By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN, Okla. —
The best position battle on Oklahoma’s practice field is about 12 feet to the left of quarterback Landry Jones. It’s where Lane Johnson and Tyrus Thompson are battling it out for the left tackle spot and the job of protecting Jones’ blind side.
OU coach Bob Stoops said the competition has been great. One has pushed the other every day in practice. Both are going to share time with Daryl Williams, but only one can start.
“Lane has done a little bit more over there, but he and Tyrus are pretty much even as far as that starting spot at left tackle. They’ve both done a really good job,” tackles and tight ends coach Bruce Kittle said. “I feel very good about both those guys protecting. It tends to be an upperclassman type of guy because it takes that long to learn it, but the truth is with where our numbers are and the bodies that we have, I’ve got two pretty young guys who could start for us. We’ve just got to coach them up and get ready, because we’ve got what we’ve got. But I feel really good about Tyrus. He’s very athletic. By game time he’ll be right where we need him to be.”
This is a battle between two of the Sooners’ best athletes. The 6-7, 300-pound Johnson, who started at right tackle last season, started his OU career at tight end before he grew out of the spot. He still runs a sub 4.8 40-yard dash. Thompson (6-5, 300) has the same kind of athletic ability.
It takes much more than brawn to play that spot. The left tackle is often squared up with opponents’ best pass rusher.
“You’ve got to be pretty fluid. Part of that is with most of the quarterbacks being right-handed, you have those issues,” Kittle said. “Typically, a defense puts its quickest-twitch guy on their right side. So you’re facing their best guy all the time. It takes somebody who is able to get off the ball and have that kind of movement and adjust to that.”
Last spring it looked like the job would be Johnson’s. After all, he was a returning starter and had coaches raving about his ability for several years. Thompson, however, has closed the gap.
“He’s bringing it every day in our meetings. He’s practicing well. He’s had a great energy about him. He’s executing the way we’d like him to. He worked on his footwork and his technique, so he’s doing both of those things,” Kittle said of Thompson. “Combined with his athleticism, he’s put himself in a position to be successful and do the things we’re looking for out on that edge.”