NORMAN — On a late night in early July, they gathered. Seniors Brian Simmons and Trent Williams sent out the call: meet at Williams’ house.
The offensive line had business to conduct. In the spring, coach Bob Stoops delivered the first thump, referring to his offensive line as the team’s "weak link.” He struck again in May, sending sophomore Alex Williams back to the bayou for good at the start of the summer, saying he wasn’t "doing what he needed to do.” Finally, in July, the offensive line took its hand off the snooze button, ready to put a real start to the season. "Honestly, we were just going through the motions,” said freshman center Ben Habern. Stoops made it clear after the spring that if changes weren’t made, nothing would stop him from handing another lineman a ticket home. So Simmons and Williams, the only experienced leftovers from one of the best offensive lines in college football, took the first step in making sure Stoops wouldn’t need to inspire their young unit anymore. That was their job. "I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to have some leadership this year, big time,’ ” said sophomore Stephen Good. "Taking responsibility for us, that meant a lot to me.” Inside, members of the line articulated just how much they cared about each other. Together, they made sure the past six forgettable months would never be repeated. "I didn’t know some guys cared as much about it as I did,” Simmons said. "After that meeting, I did.” Paired with Stoops’ motivational moves, the hour-long meeting inspired the line to go out of its way to make amends for their coach’s time spent wondering how he’d keep his Heisman-winning quarterback on his feet and not on his back. Voluntary workouts became appetizers for "involuntary” extra work after the rest of the team left.