ORLANO, FL — Thursday’s Cheez-It Bowl served as a soft opening for Oklahoma’s 2023 offense.
Opt-outs and injuries thrust young pieces into the spotlight in OU’s 35-32 loss to the No. 13 Florida State Seminoles in Orlando, providing a glimpse of what next year could look like for Jeff Lebby’s unit.
Down four starters along the offensive line, Lebby and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh only had a handful of practices to prepare the youngsters in the trenches to face a talented Florida State defensive line.
Redshirt sophomores Tyler Guyton and Aaryn Parks played a majority of the game at offensive tackle, while redshirt freshman Savion Byrd’s aggression stole the show at guard for the Sooners.
As a result, Oklahoma was able to take the fight to the Seminole defensive front in the first half.
“I thought all of those guys played hard,” Lebby said after the game. “We’re going to look at the tape and there are going to be plenty of things that are frustrating, things that I’m going to want back.
“But those guys played incredibly hard up front all night long against a unit that’s played really, really well.”
Playing without star running back Eric Gray, a pair of true freshman in Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk were tasked with running behind the young offensive line.
Taking on more responsibility, the duo shined.
Barnes and Sawchuk combined to rush for 208 yards and two scores in what was Barnes’ first game as the feature back and Sawchuk’s first substantial game action all season.
The duo should only get better next season, as they gain more experience and get a better grasp on how to attack opposing defenses.
Even Barnes wasn’t satisfied with his 108-yard outing in Orlando.
“I feel like I did OK,” Barnes said. “Obviously, there’s always room for improvement. There were a couple of things I missed. All around, I did a great job. Me and Gavin both. We both went out and showed what we had.
“I’m proud of Gavin because this whole season he hasn’t really had a chance to shine. He exactly did that. I’m so proud of him for the way he did.”
Scroll to Continue
Andrew Raym should return at center to anchor the new faces on the offensive line, and they’ll have the entirety of spring practice and fall camp to gel before the Sooners kick off in 2023.
As the line continues to grow, OU’s pass protection should improve as well from the Cheez-It Bowl performance.
Florida State finished the contest with six sacks, flushing quarterback Dillon Gabriel out of the pocket a number of other times as well. Gabriel was able to use his feet, rushing for 54 yards before the sack yardage was deducted from his total on the night.
“I think the O-line played their butt off in the sense of their effort,” Gabriel said. “They are guys who care, and they are competing for their opportunity at hand. I can respect that.
“In times of a game, things happen… but, they continued to fight, regardless of the situation.”
Oklahoma’s 5-star quarterback signee Jackson Arnold should shore up the Sooners’ depth at the position, allowing Gabriel to use his feet more in 2023.
When he was able to stay in the pocket and look downfield, Gabriel missed his favorite target in wide receiver Marvin Mims, who was in and out of the lineup against Florida State battling through an injury.
If Mims returns to Norman next year, the 1-2 punch he forms with Jalil Farooq should continue to carry the load for Oklahoma in the passing game.
Former OU star Austin Stogner will return and slot into the Brayden Willis-sized void that will be left over the middle of the field, and there will be opportunities for the young talent in the wide receiver room to step up and win more snaps between the likes of Jaquaize Pettaway, Gavin Freeman, Jayden Gibson, Nic Anderson and Keyon Brown.
Even without an entire offseason to invest snaps in those pieces, the Sooners were able to score 32 points and total 496 yards against a Florida State defense that sat firmly in the top 20 of total defense headed into bowl season.
The Sooners will have to replace plenty of offensive production next year, but their final act of 2022 showed the talent and promise that Oklahoma will have on the roster headed into 2023.
“We showed a little preview,” Barnes said. “I can’t wait til next year.”
Want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the AllSooners message board community today!
Sign up for your premium membership to AllSooners.com today, and get access to the entire Fan Nation premium network!
Follow AllSooners on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest OU news.
Get your OU tickets from SI Tickets HERE.
LONDON – Luton Town will play in the Premier League for the first time after beating Coventry City 6-5 on penalties in Saturday’s C
Texas football has made a couple of notable hires to the staff at this point of the offseason that deserve some attention ahead of the 2023 season. On May 26,
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports This is the final season of the four-team playoff format before the CFP moves to a whopping 12 teams. One of the main reaso
Regardless of whether you are a defensive enthusiast, we all know that the football world revolves around the quarterback position. There’s a reason Texas lan