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OU football: Andrew Raym learning importance of preparation amid challenging transition to center

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Andrew Raym

Sophomore offensive lineman Andrew Raym (center) during the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 9.

The #Sooners conquered TCU on Saturday in a 52-31 homecoming win. Watch our highlights from the game:

Filmed by Georgia Bomar and Justin Jayne

Edited by Georgia Bomar

Whether the water is hot or cold, Andrew Raym is beginning to see the importance of time in the tub.

Icing down or warming up can be vital to recuperation after practices and games, and Oklahoma’s sophomore center is starting to take notice of that, making a concerted effort to care for his body more seriously than before. Raym was slowed during nonconference play by an undisclosed medical issue, which kept the Sooners’ projected starting center from claiming that role until Sept. 25 against West Virginia.

Even after he recovered, Raym’s first start became a baptism by fire against the Mountaineers’ front, which has two players among the Big 12’s top five sacks leaders. WVU tallied three sacks that game, and OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said afterward he put his group in bad positions at times, leading to one of Raym and his linemates’ worst performances this fall.

“He’s extremely inexperienced. He just has not seen the things that previous guys have,” Bedenbaugh said of Raym. “I’ve gotta get him up to speed. … The effort’s not the problem, playing hard is not the problem. It's relaxing, settling down, having the confidence in what we are doing and what you're calling, and then those things will come together, but it is a process that takes time.”

After COVID-19 hampered him as a freshman, Raym has grappled not just physically, but mentally with the transition from guard to his new position. The successor to two-time Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year Creed Humphrey, now a rookie NFL starter for Kansas City, still has plenty of room to grow.

“His development has been, like most guys, challenging in a lot of ways,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said. “When he got in here, he needed to get a lot stronger. That was the biggest thing is he's always been very talented, very athletic, but his strength was definitely an issue early on and he's gonna have to continue to improve that drastically as he goes on, whereas Creed came in here so strong to begin with. There's just a big difference there.”

Indeed, not everything has come easily to the former four-star prospect from nearby Broken Arrow High School who was the top in-state player in his recruiting class. Despite his struggles, he has refused to throw in the towel.

While addressing his physical limitations with therapy and weight room work, Raym is trying to sharpen his intellect as a center with video. The player who declared during fall camp he wants to make his own shoes rather than fill Humphrey’s expects that with enhancements to his mentality, an increase in physicality will follow.

“This season has definitely been a bunch of lessons for me, teaching me a lot and really just getting me in the swing of things,” Raym said. “The one thing I'd say is the biggest thing I've learned is just preparation in the film room, really learning how to break a defense down and understand what's going on, tendencies, what the defense is going to do and certain formations.

“I'm definitely not where I want to be. There's improvement on every part of my game that needs to be improved on. I think a lot of it is just getting comfortable in there, understanding what's going on more than racing my feet or having my mind running around. But definitely, the strength is going to come.”

After six dead-ball penalties against Kansas State on Oct. 2, OU’s offensive line is steadily on the come up. The group made the Joe Moore Award’s Midseason Honor Roll on Tuesday, recognizing it as one of the top nine offensive lines in the country. Riley said the O-line played perhaps the best it has all season against TCU last Saturday, when it allowed just two sacks to a highly touted Horned Frogs front.

Raym was instrumental in keeping the opposing defense at bay and creating opportunities for OU’s skill players. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded second among the Sooners’ six linemen who played in pass protection and led the unit in run blocking rating. He credited that success to better preparation in practice.

“There’s a difference between wanting to play, and doing everything possible to get yourself ready to play and he's had to learn that,” Riley said. “And I give him credit, there've been some uncomfortable moments throughout the process, and most of the time there is, but he's learned, he has started to grow up, he’s started to understand how to prepare.”

Anton Harrison improving, Erik Swenson underappreciated

Sophomore left tackle Anton Harrison experienced one of his toughest games against West Virginia and was eventually supplanted by junior Tennessee transfer Wanya Morris in the second half. Since then, though, Harrison has maintained the starting spot and rebounded against TCU with one of his best performances yet.

Harrison was the Sooners’ highest graded pass protector among offensive lineman against the Horned Frogs at 87.2, according to PFF. He did leave the game at one point with an injury, however, so his availability against Kansas remains under scrutiny.

Redshirt senior Erik Swenson is also among the unsung heroes of the OU offensive line, having played at left tackle and right guard this season. Against TCU, he added right tackle to his resume, taking over there for the entire second half.

“He did not take one rep at right tackle last week,” Riley said. “It's hard to do, man. It’s hard to appreciate on the outside how much guys like that give to you.”

Tyrese Robinson’s leadership

Swenson replaced starter Tyrese Robinson when he entered the game against the Horned Frogs, calling into question Robinson’s availability against Kansas. Robinson briefly left the Red River Showdown against Texas with an injury before later returning.

If there was one opponent against whom OU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) could afford to be missing an O-line starter, it’s the Jayhawks (1-5, 0-3). However, Robinson’s absence could be detrimental to a degree, as he is considered the commander of his position group.

“Tyrese has done awesome,” Bedenbaugh said after Oklahoma’s win over Kansas State. ”He’s really probably exceeded my expectations at tackle. … He’s got the athleticism, he probably doesn’t have the length, but … he’s really playing good, playing at a high level. And Tyrese was a leader from the beginning. That hasn’t changed much.”

No. 3 Oklahoma takes on Kansas at 11 a.m. CT Saturday, Oct. 23 on ESPN.

Sports editor

Mason Young is the OU Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He was previously assistant sports editor and has covered women's gym, wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. Email Mason at masyoung@ou.edu and follow him on Twitter @Mason_Young_0

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