NORMAN, Okla. -- With four starters gone, all of whom were invited to the NFL Combine, there will be an overhaul across Oklahoma's offensive line in 2009.
The cornerstone is tackle Trent Williams. An All-Big 12 player at right tackle last season, he moves to the left side for the 2009 season. He was considered by some the top performer on last year's offensive line. Look for Donald Stephenson and newcomer Jeff Vinson to compete as Williams' back up.
At Williams' vacated right tackle spot, Cory Brandon and LSU transfer Jarvis Jones are locked into a competition for the starting job with true freshman Josh Aladenoye providing competition at the spot as well.
"At left tackle, Trent Williams is Trent Williams. At right tackle, Cory Brandon has been doing a pretty good job for us. Josh Aladenoye has been doing a good job and Jarvis Jones is battling in there as well. Jarvis is playing a little guard too, but he'll battle with Cory for the right tackle spot," said OU offensive line coach James Patton.
At left guard, OU is looking to replace two-time All-American Duke Robinson. Brian Simmons, who made two starts last season while recording a bevy of playing time, should be capable at the spot. The coaches hold Simmons in very high regard and view him as a returning starter in some ways due to his immense amount of playing time.
The right guard spot is in good hands, literally. Stephen Good played sparingly last season as a true freshman and has been projected as a bright prospect since the day he signed.
First-year Sooners will be counted on to step in and provide depth at the guard position right away as JUCO product Tavaris Jeffries and freshman Tyler Evans will be counted on in the two deep.
"Tavaris Jeffries should have a chance to play in his first year here and Tyler Evans, a true freshman, is doing an unbelievable job for us," added Patton. "Of course Brian Simmons and Stephen Good have been pretty consistent for us."
The center position has provided the most preseason talk among followers of the program and presents another opportunity. The Sooners are faced with the prospect of replacing four-year starter Jon Cooper. There is no way the team can match that kind of experience, but freshman Ben Habern is a bright prospect and is currently the favorite to do so. Colorado State transfer Brian Lepak brings smarts and depth to the position as well. This August has proven that Good and tight end Brody Eldridge can also slide over to the center position if the need arises.
"Brody Eldridge has been doing a great job filling in at center as Ben Habern and Brian Lepak came back to action," said Patton. "Brody is a blocking machine and can play anywhere on our line."
There is no disputing the quality and experience that the Sooners lost on the offensive line. Those players were part of two, and in some cases, three Big 12 Championships. The mitigating factor is the quality of what remains to step forward. The coaching staff likes the current cast and the opportunity for another bumper season.