NORMAN — On paper, Oklahoma could've had the most dominating offensive line in college football last season. But that potential didn't always manifest itself, despite NFL-caliber talents like 6-foot-5, 346-pound left guard Duke Robinson and 6-8, 351-pound left tackle Phil Loadholt. This spring, the Sooner coaches have deemed all five starting offensive line spots open for competition, which they are hoping will push last year's starters to perform with more consistency, intelligence and effort. "There are a lot of guys that are coming on that are going to have a chance to compete," coach Bob Stoops said. "Cory Brandon, Brian Simmons, Donald Stephenson and Jason Hannan are coming back. There are a number of guys that really have a chance. We've got to get them out there and get them working, and they'll have a chance to do that." But while it's unlikely that Brandon will beat out Loadholt or Hannan will pass center Jon Cooper on the depth chart, what the Sooners have discovered so far this spring is they might have their deepest offensive line in years. Brandon, Simmons, Stephenson and right tackle Trent Williams could probably start for several teams in the Big 12 right now. That doesn't even include incoming freshman tackle Stephen Good, who, if his high school powerlifting results are legit, would be the strongest player on the team right now. Good is talented and physically mature enough to compete for a spot in the rotation when he arrives on campus in the summer. "What happens in the spring is sometimes your second-team (offensive) line is not very good,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "We've had enough depth defensively where our second-team defense was as good as the first and we couldn't block anybody. "Now, we have second-team offensive linemen as good as those four defensive linemen. Our second line is not as vulnerable as you usually see in the spring. We can protect and block.” What does having a good, young second-team offensive line mean? First, that kind of competition for playing time will only make the collective whole better. Second, if any of the starters struggle or commit too many penalties, offensive line coach James Patton will be able to substitute without the offense missing too much of a beat. And third, when OU's loses all five offensive line starters to graduation after next season, the Sooners should reload more than they rebuild up front.
The offensive line that protects Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford could see some new faces this fall. This spring, OU coaches have opened all five starting spots for competition. BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVE