Originally Published: Feb 19, 2010 3:56 PM CDT

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-OSU Player to Watch, Day 5: Johnny Thomas
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Corey DeMoss

Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

OL Tyler Evans


Evans was a Missouri Class 2A all-state selection in high school and was rated among the top 50 guards in the nation by Scout.com. He was not expected to make an impact as a freshman last season, but injuries forced him into the starting lineup in the second half of the season. He performed well and earned praise from offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Why he’s on the list:

As has been noted earlier in our “Players to Watch” series, the Sooners’ focus during the offseason will be the offensive line. A rash of injuries caused constant mixing and matching among linemen last year, leading to struggles in the running game and general offensive ineffectiveness at times. Along with fellow guard Stephen Good, Evans will be a major key in improving OU’s rushing attack.

Best-case scenario:

Evans starts the season at right guard and remains there all season. He is able to stay healthy and is a consistent run blocker, opening holes in the middle of the field. His consistency prevents Bob Stoops from having to switch linemen in and out of the lineup, which makes the entire line better. His ability to open holes in the middle of the field not only helps the downfield running game, but also allows the offense to make use of play-action passing to utilize its weapons on the outside.

Worst-case scenario:

Evans either succumbs to injury or proves unable to handle opposing linemen in one-on-one matchups. In either case, the line as a whole cannot establish stability, which hurts both the passing and running game. The offensive line can only succeed if every player can be trusted to carry out his individual duty. If Evans cannot be trusted to do so, all of the other linemen will suffer.

My take:

Last season’s injuries could turn into a blessing in disguise in the form of Evans. He received unexpected starting experience and looked good, making the coaches more confident in his ability to be a consistent starter. He also got a chance to become acclimated to the speed of the college game earlier than expected, which is very important for linemen.

Evans is tall but relatively light, standing at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. The Sooner line as a whole will be on the small side, with only one anticipated starting lineman – right tackle Cory Brandon – weighing more than 300 pounds. That could cause the Sooners to be dominated by big defensive tackles, but it should also allow them to have a better outside running game. Guards like Evans and Good are better at pulling and blocking outside, which could allow DeMarco Murray to showcase his explosiveness.

Other OU players to watch (click on the names below to read the full stories)

Day 1: WR Jaz Reynolds

Day 2: OL Stephen Good

Day 3: S Sam Proctor

Day 4: CB Jonathan Nelson