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Posted: Wednesday January 7, 2009 12:05PM; Updated: Wednesday January 7, 2009 2:38PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >
INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Oklahoma O-line is made up of five fast, immovable men

Story Highlights

Trent Williams, Brandon Walker, Jon Cooper, Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt make up the nation's most dominant offensive line

The unit has allowed just 11 sacks this season while attempting 476 passes

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Duke Robinson
Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson's athleticism defies his 6-foot-5, 335-pound frame.
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For the entire bus ride from Stillwater, Okla., back to Norman on Nov. 29, the members of the Oklahoma offensive line had to hear about the ultimate DOG block (Sooners' offensive line coach James Patton's acronym for Defender On Ground). Right tackle Trent Williams couldn't stop chirping.

"Wait 'til you see it," right guard Brandon Walker remembered Williams saying. "Wait 'til you see how I knocked this guy out."

So when the Sooners arrived back at the football complex, the linemen piled into a meeting room and watched the video. On the wall was video of a bubble screen pass. Williams, trying to spring receiver Juaquin Iglesias for a big gain, had charged to the edge. A Cowboys lineman whipped around, looking for Iglesias. Instead, he found the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Williams coiled and ready to unload.

"The guy had a little trouble getting up," Walker said. "Let's put it that way."

In order to protect the dominated, the Sooners' linemen would not reveal the name of the player Williams coldcocked, but they did provide these details. After Williams slammed him to the turf, the defender rose to his feet. He stumbled around for a second. Then he tipped over, like a timber falling in the forest.

It was the favorite play for a group that crushed opponents all season, and it says a lot about the five linemen who will enter Thursday's BCS title game against Florida with a combined 165 starts. The Sooners don't want to simply block their opponents. They want to grind them into dust. They want to humble them to the point that they don't even consider chasing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford anymore. And for the most part, they've succeeded.

The Sooners allowed 11 sacks all season, the third-lowest total of any team in the country. The two teams that finished above them (Air Force and Navy) combined to attempt 231 passes. Oklahoma attempted 476.

"When they throw the ball, it looks like a seven-on-seven drill," Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. "Very rarely does [Bradford] get hit. Very rarely does he get sacked. He doesn't even get touched."

The line played its worst game in the Sooners' 45-35 loss to Texas on Oct. 11. Oklahoma gave up three sacks and ran for only 48 yards. Center Jon Cooper remembers some particularly ugly film sessions after that loss. He also remembers the linemen gathering and deciding that if the Sooners still hoped to win a national title, the line would have to carry them to it. "If we're going to get to Miami," Cooper said, "it's going to be on us."

That provided all the motivation necessary for a group that jelled during the offseason between 2006 and 2007. Williams, Walker, Cooper and left guard Duke Robinson already had played together for a year when massive left tackle Phil Loadholt arrived from a Colorado junior college. Loadholt, 6-8 and 360 pounds at the time, relished strength coach Jerry Schmidt's punishing workouts. All the while, he challenged his new teammates. Schmidt said Loadholt's attitude was, "If I can do this at 360 pounds, so can you."

The others followed. Forged in all that sweat was a unit as complete as any in college football. The massive Loadholt, now 337 pounds, engulfs pass rushers. Cooper, at a svelte 290 pounds, makes near-perfect line calls and keeps his teammates running to stay at the breakneck pace offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson favors. Walker may be the most technically sound member of the line. Williams has the kind of nasty streak that allows him to knock opposing linemen unconscious.

And then there's Robinson, who might just be a freak of nature.

We tend to marvel at the athleticism of skill position players, but far more impressive is a 6-5, 335-pound guard whose feet move so fast and so precisely that, were he Irish and 170 pounds lighter, he could make the traveling company of Riverdance. "Duke has some of the best feet on the team," said Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who included Oklahoma's backs and receivers in his assessment. Said Walker: "Big Duke is just talented. He's probably one of the quickest guys I've ever seen to be 330 pounds."

Four-fifths of the line will be gone after Thursday, leaving Williams to teach a new generation of Sooners how to unleash the ultimate DOG block. But if Loadholt, Robinson, Cooper, Walker and Williams can dominate the Gators on Thursday and help Oklahoma to a national title, the linemen likely will gather at least one more time before they part ways. More than likely, that gathering will cost Bradford a small fortune.

"Well, as Coop will tell you, I took them out to eat last year, but unfortunately we lost the next week, so we kind of stopped that," the reigning Heisman winner said. "But when they come back to down in Norman, I do have something planned for them."

 
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