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August 30, 2013

OU OL finally healthy enough to make strides

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Adam Shead can't hide his smile as the 2013 season is set to begin. Shead strides into the Adrian Peterson team meeting room barefoot and leisurely sits down in one of its theater style seats.

There was no hobbling around the Barry Switzer Center as there was just a year ago for Shead.

"I'm healthy," he boasts. "That's always good. I'm as good as I've been."

SCOOPHD: HEUPEL AND NORVELL TALK OFFENSE

video by Eddie Radosevich

2012 was a difficult season for this 6-foot-4, 316-pound offensive guard. A player former coach James Patton often described as OU's most physical lineman, Shead was just trying to stay on the field toward the end of the season.

A nagging ankle injury and a back injury that threatened his playing career, Shead talked about the struggles of last season for the first time.

"It was just one of those things and I tried to fight through it. It was at the end of the year and we didn't have any depth," he said. "I was just trying to be there for my teammates the best I could."

"It was hard. He had a lot of issues between back and ankle and what-not," explained head coach Bob Stoops of Shead's 2012 season. "He just hasn't had many issues at all. Well he's had very minor ones through the whole summer. I don't think he had a summer like that."

Shead, Bronson Irwin and Gabe Ikard were all fighting to stay on the field last season after Tyler Evans tore his ACL in the preseason. OU's other backup guard, Nila Kasitati, underwent heart surgery and then tore his ACL early in the season.

Shead is now healthy after offseason surgery. It's a surgery Shead remains coy about, although it's believed to have something to do with his back.

Now he's joined by a healthy Kasitati, a developing Ty Darlington and some junior college guards to provide more depth.

It's also a new experience for the offensive line with a new coach in Bill Bedenbaugh.

"We're all excited about it," said Shead. "Just to put what we've been working on, on the field. We're super excited about it and we just know it's going to be a different year just because he's come in and really instilled physicalness in our lineman. It's exciting."

The interior finally has healthy bodies to create more running lanes in the middle of the field, although Stoops admits the tackle position isn't as strong as he would like.

"I would say we're OK, but I'd say we're short-handed at tackles more than anything," said Stoops. "If any recruits are listening."

The Sooners need starting tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson to remain healthy. There's no doubting there is a drop off between those two and backups Josiah St. John and Derek Farniok.

The health and depth of the interior line gives new OU quarterback Trevor Knight a nice foundation to begin his OU career.

The emphasis on being more physical was always supposed to start with Shead. Now he's finally healthy enough to be that cornerstone.

"I think we've come together real good," said Shead. "We've jelled a lot. The chemistry of this line is really good. We're just really working together, getting better."




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