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Replacing former center Erick Wren is a key for Oklahoma's spring practice.

Oklahoma mailbag: Center battle gets Sooners’ attention

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Robyn Morris asks, who is the leader to become Oklahoma’s center this season?

The center spot should be the biggest offensive line position battle of the spring and summer. There’s fifth-year senior Jonathan Alvarez going against redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey.

“Two guys at different ends of it, but two talented guys who’ve been in the system and they know if you win that job there’s a lot of good opportunities,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said.

Alvarez was the starting center at the beginning of the 2016 season. He lost the job because of injury, but never got it back from Erick Wren. If it were strictly about the experience, this would be Alvarez’s job. He had 13 starts at either guard or center during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

But this isn’t a matter of experience. Physically, Humphrey was ready to play last season. He’s 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds. His skill set makes him one of the Sooners’ best offensive linemen.

“He’s still got to mentally grow and understand. He still makes the mental mistakes that you would understand. But physically, he’s as good at this point as everyone I’ve ever coached physically. He was when he walked in,” Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said.

What we’ve seen over the years is Bedenbaugh puts the most stock in how the group is playing. Chemistry is important among those five linemen. Being the most physically talented is not a guarantee of landing the starting job. If it were, the job would belong to Humphrey already.

The Sooners do not put out a spring depth chart. We’ll get more of an indication at the spring game on April 14. But most indications point to Humphrey as the leader to win the job. He has the potential to be a four-year starter. In situations like these, potential usually wins out.