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Position Previews: Numbers Are Up but Experience Is Down along OSU’s OL

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As training camp rolls along, several position battles are starting to shape up and one of the most crucial is address some serious turnover along the offensive line. Let’s jump into it but be sure to check out our other position group previews.

RB | CB | DL | WR | LB

Total O-Linemen: 24
Incoming in 2019: Bryce Bray, Tyrese Williams, Jacob Farrell, Hunter Woodard, Hunter Anthony
Projected starters: Arlington Hambright, Marcus Keyes, Johnny Wilson, Larry Williams, Teven Jenkins
Projected backups: Dylan Galloway, Shane Richards, Deionte Noel, Larry Joubert

Player I’m most excited about: Marcus Keyes. The third-year starter and left guard should be even more effective after sitting out the spring for shoulder surgery. Keyes apparently played with a nagging should injury most of last season. With the turnover in experience from last year, Keyes is now the longest-tenured and elder statesman of the line.

Player who has the opportunity to surprise: Deionte Notel. I’ll take my cue from Josh Henson.

“I’d say Deionte Noel showed the most improvement from last year to this year,” Henson said during OSU’s media golf event.

“…if you’re just looking at a jump of a guy coming from out of nowhere to now might figure in to play quite a bit, I’d say Deionte’s the guy that’s improved the most.”

Strengths/weaknesses of this group: Strength is in numbers, literally. As Mike Gundy pointed out during OSU’s media day, the Cowboys are now up to 24 linemen from around 15-16 a couple of years ago.

It might not be a weakness but it should be pointed out that the five true freshmen added during the 2018 cycle are less than likely to contribute in any real fashion this fall. As Henson pointed out, first-year linemen rarely see the field.

“In 18 years of coaching full-time, I’ve seen three guys play as freshmen on the offensive line,” Henson said. “…One of those guys probably played because he was good enough [the others due to injury]. You’re talking 18 years and three guys… It just doesn’t happen very often.”

So the numbers are up, but the rebuild is not yet complete.

What concerns me about this group: If there are concerns it’s the recent history of injury woes and a lack of experienced depth if and when that bug bites. Last year it probably cost OSU its conference opener against TCU.

Even with the increased depth in the group — maybe the best in five years — the Cowboys replace a lot in Brad Lundblade, Zach Crabtree and Aaron Cochran.

Williams is a solid starter but has seen each of his last two seasons end with injury. Wilson will was serviceable as Lundblade’s replacement but has had another offseason to get acclimate to the duties of a starting center. We pretty much know who Marcus Keyes is, even though he’s now healthy after playing with an injured shoulder last year.

The two big question marks will be the fresh faces at both tackle positions. Between Arlington Hambright, Teven Jenkins, Dylan Galloway and handful of others, OSU will need to find solid answers to keep its new QB off of his back.

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