NORMAN — The Sooners' offensive front should be an obvious point of strength in 2017.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who was promoted to co-offensive coordinator this summer along with with outside receivers coach Cale Gundy, returns all five starters from 2016, and eight total players from his unit saw at least one start a year ago (seven started more than one game).
Multiple national preseason publications have rated Oklahoma's line as the country's best. That's not all that surprising, considering the Sooners ranked second nationally last year in total offense (554.8 yards per game). The line displayed strength in both the passing and running games, helping OU rank 12th nationally in passing offense (318.0 ypg) and 18th in rushing offense (236.8 ypg). The Sooners also led the Big 12 in sacks allowed, permitting just 1.6 per contest.
OU is led on the exterior by a pair of tackles who are perhaps the best in the Big 12. Redshirt junior Orlando Brown has protected Baker Mayfield's blindside in every game over the last two years. Last season, the 6-8, 345-pound Brown played 659 snaps and allowed just one sack. He was named the 2016 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year for his efforts to become the first sophomore to win the award since it was introduced in 2006. In addition, Brown was selected as a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America.
"I really just want to be as dominant as possible,” Brown said at Sunday's local media day. “I want us to go out here and have the best year that we can have as an offensive line, which will help us be the best offense in the country and also, hopefully, help us be the best team in the country.”
Redshirt sophomore Bobby Evans locks down the right side for OU in 2016. At 6-4 and 310 pounds, Evans was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick a year ago who started each of the last 12 games in his first season of action.
"I want us to go out here and have the best year that we can have as an offensive line, which will help us be the best offense in the country and also, hopefully, help us be the best team in the country."
- Junior LT Orlando Brown
Providing depth at tackle is redshirt junior Quinn Mittermeier, who played in all 13 games a year ago (mostly on special teams) and redshirt freshman Erik Swenson.
OU's interior line is particularly deep, despite the loss of redshirt junior Alex Dalton for the season due to a knee injury just prior to training camp. Juniors Ben Powers and Dru Samia finished the 2016 season at the left and right guard spots, respectively, while redshirt senior Erick Wren manned the center position. Senior Jonathan Alvarez boasts 13 career starts and can play any of the three inside spots. Redshirt sophomore Cody Ford returns after starting OU's first three games of the year. He missed the remainder of the season after sustaining a broken leg vs. Ohio State.
Bedenbaugh added four more highly touted linemen for the class of 2017. Adrian Ealy (6-6, 297, Gonzalez, La.), Marquis Hayes (6-5, 345, Maryland Heights, Mo.), Creed Humphrey (6-4, 310, Shawnee, Okla.) and Tyrese Robinson (6-2, 329, McKinney, Texas) all boast four-star ratings.
Humphrey, who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, was singled out by head coach Lincoln Riley on Saturday, who said the center is a candidate to see the field as a true freshman.
"He is unusually physically gifted for a guy his age,” Riley said of Humphrey on Saturday. “He could physically go in there right now and hold his own against most people."