OU football: Oklahoma offensive line ‘much better’ since spring

Oklahoma offensive lineman Marquis Hayes goes through warmups during a fall camp practice at OU's rugby fields Aug. 5. (Joe Buettner / The Transcript)

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma’s offensive line looked like a blank slate this past spring. Not even Creed Humphrey, the group’s lone returning starter, was participating as he got healthy from injury.

OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh doesn’t usually hand out free compliments, but says it’s different picture after a handful of preseason practices.

“We’re better,” he said. “We’re much better than when we ended the spring. The guys have done a really good job this summer.”

Bedenbuagh’s trying to assemble what he hopes will be an 8-9 man group. Adrian Ealy and Erik Swenson are favorites at the tackle spots, but junior college transfer Finley Felix is also working with the first group. Michael Thompson, Stacy Wilkins, Bryce Roberts and David Swaby are practicing behind them.

Marquis Hayes, Tyrese Robinson, R.J. Proctor, Brey Walker and Darrell Simpson have taken the most repetitions at guard.

Humphrey has been a stabilizing force at center following a successful rehab. But his absence in the spring was important too.

“I think having Creed out this entire spring was so valuable for us,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “It made life a lot tougher for those guys and honestly it made it tougher for our quarterbacks, too. Now having him back, I think, has kinda helped the consistency, it's helped the production. Players are more confident not just because he's in there but because they've done it without him before.”

• Roberts’ transition: Roberts came to OU as a walk-on hoping to crack the offensive line rotation. But the Yukon product spent two previous seasons playing tight end at New Mexico State.

He’s now up to 6 feet 4, 319 pounds.

“I saw some glimpses in the spring. Starting out this fall I wasn’t sure. He’s had a couple pretty good practices. So we’ll see with him,” Bedenbaugh said. “He’s put on a lot of weight. He’s an athletic kid. It’s just the techniques, the fundamentals he has to get down.”

• Eyes on Murray: Riley was able to catch Kyler Murray’s NFL preseason debut, in which he was 6 for 6 for 44 yards in the only series he played.

A breakdown up front led to Murray getting sacked. Otherwise, it was a good start for the former Sooner quarterback — considering he took his first snap in his own end zone.

“Looked pretty smooth, easy and normal – except for the center not snapping it on the third-down play, and the other four linemen were moving, which is a problem,” Riley said. “No moment is ever too big for that guy. To take your first snap in the NFL from the minus-2, and it didn’t bother him at all.”

Riley said he keeps up with Murray and former Sooner Baker Mayfield weekly. Just like in college, they’ve become two of the most closely watched QBs at the next level.

“They’re both excited about their different opportunities,” Riley said. “I can’t get many questions in because they’re so interested in how our guys are doing.”

• Commemorative ball to help United Way: OU fans can order a commemorative football for $99 to honor the school’s back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners. Proceeds benefit Oklahoma United Way.

The full-sized Rawlings ball includes Mayfield and Murray’s numbers, year they won the Heisman and pays tribute to the Sooners’ national titles and all Heisman winners. Orders can be made at nikcosports.com or by calling 1-800-345-2868.

• This, that: Speaking in generality, Riley said Hayes, RB T.J. Pledger and LBs Brian Asamoah and Ryan Jones have had strong camps thus far. … The Associated Preseason poll is due out the Aug. 19. OU is No. 4 in the Amway Coaches Preseason Poll.