STILLWATER — Then there was that time Parker Graham played center.
It was a short-lived experiment during Oklahoma State's winter training in 2010. With Andrew Lewis gone — and with Grant Garner yet to emerge as Lewis' successor — offensive line coach Joe Wickline wanted several players to try their hand at snapping the football.
“It was atrocious,” Graham recalled with a laugh. “It was bad. I actually ended up being pretty good at it (eventually). I ended up playing tackle that year, so it was no big deal there.”
Wickline, of course, is known to flip and flop and mix and match his way to concocting a consistently sound offensive line. That means learning multiple positions is a requirement for any player who steps into Wick's World.
No one exemplifies that versatility more than Graham as the Cowboys move closer to the start of the 2013 season. He's lined up at every spot on the line at some point in his career, whether it was in a game, a practice or a random offseason workout.
That certainly makes Graham valuable. But Wickline recently went even further than that, calling Graham one of the top offensive linemen — and thus, one of the most underrated, based on preseason projections — in the Big 12.
“You're going to have a difficult time finding a bunch better than him,” Wickline said. “He's tall, he's long and he's a very serious guy about his game. He's got a ridiculously good bend and is quick off the ball.
“He's got good hands and he's graduated and getting his Master's degree and he's gotten really strong.”
Graham first occasionally cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2011, primarily lining up at right tackle. Then just before fall camp began in 2012, he flipped to the left side when projected starter Michael Bowie was dismissed. During this past spring, he worked some at right guard, the spot Lane Taylor vacated after four seasons. And when Wickline rattled his first unit earlier this fall, Graham was at left guard.
“I was switched around so much as a young guy in the program,” Graham said, “it kind of just became not even a big deal to me to just do whatever Coach Wick needed me to do.”
Not bad for a guy who only played tackle (and, briefly, some tight end) at Webb City (Mo.) High School.
But when Graham arrived at OSU in 2009, learning how to play anywhere on the line was not his biggest adjustment. It was learning how to pass block.
His high school ran a split-back veer offense, an option system made famous by Bill Yeoman at Houston in the 1960s and 70s, and passed about once a game, Graham estimates.
Not exactly OSU's formula for moving the football, particularly when the Cowboys switched to the Air Raid spread in 2010.
Graham admits he got “knocked on (his) butt” a bunch early in his career as he picked up the proper technique. But throughout his career, he's bulked up to 315 pounds to go with his towering height of 6-7 and solid athleticism. And now he's the most experienced Cowboy offensive lineman, entering 2013 with 18 starts.
Wickline insists that it's not a completely daunting task to play multiple positions, which is why he demands that versatility from his players. Graham admits it can feel awkward at first, particularly when switching sides, but that it was easy to quickly teach is mind and body how to flip back and forth.
When asked where he lined up during Saturday's final scrimmage of fall camp, Graham mentioned both guard and tackle. No big surprise there.
So now that he's gotten a taste of every offensive line spot, does he have a preference?
“It's fun to do both things,” Graham said. “Tackle, you get to be out on the edge and be more athletic. Guard, you can just go in there and get nasty with somebody (inside).
“I've got things I like about both, but in the end, I'll just play wherever Coach needs me to play.”