By John Shinn
Oklahoma’s Brody Eldridge has played like an offensive lineman in the backfield for three years. The bruising tight end/fullback hybrid has a well-earned reputation as one of the best blockers in the Big 12 Conference.
In fact, he’s so good the Sooner coaching staff have been experimenting with him at center since the spring.
“Anything I need to do I’m going to do. If I can help the team out there I’m glad to do it,” the senior said Monday night following practice. “It’s not about what I want. It’s about what you can do to help out this team.”
Coaches are still quick to say Eldridge moving to the offensive line is just an experiment. The main reason was to create more depth up front.
The value of that depth has been hastened by two preseason injuries. Ben Habern, who was the No. 1 center throughout the spring and remains atop the depth chart, has been limited by a back injury suffered during preseason conditioning drills. He’s been going through most practices, but has been held out of heavy contact.
Brian Lepak is No. 2 at center, but he suffered a high-ankle sprain last week and isn’t expected to fully recover for at least another week.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said if the season began today, Eldridge would probably be the Sooners’ center.
“One of the reasons for Brody, other than being an outstanding blocker, is we’re pretty good at tight end,” Wilson said.
Of course, it’s easier to shift a guy around when the only consequence is getting Jermaine Gresham and Matt Clapp more snaps. Eldridge has only caught 11 passes in three years and has just one touchdown catch.
Catching more balls isn’t something very high on his agenda.
“It does not matter to me,” Eldridge said. “Wherever I need to be is where I need to be.”
OU coach Bob Stoops isn’t expecting Eldridge, who wears No. 83, to have to change numbers anytime soon. Using him at center is part of developing a backup plan.
“It’s just to develop depth. If you’re ever in an emergency situation, you need someone who can handle it,” Stoops said. “It’s natural for Brody. Blocking is blocking. Hopefully we won’t have to do it a whole lot, but it’s something we’ll be ready for.”