The Oklahoman

Raym is embracing change on O-line

- OU Insider Justin Martinez The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

NORMAN — This season is all about change for Andrew Raym.

When the Broken Arrow native committed to Oklahoma in 2019, he joined the team as a four-star recruit and the top-rated offensive guard in the country. But, after he was limited to 61 offensive snaps during his freshman campaign, the stars aligned for Raym to become the Sooners’ starting center.

The opportunit­y came with some high expectatio­ns.

Raym found himself tasked with replacing star center Creed Humphrey, who is now starting for the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie. Despite not having any previous experience at center, Raym expressed his confidence in the days leading up to this season.

“I do get that comment a lot about filling (Humphrey’s) shoes,” Raym said on Aug. 18. “I always say I’m not filling shoes. I’m going to mold my own pair.”

The molding process has taken some time, though.

Health issues caused Raym to only play 21 snaps in OU’s opener against Tulane, and he only took 30 snaps against Western Carolina in Week 2.

Raym saw his snap count increase to 52 in Week 3 against Nebraska, but he struggled at the new position. The sophomore center recorded a season-low offensive grade against the Cornhusker­s, and the Sooners’ offense got held to just 23 points.

The shaky showing didn’t help Raym, who still hadn’t pried the starting center spot away from redshirt senior Robert Congel.

“I don’t know if you can say (Raym) is taking over the center job,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said after the Nebraska game. “It’s pretty close between (Raym and Congel)... We’ll let them continue to battle.”

So, Raym battled.

He started spending more time in the film room. He met with offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh repeatedly to learn what to look for, and the added preparatio­n paid off on the field.

Raym claimed the starting center role over Congel the following week against West Virginia, but he faced another curveball against Texas in Week 6.

Riley benched star quarterbac­k Spencer Rattler in favor of true freshman Caleb Williams, who led the Sooners on an epic comeback to earn a 55-48 win.

The strong performanc­e by Williams establishe­d him as OU’s starter moving forward and left Raym to build his chemistry with a new quarterbac­k. The change didn’t bother Raym, who was used to adjusting on the fly at this point.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Raym said about the quarterbac­k change. “Our mindset as an offensive line doesn’t change for whoever is behind us. Caleb is doing a great job and leading the team well, but the offensive line is always going to have the same mindset.”

The offensive line’s mindset has been to improve every week, and it did just that in the following game against TCU.

The group allowed OU to run for an average of 6.6 yards per carry, and Raym recorded a season-high offensive grade in the process.

“(Raym) has learned,” Riley said. “He has started to grow up. He’s started to understand how to prepare. I think being in some position battles and having to really fight for playing time has been good for him because he’s had to really go after it... He’s got a chance to be a really good player.”

Riley isn’t the only person who is noticing Raym’s growth.

The sophomore’s improved play has helped OU’s run game tremendous­ly, and Kennedy Brooks is the main beneficiary. The redshirt junior back is averaging 119.5 rushing yards per contest since Raym joined the first unit.

“(Raym) has matured a lot,” Brooks said. “His attention to knowing the defensive schemes and knowing where to go, understand­ing other peoples’ jobs... He’s getting better every single week. But we’ve all still got a lot to go, so I can’t wait to see what happens.”

Raym can’t wait either.

The former Broken Arrow star is getting better with every snap, and he isn’t satisfied just yet.

“I’m definitely not where I want to be,” Raym said. “There needs to be an improvemen­t in every part of my game.”

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