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Berry Tramel: College football's changes diminish the value of the offensive line

by Berry Tramel Published: July 11, 2009
OSU creates run-game space with its spread.

"What offenses have found, when you’re running two-back (non-spread), it goes back to personnel,” said State offensive line coach Joe Wickline. "What you can get on the bus.”

But since teams decided to quit losing games before they started, outmanned offenses can spread out, making defenses line up sideline to sideline, and create gaps.

"When you get enough of that going on, then you hand it off and run right down the middle,” Wickline said. "That gives defenses problems. Are you going to defend the core or defend the flat?”

Please understand. This is no pronouncement that offensive lines don’t matter anymore. Blocking still ranks with tackling as central to this game.

"You still gotta get hats on hats, no matter what the scheme is,” said OU O-line coach James Patton.

The Sooners know that better than most. Put a hat on Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis on those two goal-line plays last January, and maybe the Sooners are national champs.

OU still likes to play smashmouth on occasional downs, which is why they still make room for Haystack Calhouns on the line.

But there is no question that offensive lines’ value has diminished.

There once was no other way to move the football other than knock defenders off the ball or give the quarterback ample time to throw. The Big Ten model reigned supreme; 300-pounders with tree trunks for necks opening holes for hard-charging tailbacks.

Not so anymore, in these days of Mike Leach and Boise State and Wake Forest making the Orange Bowl.

"Lot of ways to skin a cat,” Wickline said. Some of those ways include spreading the field and letting defenders go unblocked, because they’ll be too far out of position to make a play.

You don’t need meat packers for that.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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