NORMAN — Past, present and future Oklahoma offensive linemen expressed disappointment after Monday’s announcement that position coach James Patton accepted a new position at Indiana.
“I had no clue at all,” said Trinity Valley Community College tackle Josiah St. John, who was recruited by Patton and signed with the Sooners last week.
“It was disappointing. It really upset me. ... I was really looking forward to playing for him.”
Much of the early speculation regarding Patton’s replacement has centered around former Kansas coach Mark Mangino — OU’s offensive coordinator during its 2000 national-title run — although his return to Norman seems unlikely.
West Virginia offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh emerged Monday as a frontrunner for OU’s open position, according to a SoonerScoop.com report. Bedenbaugh coached several seasons under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and spent four years as an Arizona assistant on Mike Stoops’ staff.
Bedenbaugh’s reputation as a strong recruiter bolsters his candidacy; St. John was one of only three offensive line signees in Oklahoma’s 2013 recruiting class, despite OU coaches issuing more than 10 times as many scholarship offers to lineman prospects.
Christian Daimler, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound tackle from Houston, was the only 2013 high-school offensive lineman the Sooners signed.
“Our contact had kinda slowed down, so I kinda figured something was gonna happen,” Daimler said Monday. “I just didn’t know when.” Daimler said Patton direct messaged him on Twitter to deliver the news Monday morning.
“He wished me the best of luck, and told me he thinks I can be a great player at OU,” Daimler said.
Patton was the coach who offered Daimler his OU scholarship, and the two developed a close bond over the recruiting process.
“I’ve known him for quite a while now,” Daimler said. “He was honest with me all the time. He was the one who offered me, so we had a good connection. It’s gonna be weird not playing for him, but I definitely wish him the best of luck.
“You kinda have to go into this whole thing with an open mind, and know that I’m committed to Oklahoma, not Coach Patton. That’s something my coach in high school told me, just, ‘Don’t get too attracted to a single coach, because you don’t know how long they’re gonna be there.’”
Oklahoma’s offensive line labored through a difficult 2012 season, during which several linemen were injured and missed games. Two senior starters — Ben Habern and Tyler Evans — were lost for the season before it began, and starting guards Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead fought through various injuries throughout the year.
Still, the OU line performed admirably for the most part, considering its attrition. After allowing six sacks in OU’s first two games, opponents recorded just nine through Oklahoma’s final 11 contests.
Some current Oklahoma linemen took to Twitter on Monday morning to express their appreciation for Patton.
“Going to miss Coach Patton and I wish him the best of luck,” tweeted Irwin.
Senior center/guard Gabe Ikard tweeted, “Coach Patton is my favorite coach I’ve had. Taught me a lot about football and a lot about life. Really going to miss him.”
Patton first joined Oklahoma’s staff in 2006, and coached the entire offensive line for his first five seasons in Norman. Beginning last season, Bruce Kittle took over coaching tackles.
“If you messed up, he made sure you understood what you did wrong, and he was able to help correct the mistake you made,” said Eric Mensik, a first-team All-Big 12 tackle in 2010.
Mensik began his OU career as a tight end, but switched positions and credits Patton for his success.
“I went from being a 260 tight end to be a 310-pound lineman,” Mensik said.