NORMAN — Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said competition on the offensive line is closer than it's been in recent years. That's why the staff might consider rotating in a few reserves.
An offensive line is viewed as a cohesive group that needs to play together. O-linemen are different than wide receivers, defensive tackles or other positions where backups routinely rotate in.
While it's still ideal to have five clear-cut starters that develop chemistry to pick up blitzes and produce gaping holes for running backs, some teams no longer play all five offensive linemen all 80 snaps.
"Some guys may only play 45 or 55 snaps a game," Wilson said. "Maybe because we don't have a phenomenally superior great one, maybe our second guy is about good as the (starter). We'll see... Will all 12 guys play? No. But the space from 12 to 1 is a lot closer than it's been the past couple of years."
Some coaches insert the second-team unit a few series every game. Others pick spots to insert a reserve or two.
The trick is finding opportunities to rotate in offensive linemen.
"The biggest thing is, do you rotate after a non-scoring drive or do you leave the same five in after a scoring drive until they get stopped?" said offensive line coach James Patton. "There are different rotations you can use.
"But you look at the defensive line. The defense rotates guys in. You want fresh bodies. But you also want consistency, guys playing together, guys getting comfortable. It's hard as a line coach to rotate a guy or two every series. You want to see how guys are clicking."
Still, there can be benefits to playing reserves.
"When you look at 13- or 14-game haul over 18 weeks, can somebody hold up?" Wilson said. "Can a guy start and play all 80 snaps in week three, week five all the way through? There's greater competition with some second-team guys pushing some first-team guys. Maybe some guys will split time."