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Humphrey Anchors Rebuilt Offensive Line

Creed Humphrey was born to be an offensive lineman and, good news for the University of Oklahoma, he was also born to be a Sooner. Coming off a breakout, redshirt freshman season, the Sooner born and bred offensive lineman is the only returning starter from an offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award as the top offensive line in college football last season.

The Shawnee, Oklahoma product now takes on the new role of experienced leader on the offensive line and he is not only ready to lead, but may already be the apple of many in the NFL’s eye.

“I have always set a high standard,’’ Humphrey said, of his football career. “The expectations from Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh is another thing. He expects us to be the best offensive line in the country. We will do whatever we can to fulfill that. It’s tough to do, but you always want to do it.’’

High expectations and a high level of excellence are nothing new for Humphrey. Prior to choosing the Sooners as his collegiate destination, Humphrey was the top offensive line prospect in the state, and the third best center prospect in the country. His stellar high school career at Shawnee led him to be named as an US Army All-American and his play and physicality caught the attention of just about every college in the country.

“His work ethic is unbelievable. He worked out twice a day all summer — once with us and once by himself,” Shawnee head football coach Bill Brown said, when talking about the commitment of Humphrey during high school.

His character also stood out to Brown.

“As a coach, you know one thing about Creed,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about him because you know he’s going to do his job. You can worry about someone else.”

However, Humphrey was more than just a standout on the gridiron. He carried a 4.0 GPA in high school and was ranked second in his class. In fact, Humphrey had not recorded anything but an A since almost 5th grade. He was also a standout high school wrestler, but that is something that was engrained in his DNA. His father was a three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Central Oklahoma, and his older brother was all-state in high school.

Just about every college in the country was pursuing Humphrey to play football. Despite being a life-long Sooner, Humphrey originally committed to play his collegiate football in College Station with Texas A&M.

That all changed in early August 2016, Humphrey de-committed from A&M and pledged his allegiance to the Sooner Nation. In fact, Humphrey ended up enrolling early at OU and immediately caught the eye of his teammates and offensive line coach.

“He’s country-fed, corn-fed,” former Sooner center Jonathan Alvarez said at the time of Creed’s arrival on campus. “It’s that big, natural strength. In the weight room and on the field, he does stuff that I probably couldn’t do my freshman year. To see him do it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I wonder what he ate growing up?’”

“He’s as good, at this point, as anyone I’ve ever coached physically,” Bedenbaugh said. “He was when he walked in.”

For Humphrey, it was a dream come true.

“I grew up watching Adrian Peterson dominate. That was something I loved watching. I never thought I would be the next AD, but I knew I wanted to be here. I wanted to be a Sooner,” Humphrey said.

Despite the excitement of finally being a Sooner and the praise from his new teammates and coach, the Sooners had a returning starter at center, heading into the 2017 season. Humphrey redshirted and made the most of the season, watching and learning.

“The redshirt year was huge for me,’’ he said. “I learned the offense. I learned how to read defenses better. That helped me so much.’’

He also learned from his fellow offensive linemen.

“They helped me with the different communication skills and how to play the game,’’ Humphrey said. “All four of those guys were so tough — they always wanted to put people on the ground every play. That’s the way the game is supposed to be played. They played it so well.’’

Humphrey also had to learn everything. Bedenbaugh demands his offensive lineman understand every position along the line. Humphrey embraced the challenge… understanding the why has always been a passion for the Sooner.

“In high school, I took pride in knowing everything. There is always a reason why you have to do something and I always want to know the why,” Humphrey said. “I’ve always grown up going over formations with our quarterback. I’ve always been detail oriented. Growing up my mom and dad were always detail oriented. They made sure I did everything right. When I was doing something, I always took great pride in what I was doing. That’s carried over my whole life.”

After a redshirt season of growth and development, Humphrey was finally ready to step on the field. Despite not starting the first two games of the season, Humphrey played in every remaining game and started the final 12 games.

“The first game getting to play and get on the field against Florida Atlantic was huge,” Humphrey said of his first action as a Sooner. “The first start against UCLA, I had goose pumps the whole day just waiting. The first Red River Rivalry was insane and I was fired up. There is nothing better than the Cotton Bowl. Bedlam was huge for me. The Big 12 Championship and the Orange bowl, it was surreal.”

Humphrey was a key figure for an offense that led the nation with 11.6 yards per pass attempt, and was ranked second for yards per rush, averaging 6.7 yards.

No FBS team since 1994 has finished in the top two nationally in both categories in the same year. The Sooners finished the season averaging 8.4 yards per snap, falling just short of the record of 8.6 by Hawaii set in 2006. Additionally, the 2018 Sooners are the only team in the country with at least 40 rushing touchdowns and at least 40 passing TDs.

The Sooner offensive line was rewarded with the Joe Moore Award, which is presented to be the best offensive line in the country. Humphrey was a main reason why the Sooner trophy case now includes the 350-pound trophy.

“He has extreme talent,” Riley said. “He’s a pretty rare talent for the position with combined competitiveness, toughness and a really good mind for the game. There are not many qualities for a center that he doesn’t have. Now, with all that being said, before we anoint him the greatest football player ever, he’s still got a lot that he can get better at.”

The improvement will have to come quickly for Humphrey. As he looks around the offensive line room, he is now the only returning starter. Starting guards Ben Powers and Dru Samia both exhausted their college eligibility, while starting tackles Bobby Evans Jr. and Cody Ford left early for the NFL Draft.

“It is a weird feeling,” Humphrey said. “But the guys I’m around right now, I went recruiting with most of them. I’m excited. It is going to be a good group. Coming in this year, it is a step for me to be a leader but I like to be a leader.”

There is some familiarity on the offensive line, but not when it comes to on-the-field experience. Adrian Ealy, a likely starter at one tackle position, has been on campus for three years, as has potential starting guard Marquis Hayes. Eric Swenson is entering his fourth year on campus, and the redshirt junior has been penciled in by many as the starter at left tackle. But, none of those three have seen extensive playing time.

Outside of Humphrey, Virginia transfer RJ Proctor has the most in-game experience having played in 24 games while starting eight with the Cavaliers. Solid recruiting classes have also helped bolster the overall talent on the offensive line as well.

“There isn’t a lot of experience but the talent is there,” Humphrey said. “We recruited really good players and they have that same mentality we had last year. People are saying we’re not going to be as good this year having to replace so many guys, but they are ready to prove people wrong.’’

For Bedenbaugh, the next step for Humphrey is to continue to develop away from the field.

“He’s naturally a leader, especially on the field, getting people fired up. And when things aren’t going well, he’ll get on people,” Bedenbaugh said. “It has to carry to off the field which is more important. Getting these guys together on their own, that is what the previous groups have done so well. The whole offensive line watching tape together. If they just come in here and meet when we meet, they will never be any good. They have to be motivated to do things on their own off the field. He has to be the guy that leads all the time.”

Riley sees Humphrey’s contagious personality as a key to continuing his improvement as a leader off the field.

“He’s a funny guy, great personality, clever,” Riley said. “Tends to get along with everyone which for a leader is important. He’s got a great personality to go along with his skills.”

As Humphrey continues to rack up awards and accolades, the NFL Draft world has already taken note of his impressive nature.

TheDraftNetwork.com credited Humphrey with the most impressive tape of all five offensive linemen from 2018. Athlon Sports has Humphrey listed as one of the top draft prospects, while Pro Football Network listed Humphrey as the best prospect for the Sooners heading into the 2020 draft.

“I’m not a guy who is looking to get praised,’’ Humphrey said. “I’m just doing my job. The offensive line position is a lot more difficult than people realize. It’s a lot more mentally demanding what you have to go through. Once the ball is snapped, you better go. If you’re not physically demanding and your mentality is not to put someone on the ground all the time, you’re not going to be very good.’’

While he likely has a decision to make after the season… the only decision in the short term is to be the best leader and offensive lineman he can be at Oklahoma. As the NFL waits, Humphrey may just be the key piece in the Oklahoma Sooners claiming its 8th national championship.– 19SM

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