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College Sports: Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey will play critical role in Orange Bowl vs. Quinnen Williams, Alabama

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey will have perhaps the toughest job of any Sooner in the Orange Bowl: Keeping defensive tackle Quinnen Williams out of OU’s backfield.

Humphrey, a redshirt freshman from Shawnee, Okla., didn’t take over as the full-time starter until the Army game on Sept. 22. He’s excelled since winning the job and helped the Sooners to the 2018 Joe Moore Award, given annually to the nation’s best offensive line.

But Williams is likely to be the toughest opponent he’s faced in his young career. He’s projected to be a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL draft and could be in the conversation to go No. 1 overall along with Ohio State’s Nick Bosa.

“It’s exciting,” Humphrey said when asked about the prospect of facing Williams. “Getting to test my skills against one of the best in the country, that’s what I’ve wanted to do all season.”

Humphrey won’t necessarily be the only one tasked with blocking Williams. Alabama often only rushes four, which means the Sooners could potentially double-team the star defensive tackle.

“They’re very good,” Williams said when asked about OU’s offensive line. “They really feed off each other. You can say they’ve got great chemistry. They cover for each other very well. Those guys are going to be a really big part of this game.”

Williams and the rest of the Alabama defensive line will try to halt an impressive trend: The Sooners ended their season with 290 or more rushing yards in six of their last seven games.

Alabama’s pass rush will also have a chance to impact the game. Oklahoma allowed just 16 sacks this season, mostly thanks to disciplined blocking and Kyler Murray’s speed.

“It’s very important to block until you hear the whistle,” senior guard Ben Powers said. “But it’s more important when you’ve got a quarterback like Kyler back there that can keep plays alive and keep moving around.”

Still, Murray’s ability to pass from a clean pocket has been a big part of his success. According to Pro Football Focus, Murray’s 147.6 passer rating from a clean pocket is the second best all-time in the PFF era.

If the Oklahoma offensive line can keep Murray upright and open up holes for the running game, the Sooners will be in great shape. Humphrey says he’s ready for that challenge.

“They’re a physical group, technically sound of course,” Humphrey said. “They all use different types of pass rushes. They’re also a really good run stopper so it’ll be a fun matchup.”

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