OU linemen: Bedenbaugh brings intensity

NORMAN, Okla. -- Bill Bedenbaugh has been at Oklahoma for less than a month, yet his impact has already been felt. OU's new offensive line coach has brought intensity and focus to the Sooners' program with his constant discussion about the open competition along the offensive line.

“I’m about to go grade practice and whoever grades out the best will go with the ones,” Bedenbaugh said after OU’s first spring practice in pads. “And this is an everyday deal. It’s not one of those deals where you have a position one day then you have it. We’ll grade them every day and guys move up and down based on their grades.”

That’s not to say starting spots were always secure under previous offensive line coaches James Patton and Bruce Kittle.

“That hasn’t changed; we’re always evaluated,” tackle Daryl Williams said. “Every practice, whether we knew it or not.”

Yet the intensity has changed. At practice on Tuesday, Bedenbaugh could often be heard easier than he could be seen, and he plans to be unyielding in his commitment to push OU’s offensive linemen to higher levels of play.

“It’s a constant process,” he said. “Constantly getting better and not accepting anything less than your best in everything you do, watching film, every drill, every rep you take.”

Williams joins All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard as one of the Sooners offensive linemen who should feel the most secure in their starting positions. Bedenbaugh had high praise for Williams and Tyrus Thompson, who started multiple games in 2012.

The junior has noticed the difference in Bedenbaugh’s approach.

“[He’s] hard-nosed, hardcore,” Williams said. “He’s a serious guy, serious about football. That’s what we need.”

Bedenbaugh made it clear shortly after he was hired that one of his core beliefs is to make sure his players understand he cares about them as people first. Then when he demands more from them, they know why he’s pushing so hard. And it appears he’s doing a good job setting an early foundation, which separates his football demands from everything else.

“When we first met him we didn’t know when he was cracking jokes or not,” Williams said. “But now that we’ve been around him we can tell when he’s joking and when he’s serious. In the film room, it’s time to work. On the field, it’s time to work. Then we you see him around, it’s just normal, joking around or whatever.”

It’s all been done with the focus of making the Sooners more physical on offense and on improving the running game. OU has had just three practices, but the difference is already been noticed by at least one skill position player.

“He has fire; he’s pushing those guys to be more physical, to want it, to finish,” running back Damien Williams said. “And that’s what we need. He’s good, not just for them but for us as an offense.”