University of Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was asked Tuesday which offensive lineman had graded out the best so far this season.
Wilson said veteran Ben Habern had graded out the highest, but part of that was because he plays center, a position rarely put into one-on-one blocking situations. Wilson went on to praise guard Gabe Ikard and right tackle Eric Mensik, both converted tight ends from last season.
â€œI think Gabe Ikard has made a ton of progress and has probably played close or as well as anyone as a young guy,â€ Wilson said. â€œNext would probably be Eric Mensik. The other guys, we've had some here's a good game, a couple games below average. Last week Brian Lepak played a little bit more on senior day and did a pretty good job. But I think those two guys, Gabe and Eric. ... they still get overpowered once in a while, but those two guys have been the best.â€
Wilson admits it's still been tough sledding to get the run game going at times against bigger defensive lines because both Ikard and Mensik continue to play undersized. Nowhere was that more evident than during the three goal line stands Texas A&M made two weeks ago. According to Wilson, one solution is to find ways to utilize the athleticism of Ikard and Mensik to ignite the run game.
â€œThis week, they're playing against 330 and 340 (pounds) inside and 280 and 270 at end. It's a thick crowd,â€ Wilson said. â€œWhatever it is, whether we're pulling or zoning or angles or whatever schemes we're doing, we're going to have to find something in the run game. When we get where we don't run the football, we're a much easier team to defend. Whether we're knocking them off or whatever, we've got to get some run-game going.â€
The player with the most talent up front in the minds of the coaches has not been playing up to his early-season level the last couple of weeks. That's left tackle Donald Stephenson.
Both Stephenson and Mensik struggled to deal with the outside pressure presented in the loss at Texas A&M.
â€œHe was pretty good at midseason,â€ Wilson said. â€œThe last couple games he hasn't played horribly, but has not quite graded at the percentage we consider a winning, championship rate. He's been OK.â€
FINISH IT OFF
The Sooners rank No. 19 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 35 points a game. But only three teams â€” Stanford, TCU and Nevada â€” have been in the red zone more than OU. Who knows how many points the Sooners would be averaging if they didn't have the nation's No. 100 red-zone offense.
â€œYou'd like to think you'd be higher than where you are scoring with those chances,â€ Wilson said. â€œWe'll need to move the ball this week, but we've never prided ourselves on how many yards per game. Every game, you've got to score points.â€
BROYLES LIMITED IN PRACTICE
Due to a pair of sore ankles, receiver Ryan Broyles is being limited in Monday and Thursday practices in order to keep him fresh. The Sooners, however, won't be limiting him on game days, including on punt returns.
â€œHe's too good at it,â€ coach Bob Stoops said. â€œHe can make a big play there. It's too important.â€
RETURN OF MADU?
After fumbling in back-to-back games against Iowa State and Missouri, running back Mossis Madu was benched for two games.
But in the rout of Texas Tech on Saturday, Madu was given another chance and made the most of it, rushing for 72 yards on nine carries.
â€œI thought Mossis did an excellent job last week and was excited for him that he did so well,â€ Stoops said. â€œWe'll see how things go this week and what Mossis' roleâ€ will be.Â
SHADES OF 2006
This season, OU will end the year with away games at Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Only one other time since 1986 has OU had to close the regular season with back-to-back road games. The other came in 2006. That Sooner team, however, took care of Baylor, then outlasted OSU 27-21 before winning the Big 12 Championship 21-7 over Nebraska.
â€œWe kept fighting and working,â€ Stoops said. â€œPaul Thompson was a special young guy at quarterback that really pulled us together. I remember as a true freshman, Jermaine Gresham catching that ball off the goal line in the Big 12 Championship game.Â
â€œWe had to fight for everything that year. I remember that year that everywhere we went was a real struggle. Those guys made the plays that made the difference.â€Â
Wilson, on ending the questions about going on the road:
â€œTo me it's about beating Baylor. Whether it be in the parking lot or the bus or the hotel or wherever, we've got to win a football game. We've got to win this game for everything we want.â€