January 19, 2013

2013 Outlook Series: Offensive Line

Now that we're through the defensive positions, we'll move to the other side of the ball and look at the Oklahoma State scoring machine.

Of all the positions for the Pokes, none is harder to figure out than the offensive line, and what coach Joe Wickline may pull out of his hat when the season rolls around.

Coach Wick is known as an offensive line mastermind who somehow puts together one of the best units around no matter what pieces he's given.

This year, he has his work cut out for him yet again.

Key Losses

Lane Taylor: 49 career starts, offensive line captain, First team All-Big 12.

Jonathan Rush: Sixth-year senior, 24 career starts, rotational player for a majority of 2012.

Evan Epstein: Starting center in 2012.

Outlook: As of right now, the starting O-line likely looks like this for Wickline…

LT: Parker Graham
LG: Brandon Webb
C: Jake Jenkins
RT: Daniel Koenig and/or Parker Graham

The right guard spot left open by Taylor's absence is intriguing, and I'm not too sure how it will be handled just yet. With that in mind, it's really the only question mark for this unit going into both spring and fall camps.

When you look at an offensive line setup, usually your bigger guys (in the 6'4-6'7 range as far as height goes) will be at the tackle positions to handle big defensive ends. Their length also helps as they have more ground to cover.

Then as you head towards the inside to the guards and center spots, you have the shorter linemen (6'3-6'4 range) that are more compact to handle the heavier defensive tackles. They like the shorter linemen on the inside because not only is it easier to get leverage, but guards are also the most likely player on the line to pull-block and lead-block, and a shorter guy is usually a bit faster than a taller one.

One solution is taking either Koenig or Graham (It would probably be Koenig, as he's a bit shorter at 6'5-6'6), and sliding them into the spot while the other stays at the right tackle.

If Wickline wants to take the depth-chart approach, Eli Dickerson would be next in line to play that right guard spot after backing up Taylor in 2012. Behind him is Chris Grisbhy, and both are sophomores. Wickline could also look into sliding backup center Travis Cross over if he didn't like what he saw from either of those two candidates.

Above all, the Cowboys obviously need blocking out of the unit, and that can be done with just about any of the above players at the right guard spot. Mike Gundy and Wickline could go with the bigger Dickerson or one of the right tackles to provide better pass blocking, or hope for the more compact Grisbhy or Cross to provide a balance of pass and run.

At some point, the offensive coaches will sit down and decide that, and that will likely answer any questions there are about the unit for everyone except Wickline. With how he works his offensive line, his lineup is never set, so don't be surprised if that right guard, or really any position gets jostled around a bit throughout spring and even into the fall.

He's a perfectionist and a mad-scientest all at the same time, and somehow he makes it work. This season will likely show how his brilliance yet again.

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