Bye Week Look: Offensive Line

If one group can be used to sum up the offense's struggles with consistency, it's the Texas offensive line.

Every week, players on the line came out and talked about how close they were to putting it all together. And every game Saturday, the offense was simply a step here, or a block there away from making big plays.

The line group suffered a blow before the season even started, when senior Tray Allen, penciled in as a starter at guard, went down with an injury before camp. Allen hasn't played yet this year, forcing redshirt freshman Mason Walters into the starting lineup.

The depth took another hit when Luke Poehlmann, a player who was coming on as the Longhorns' third tackle, was lost for the season with a knee injury in the season's second game.

Those injuries put more pressure on younger players, particularly redshirt freshman guard Mason Walters, to step up, while true freshman Trey Hopkins has served as a swing player, subbing in at both guard and tackle.

This season figured to be a struggle with just two returning starters. And those starters, tackle Kyle Hix and guard Michael Huey, switched sides and have hardly been immune to the line's troubles. Hix, in particular, has committed several false start penalties.

The staff has been impressed with the effort of Walters, who came into a tough situation, and center David Snow has been arguably the line's top player. Snow brings stability to the interior after starting a few games a year before. Fair or not, right tackle Britt Mitchell has been cited by many fans as a big reason for the troubling line performance.

Overall, the line failed to implement the Longhorns' desired power running game, and especially struggled to generate push on short yardage situations. In recent weeks, the pass blocking has also been a point of concern, as Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert has been sacked eight times in the past three games.

Still, there are a few things to like here. For one, the offensive line seems to be able to keep holes open better for quicker backs like Fozzy Whittaker and D.J. Monroe. The duo have averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the season. Texas's other two backs, Cody Johnson and Tré Newton, have averaged a combined 3.5 yards per carry.

As a team, Texas averaged 4.9 yards per carry against Oklahoma, the Longhorns' second-best rushing performance, by per carry average, of the year.

Overall Grade: C-

Prior to last week's performance in the running game, it would have been easy to give the line a lower mark. This group still has problems with consistency, doesn't blow inferior lines away and doesn't always protect the quarterback. But I dare say that the group has improved from early on in the season, and the progress of young players like Hopkins and Walters gives this unit hope for the future as well.

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