POSITION BREAKDOWN: OFFENSIVE LINE
Aug. 21, 2012
Tulsa, Oklahoma - With three starters from the 2011 team having graduated, there was concern heading into spring drills about the offensive line. However, Offensive Line Coach Denver Johnson felt good about the group coming out of spring drills and feels even better following fall camp.
"I'm really pleased. Going into the spring after losing some really good seniors we didn't know where we would be. I thought we had improvement all through the spring. They had a great a summer, and we've had a good fall camp," said Johnson.
With only one position still up for grabs, from left to right the offensive line looks like this: senior Jared Grigg at left tackle, sophomore Jake Alexander at left guard, senior center Trent Dupy, a battle at right guard between Gabe Moyer and two-year starter Stetson Burnett, and right tackle Brian DeShane.
"I thought Grigg has emerged as a solid guy at left tackle and provides some leadership. Alexander has really done well. Dupy is a fixture at center. I really like what we've seen out of DeShane at right tackle and then we have Moyer and Burnett battling for that fifth spot," said Johnson. "I feel like we'll be solid upfront. We're still trying to develop some depth, but I'm excited about where the guys are headed," Johnson said.
"We have Burnett, Moyer and Alexander that are all guards and all are very capable. Alexander can play center and Burnett can play tackle. It's good competition. The rise and tide floats all boats, competition is a healthy thing," added Johnson.
Johnson is also pleased with the depth that has been developed since last spring.
"We've got guys, and we've got talent, but they are young. Garrett Gladd and Garrett Stafford continue to improve. I'm not sure that they can go and win a game for us. I think they can play a limited role right now, but we continue to try to advance them. Billy Lafortune is kind of the same way at center, and Davis Walton at tackle is a kid that has really had a great camp," said Johnson.
Johnson has been very pleased with Davis, the junior college transfer from Northeastern A&M.
"Davis missed most of spring, but he's had a great fall camp. He may get in the mix to challenge for a starting job. He can provide some great depth, but he also has a red-shirt year coming, so we'll have to manage him correctly," added Johnson. "He has been playing right tackle. I think he can play guard and can probably play left, but we want to leave him at one spot and let him develop. He has really made some tremendous strides. He's probably the most improved guy that we have over the course of fall camp.
Behind those guys are the true freshmen -- tackle Blake Belcher, guard Chris Wallace and center Dylan Foxworth. "We have a really talented bunch there, but I think all those guys will probably red-shirt," said Johnson. Belcher, Wallace and Foxworth are all Oklahomans and each received all-state recognition as high school seniors.
Head Coach Bill Blankenship echoed many of Coach Johnson's thoughts. "Davis Walton was here in the spring but because of injury we really didn't get to see much, and he has improved dramatically. He's a guy that's definitely getting himself in the mix.
"I have been pleasantly surprised with Gabe Moyer's progress. He's had an opportunity to work with the first unit and he's not giving it up easily. Stetson is a two-year starter coming off injury and he is having to fight to get back in the lineup. Stetson has played really well and Gabe has played really well. Those are good problems when you have some depth," said Blankenship.
"We've seen some good play from our two young red-shirt freshmen in the Garrett brothers - Stafford and Gladd. I love the depth we're developing," added Blankenship.
The versatility on the offensive front is one thing that Coach Johnson wants to develop with his position group.
"Coach Johnson's philosophy is to get those inside guys where they can play all three spots -- both guard positions and center, and get a guy that can play either tackle slot," said Blankenship. "Stetson is a little unique in that he's one that can move from guard to tackle so we can get swing movement from him. DeShane has made his living here over three years playing guard and tackle. It's really comforting to know that you're really not just stuck with a guy at one position, but that we can shuffle around to try get the best five on the field at any one time."
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