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Sooners return more experienced offensive line

By Mike Baldwin, Staff Writer, Modified: August 8, 2010 at 11:29 am •  Published: August 7, 2010

— During two-a-days a year ago, the offensive line was viewed as Oklahoma's biggest concern. When a rash of injuries mounted throughout the season, the line was singled out as the primary reason the Sooners lost five games.

One benefit to starting nine different offensive line combinations was several young players were forced into action and gained experience. Eight returning offensive linemen started at least one game. And that doesn't include Donald Stephenson, a projected starter who was suspended all last season.

Still, the offensive line once again is viewed as one of OU's biggest question marks entering the 2010 season.

With the top three blockers — Trent Williams, Brian Simmons and Brody Eldridge — gone, a couple of late-season fill-ins are starters.

"It gave guys more reps," said offensive line coach James Patton. "A guy like Eric Mensik was moved from tight end to tackle. Those were valuable reps. Obviously going through the spring helped him. Factor in the five young guys, two that were here in the spring, I feel good about it.

"If guys can be consistent and not make stupid penalties, and not have missed assignments, if we improve our consistent play we should be better than we were a year ago."

Quarterback Sam Bradford's shoulder injury in the season opener is what most fans remember about a season in which the offense failed to match expectations.

But quarterback play was pretty solid. Though Landry Jones had a few bad games, it was the inability to consistently establish a running game that hampered the Sooners offensively.

OU averaged 3.5 yards per carry. It was the Sooners' third lowest average in 62 years; their lowest since 2001.

Talk of DeMarco Murray possibly leading the conference in rushing will be influenced by how the offensive line plays.

"Truthfully, I'm really excited about our offensive line," said coach Bob Stoops. "It has a chance to be much, much better than people think. They gained a lot of experience with a lot of those young guys. They really had a great year in the weight room and in spring ball with how they competed."

When two-a-days opened, Stephenson started at left tackle, Stephen Good at left guard, Ben Habern at center, Tyler Evans at right guard and Mensik at right guard.

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