” he said. “But I un­der­stand I had to get healthy and get my arm back to­gether. I was there to teach the young guys what they can do to get bet­ter.

“With Larry com­ing back, we’re gonna have a great of­fen­sive line. We’ll just get bet­ter as a group. Stronger, tougher, and now that he’s back, we have an­other leader to help the young guys.”

Wil­liams had to sit and watch as he awaited the NCAA vote on a rule change, which oc­curred 10 days be­fore OSU closed spring prac­tice.

His sixth year was ap­proved just a few days be­fore the spring game, but he didn’t get the chance to get in­volved in any team ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It was tough, be­cause I’ve had the same feel­ing since I got hurt, not know­ing what’s gonna hap­pen, which di­rec­tion I’m head­ing,” Wil­liams said.

“The feel­ings were dif­fer­ent ev­ery day. Some days I was pos­i­tive, some days I was neg­a­tive. It caught me at a bad spot. I wasn’t my­self. I felt like I was part of some­thing, but I wasn’t part of some­thing. I’m ex­cited that it’s of­fi­cial.”

[PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Ok­la­homa State’s Larry Wil­liams, left, was granted a sixth year of eli­gi­bil­ity by the NCAA and will re­turn to his start­ing spot, boost­ing the tal­ent of the Cow­boys’ of­fen­sive line next fall.

Scott Wright swright@ oklahoman.com

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