Offensive line shows promise going into home opener

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Oklahoma State center Johnny Wilson lifts up wide receiver Tylan Wallace after a touchdown during the Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State football game on Friday, August 30, 2019, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.

Mike Gundy wants to get back to smash mouth football. 

Last Friday, Oklahoma State’s offensive line parted Oregon State's defense like the red sea, giving Chuba Hubbard a massive alley straight to the end zone.

Hubbard, a former track star, saw nothing but daylight as he easily sprinted to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown.

It all started up front. 

Although Hubbard, wide receiver Tylan Wallace and quarterback Spencer Sanders deservedly received a lot of spotlight, the unsung heroes of the offense were the guys up front.

Behind the line, OSU rushed for 352 yards, and Sanders was protected well for most of the night.

After watching the tape, Gundy was highly impressed with how the offensive line started the year.  

“Everyone has to be careful about being on the Kool-Aid early,” Gundy said. “But it was the highest grade we’ve had from an offensive line group since I’ve been the head coach.”

The line came into the year with pretty high expectations. With a lot of shuffling going on throughout the past season, there’s expected to be much more consistency up front in 2019.

Three of the five linemen, Johnny Wilson, Teven Jenkins and Marcus Keyes, have played a ton of snaps in their careers. Left tackle Dylan Galloway was thrown in last year against some of the conference’s best. The only one without experience is redshirt freshman Bryce Bray at right guard. 

Along with experience, the group’s intelligence and recognition are key factors. 

One extra complication for OSU’s offensive linemen is learning how to play up-tempo. Last season, the Cowboys snapped the ball before the defense was set on more than 30% of their running plays.

While this would ideally be an advantage, Gundy said recognizing your blocking assignments when they aren’t in place is harder than it seems.

“Guys that have played know even though (the defender’s) not set he’s coming to this position so he and I are working from him to the backer,” Gundy said. “Versus a young guy that doesn’t have anybody there and he says, ‘Well I don’t have anybody there so I can just go to the backer.

“For that fact, those guys can recognize and do a lot on the run with us playing with a lot of speed.”

Although it has had talent at running back, OSU has been known recently for its high powered passing attacks.

But when Gundy first became head coach, while not as flamboyant an offense, the team’s emphasis was physicality up front and rushing the football. 

He’d like to see the team get back to that, and Friday’s game maked it seem as the Cowboys were heading back in that direction.

“The way that we built this program in the early days, that’s kind of what my goal is as a team,” Gundy said. “Then to integrate what we’ve done with throwing the ball down the field and then kind of find a happy medium based on our talent."

“If you can get anywhere near rushing for 250 yards a game you’re a dang good running football team. Particularly to start the year with who we are as a team it was about as good as I could ever want.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com