Saturday, December 31, 2011
OK State offensive line has set a precedent
By David Ubben
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- In Monday night's Fiesta Bowl, you'll see Brandon Weeden flip passes into tiny windows to athletic receivers who make acrobatic grabs. You'll see Joseph Randle shake a linebacker in the open field and turn a 5-yard gain into a 12-yard gain.
You might even see Justin Blackmon jump over somebody.
You probably won't see Oklahoma State's offensive line dominating, but that's because nobody watches what's been arguably the most impressive Cowboys unit over the past two seasons.
Maybe they should start watching.
Last year, the Cowboys were the Big 12's best line, and returned all five starters. In 2011, they've been just as good as expected, if not better, blocking for an offense that's tops in the league and No. 2 in the nation.
"We didn’t have to worry about coming into a new offense or anything like that," said tackle Levy Adcock, whose mullet you'll see poking out the back of his helmet before he cuts it next week and heads to the NFL. "All we had to do was mature on what we had, and in the spring we did that really well. In the summer, we worked together every day. We just kept getting better and communicating better and grew as a group."
Why the success? Every Cowboys offensive lineman pointed in the same direction: at offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
"We’ve got a really, really good coach. I think he’s incredible and he gets us on the right track," center Grant Garner, a first-team All-Big 12 selection, said of Wickline.
"If there was any kind of a glitch or a kink in our offensive line, he works it out, no matter what," Adcock said. "He’s just an old-school coach, and it’s never good enough, no matter how good it is."
For Oklahoma State, it's been pretty good, too. It's only gotten better since breaking in a brand-new offensive line at the beginning of the 2010 season, the first of consecutive 11-win seasons.
Why didn't they struggle longer than a few early games?
"You can give that to our coach, Joe Wickline," said left tackle Nick Martinez. "He's one of the best in the country. He's all about trying to make us one of the best offensive lines in the country."
Even after losing a top-10 pick in Russell Okung at tackle after the 2009 season, Wickline succeeded. When Oklahoma State loses three linemen who have started this season after the Fiesta Bowl, he'll try to do it again.
"Everybody was freaking out last year when we had to replace five starters, but this year, they really only have to replace two or three, and Wick is harder on the twos than he is on the ones, so I think it’ll be a seamless transition next year," Garner said. "As long as he’s here, that’s going to be the case."