Oklahoma’s offense under the tutelage of Lincoln Riley has been one of the most productive units in college football the past few years. Various factors were instrumental in the Sooner’s consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Riley’s scheme, recruiting, Heisman trophy-winning quarterbacks and outstanding wide receiver play. However, none may be more important than the impressive offensive line the Sooners have enjoyed the last few years.
This offensive success isn’t achieved without the reliable pass-protection and constant movement of the line of scrimmage in the positive direction. Give credit where credit is due. I believe the catalyst that keeps Lincoln’s machine churning out top offenses is offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. His unit continues to produce at the highest level in college football. This past season, coach Bedenbaugh’s hog mollies took home the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in college football.
The Sooners have lost four starting offensive linemen from last year’s squad. Starting left tackle Bobby Evans, a 2018 All-Big 12 2nd-Team Offensive Lineman, is now fighting for playing time with the Los Angeles Rams. Ben Powers, the Sooners’ starting left guard the past three seasons and 2018 All-Big 12 1st-Team offensive lineman, is now with the Baltimore Ravens. Dru Samia, a 2018 AP All-American and last season’s right guard and four-year starter under Coach Bedenbaugh, is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Cody Ford, last season’s right tackle, 2018 AP All-American, and the most highly regarded NFL talent of the four, is now a predicted starter for the Buffalo Bills.
Consistent offensive line production is gone. Multi-year starters and their national accolades have moved on to the NFL. So, now what for Bedenbaugh’s offensive line group?
One would think that the cupboard is completely bare after losing four of five starters, but there are young guys on campus that have been waiting in the wings. They have also been working their tails off preparing for their moment. Bedenbaugh has recruited at a high level nationally, and he is known for his ability to develop and mold incoming freshmen into NFL-prototype road graders.
Here is a run-down of who the Sooners’ have on campus in their offensive line room, position-by-position player break-downs.
Oklahoma Offensive Linemen To Get To Know
OT – Adrian Ealy
The 6-foot-6, 326-pound redshirt sophomore played in five games last season. He is the safest bet to line up as the starting right tackle for the September 1 matchup with Houston.
Per Rivals, Ealy was a former four-star recruit and was ranked as the 179th overall player in the country for the 2017 recruiting class. He signed with the Sooners over notable offers from LSU, Texas, Michigan, and Florida State.
Being on campus for several years, he has had the invaluable opportunity to learn the system under current NFL players Orlando Brown Jr, Bobby Evans and Cody Ford. Look for Ealy to make a big splash helping lead the Sooners’ offense up front.
OT – Erik Swenson
Coming out of spring practices, Erik Swenson was Bill Bedenbaugh’s starting left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 317-pound redshirt junior is finally able to get his chance. Injuries, and sitting behind NFL talent, has stalled Swenson’s career to date. He is hoping the 2019 season yields different results.
Being on campus for several years and knowing Bedenbaugh’s system gives him the leg up on the competition for the left tackle position.
However, the injury bug got him once again. A fall camp injury left him sidelined for multiple days, but there is no doubt that Swenson will be a valuable piece for Bedenbaugh and the Sooners’ offensive line. That is, if he can stay healthy.
OT – R.J. Proctor
Coach Riley and the Sooners’ coaching staff were busy shopping the graduate transfer market in the off season. They cashed in with some immediate help. Most notably by reeling in starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and offensive lineman RJ Proctor.
Proctor, a 6-foot-4, 337-pound transfer from Virginia, is fighting for a starting spot at left tackle. Regardless, he will unquestionably provide quality and experienced depth. I have him listed as an offensive tackle here, but look for Bedenbaugh to use the versatile Proctor at guard if needed.
OT – Finley Felix
Bedenbaugh is no stranger to signing JUCO transfers. It’s paid off in the past with quality depth, and a gem in three-year starting guard Ben Powers. Coach Bedenbaugh hopes he’s hit the jackpot once again with Finley Felix, a Junior out of Coffeyville Junior College.
Per Rivals, Felix was the number 21 overall JUCO recruit, and he chose the Sooners over notable offers from Louisville, West Virginia, and Iowa State. Look for the 6-foot-5, 314-pound big man to turn some heads leading up to the season opener. Felix is in the fight for the starting left tackle position, but there is little doubt that he will provide well-needed depth at guard and tackle positions.
OT – Michael Thompson
A key piece of the Sooner’s 2018 recruiting class was defensive tackle Michael Thompson. Yes, defensive tackle. That wasn’t a typo.
Thompson redshirted last season to fully recover from a torn ACL. This off-season, changes took place starting with the hire of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Grinch brought changes to the defensive line in wanting slim, quick defensive linemen. Thompson didn’t fit the mold at defensive tackle, and Coach Bedenbaugh gladly welcomed him to the offensive side of the ball.
Per Rivals, Thompson, out of St. Louis, Missouri, was rated as the 96th overall recruit. The prized-recruit chose Oklahoma over offers from Alabama, USC, and Missouri.
Standing in at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, he has incredible potential to become a dancing bear at offensive tackle. Bedenbaugh believes Thompson has a bright future as a road-grader. I believe he will become that guy for the Sooners as soon as next season.
OT – David Swaby
Coach Bedenbaugh knew that redshirt sophomore David Swaby would be a project when he signed him out of Navarro Junior College a year ago. The 6-foot-9 big man looked more like a basketball player a year ago, but hard work has paid off this off-season. He is now up 319 pounds.
Look for Swaby to provide depth in the rotation this season, but unless there are multiple injuries, don’t expect Swaby to crack the two-deep depth chart.
OT – Stacey Wilkins
Bedenbaugh signed his prized-offensive tackle recruit this past cycle in Stacey Wilkins. The 6-foot-6, 309-pound true freshman was ranked the 78th overall recruit in the nation by Rivals. He chose Oklahoma over notable offers from Georgia, Clemson, Texas, and Arkansas.
Length and quickness are strong points for Wilkins. Look for Wilkins to play in four or less games utilizing the new redshirt rule. Wilkins will benefit from a year in a college strength and conditioning program. Look for Wilkins to contribute as soon as next season as his frame and agility scream potential.
OG – Marquis Hayes
Replacing three-year starting guard Ben Powers is a tough task, so Marquis Hayes has big shoes to fill. He will be that guy to take over Power’s role in the offense.
The 6-foot-5, 332-pound redshirt sophomore was the 134th overall recruit ranked by Rivals in the 2017 recruiting class. Hayes is a mountain of a man who I fully expect to demoralize defensive linemen this season. Look for Hayes to have a big season at left guard for the Sooners. An all-conference type season is not out of the question for Hayes.
OG – Tyrese Robinson
Coach Bedenbaugh has had success building experienced depth over the years. Tyrese Robinson is a guy who’s starting his third year in the program. He sat behind Dru Samia who’s now with the Minnesota Vikings, but in doing so, Robinson has grown into what Bedenbaugh is looking for in a starting offensive guard.
Robinson knows the system and expectations of what it takes to be successful. He has a grown into a sturdy 6-foot-3, 328-pound right guard that has the quickness and agility to beat the guy in front of him and set up the block. Coming out of spring ball, Robinson was the starter. I believe he starts the season as right guard and gives the Sooners a reliable interior body.
OG – Brey Walker
Brey Walker has been Bedenbaugh’s most-prized recruit since the coach has joined the Sooners. Walker was the 35th overall recruit in the class of 2018 according to Rivals. The 6-foot-6, 343-pound redshirt freshman had offers from top-tier programs such as Alabama, LSU, and Georgia, but chose to stay in his home state and play in front of family and friends.
Walker’s versatility, physicality and size make him a potential NFL first-round pick. Walker is learning and maturing under the guidance of Bedenbaugh. Look for things to start clicking for him as the season progresses.
I don’t believe he starts versus Houston, but don’t be surprised to see the big man roll out with the starters come October 12 in the Red River Showdown. Bedenbaugh has a history of mixing up the starting group early in the season to get his best five offensive linemen on the field. I don’t expect that to change, and I think Walker will progress into being one of those five guys.
OG – Darrell Simpson
Brey Walker is massive, but he wasn’t the largest recruit in the 2018 recruiting haul. Meet Darrell Simpson. The redshirt freshman stands in at an imposing 6-foot-7 and 349 pounds. The highly recruited offensive lineman chose OU over notable offers from Auburn, Georgia, and Ohio State.
I don’t believe Simpson will crack the two-deep this season, but with possible injuries, he’s right there in line for quality playing time. With his large frame, Bedenbaugh is licking his chops hoping the big man can find his footing to be a mauler in the coming years.
OG – Marcus Alexander
A big senior season at Sunnyvale High School bumped Marcus Alexander to a four-star rating in Rivals’ recruiting rankings. Alexander was not known by many going into the season, but Coach Bedenbaugh recruited him for the potential Alexander has as a road-grading offensive guard.
As a true freshman this season, don’t expect Alexander to contribute on Saturdays. Most likely he will redshirt as he continues to improve in Bedenbaugh’s system. Look for him to contribute in the coming years.
C – Creed Humphrey
Everybody donning the crimson and cream knows Humphrey is the most important piece of the Sooner’s group up front. He is the lone starter from last season’s award-winning offensive line. Humphrey is the spearhead of Coach Riley’s attack, and he needs to be as he directs the four new starters.
Look for the freshman All-American to have a big redshirt sophomore campaign. I believe he will be a consensus All-American this season; anchoring the Sooners to another top offense.
C – EJ Ndoma-Ogar
Coach Bedenbaugh signed EJ Ndoma-Ogar hoping he will progress, develop, and eventually take over at center for Humphrey when he leaves for the NFL. The talented Ndoma-Ogar chose Oklahoma over notable offers from Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Michigan.
He has the talent and mental make-up to succeed as the anchor of the offensive line. Look for the big man to develop behind Humphrey. A redshirt year makes sense and is most likely barring any injuries. The future is bright for Ndoma-Ogar, and I have a feeling he will be a fan favorite before he departs from Norman.