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It's a 'new day' at Oklahoma

The headlines have gone to the guys with the ball in their hands as running backs Keith Ford, Samaje Perine and Alex Ross have each displayed their big-play ability at various times for Oklahoma.

But the Sooners' offensive line has been a foundation of Oklahoma's success on offense, paving the way for a balanced offensive attack that averages 6.92 yards per play, ranking second in the Big 12 behind Baylor. Oklahoma is averaging 222.8 rushing yards and 272.3 passing yards in four games this season.

At the heart of the Sooners’ success is second-year offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who has helped transform the offensive line into one of the top units in the Big 12. Bedenbaugh left West Virginia after the 2012 season to take over Oklahoma's offensive line and instilled his mindset immediately.

"You can feel the intensity when he walks in the room and he demanded that out of us," guard Adam Shead said. "It [his hiring] was a pretty big deal, you knew he was serious about being physical. When he walked in he said, 'You may not play with the best technique, you might mess up some plays, but you’re going to play hard, you’re going to play physical.' And that’s something he’s always demanded of us."

Playing physical was nothing new in Norman, Oklahoma -- the Sooners have always aimed to be physical under Bob Stoops.

"There’s a difference, but Oklahoma football is Oklahoma football," Shead said.

Nonetheless, Bedenbaugh brought a different focus to the table. He wanted his group to be physical technicians, to combine their physical dominance with technical efficiency.

"It started with the technique," tackle Daryl Williams said. "We were already physical, we just didn’t know, technique-wise, how to block them. He really helped us with that.”

The results have been clear. The Sooners 5.9 yards per carry average leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 16 in the nation. In its first four contests, 522 of Oklahoma's 891 rushing yards have come before contact, ranking second in the Big 12.

Since Bedenbaugh arrived in 2013, Oklahoma sits atop the Big 12 in yards per carry (5.35), rushing yards before contact (2,517) and rushing yards per carry before contact (3.5). The yards before contact per carry is particularly impressive, as the conference average is nearly a full yard less (2.57) during the past two seasons.

"It’s a new day and age," Shead said. "We want to play smash mouth football."