OSU football: Cowboy offensive line must stop the music before West Virginia arrives
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State needs the music to stop.
With the Cowboy offensive linemen dizzied by last week’s round of musical chairs, Mike Gundy knows his blockers need to find a firm footing before West Virginia comes to town for a 2:30 p.m. matchup Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“We were just below average based on musical chairs,” Gundy said of his offensive line’s play in the 16-7 win over Tulsa last Saturday. “When you move people around that much, the continuity is difficult.
“When you have six different people moving multiple spots in a game, you’re not gonna have as much continuity and consistency as you want. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just gotta try to fit guys in and go play and try to find a way to win the game.”
The Cowboys lost starting right guard Cole Birmingham to a lower leg injury when a player rolled up on him from behind late in the first quarter against Tulsa. He was replaced by sophomore Hunter Woodard.
In the second half, left tackle Teven Jenkins moved to right tackle, replacing Hunter Anthony, who appeared to suffer a potential injury just before halftime. Jenkins’ spot was filled by redshirt freshman and former walk-on Jake Springfield.
On different occasions, Jenkins and center Ry Schneider had to come out of the game in the middle of drives.
Both missed time in the preseason because of COVID-19 protocols, which impacted their conditioning.
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“Hopefully we can get set in what we need and guys can get quality reps this week and have ‘em where we want ‘em based on where we think it gives us the best chance for success,” Gundy said.
That leaves veteran offensive line coach Charlie Dickey, now in his second year at OSU, with quite a task this week, trying to fortify a unit that lost some valuable depth in the offseason. Complicating matters, West Virginia will come to town with one of the best defensive lines in the Big 12, led by the Stills brothers, Darius and Dante.
Darius Stills, a 6-foot-1, 285-pound senior, was voted by the media as the Big 12’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
“I thought our young guys played well against Eastern Kentucky,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “I think our veterans can play better — Darius and Dante and Jeff Pooler. Those guys can play better and I think they will play better.
“But that’s gonna be as important a matchup as there is in the game, our D-line versus their O-line.”
With an adjusted cast of characters in different roles, Dickey must get OSU’s offensive line ready for a challenge on Saturday, regardless of which quarterback plays for the Cowboys.
Whether Spencer Sanders is healthy or Shane Illingworth is filling in again, the offense will struggle to move without good blocking.
“He’s got the most difficult job,” Gundy said of Dickey. “He’s coaching five guys that in most cases, play every play of the game on offense. Everybody else except the quarterback rotates. They get tired. They’re 300 pounds. They’ve got to see multiple looks. They use a lot of strength and energy on every play.
“Being an offensive line coach is extremely difficult. But he’s experienced. He’s a very good technician. He’s a good person and he’s a good motivator.”