STILLWATER — Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline often plays “Musical Chairs” with his players, but he's never has been one to tap-dance around issues.
When the Cowboys have been weak up front, Wickline has said so.
“There have been a few years here where we've had to recruit awfully hard to get the top five,” said Wickline, now in his seventh season at OSU. “I'm recruiting the guys from our defense. I'm recruiting guys from special teams. I'm doing whatever I need to do to get five guys on the field. I moved guys right. I moved guys left. I used to move everybody around. But at the end of the day, the only change I've got is to cover up five of their guys for as long as possible. Who it is, what side he plays, it doesn't matter.”
This year's line shows tremendous promise, and Wickline has said so.
“I think you always look to find eight guys – a third tackle, a third guard and a second center,” Wickline said. "That may not be determined until the end of fall camp, but I do know this, I think we have a lot of quality players on both levels, and that brings your competition.”
This fall is a far cry from the previous fall, when the Cowboys had to replace unanimous first-team All-American left tackle Russell Okung, the No. 6 overall selection in the NFL Draft, and three other starting offensive linemen.
“At this time last year, it was like, ‘Can you get five together?'” Wickline said. “We lost some pretty big guys, but even then I thought, ‘We've got some good guys. They haven't played a lot, but they're good guys. It means a lot to them, they're athletic, they want to be good players.'”
Though OSU was gifted at the skilled positions in 2010, expectations were tempered because of an inexperienced offensive line. What transpired was astounding as the Cowboys finished No. 2 nationally in passing offense (345.85 yards), No. 3 in total offense (520.23 yards) and scoring (44.23 points) and No. 7 in sacks allowed (.77).
Former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and fellow assistants played a wonderful game of mix-and-match with the talent they had last year and wound up setting a school record for victories in a season (11-2).
“I won't mind saying, the scheme was a big part of our success,” Wickline said. “Our defense got a lot of turnovers. I think it was a nucleus of a lot of things, but what they (the offensive linemen) did was good.”
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