Q&A: OU lineman Gabe Ikard's 50-plus pound weight gain an easy target for teammate Ben Habern
NORMAN — Unlike last season, the Sooners return six players with experience on the offensive line.
Junior Ben Habern started each game last season at center, while sophomore Gabe Ikard, a Bishop McGuinness graduate, is expected to start at left guard after playing in every game last season.
DUO THEY MOST RESEMBLE
Timon and Pumbaa (Lion King)
Timon, the meerkat, has a unique sense of humor like Ikard, who enjoys making others laugh and has been known to fire a snappy one-liner.
Pumbaa, the warthog, is steady like Habern, who makes sure the offensive line knows all of its checks and can have some fun, sometimes at Timon's expense.
Habern told Ikard: “You have a big butt like Pumbaa.”
Ikard responded: “And you have little hands like Timon.”
FROM THE COACH
Offensive line coach James Patton on OU's offensive line
“As a group we have some game experience so we should be better than last year. We have some young guys who will push (the starters) and make us better every week. We need to be more physical run blocking and do a good job pass protecting, pick up blitzes, give Landry (Jones) time to get passes off. We're making pretty good strides but we still have a lot of work to do.”
OU OFFENSIVE LINE DYNAMIC DUO
Mark Hutson & Anthony Phillips, 1985-87
Offensive line coach Merv Johnson moved both Phillips and Hutson from tackle to guard, and the result was perhaps the best O-line in OU history during the great 33-3 three-year run they were together.
Phillips is one of only three Sooners to make all-conference four times. He was an all-American in 1986, then returned to all-American status in 1988, the year after Hutson left.
Hutson started as a freshman in 1984, then moved to guard and with Phillips made Jamelle Holieway's wishbone sing. Hutson was all-Big Eight three times and made all-American in both 1986 and 1987.
A veteran unit with 81 career starts needs to be more physical but the O-line helped the offense average 481.4 yards. Center Ben Habern is a preseason All-Big 12 selection.
LT Donald Stephenson
LG Gabe Ikard
C Ben Habern
RG Tyler Evans
RT Daryl Williams
TE James Hanna
LT Lane Johnson
LG Stephen Good
C Austin Woods
RG Adam Shead
RT Lane Johnson
TE Trent Ratterree
Unit grade: B
A solid but unspectacular group that has something to prove.
Last season, though, the offensive line was a big concern for the Sooners, but it instead helped them win the Big 12 Championship and the Fiesta Bowl.
The 6-foot-4, 292-pound Habern recorded 123 knockdowns last season and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention by The Associated Press. He also started 10 games his freshman season at center before suffering a season-ending injury against Texas Tech.
Ikard, who is now 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds after entering OU as a tight end, started 12 of 14 games last season and was an Academic All-Big 12 first team member behind his 4.0 GPA.
What is your relationship like?
Habern: (Laughs) Gabe's one of my really good friends. Gah, he's out of control. He cracks me up all the time. We always give him a hard time because he came in as a tight end and he was 245 pounds and now he's 295, so he's gained like 50 pounds. We give him a hard time and joke around with him, but we love joking around with each other and give each other a hard time.
Ikard: Very close, since I really didn't know him that well until I switched to the offensive line. We just get along really well. He's a great guy and fun to be around.
Habern likes to cook, does Ikard get involved or just eat the food?