Year-End Look: Offensive Line

Like so many offensive positions, the offensive line was a study in injuries and ineffectiveness.

Consider this: the Longhorns were expected to enter 2010 with a line made up of four seniors — Kyle Hix, Michael Huey, Tray Allen and Britt Mitchell — and one junior, David Snow. But at times at the end of the year, the Longhorns were just as likely to trot out a lineup with Mitchell as the lone senior, Snow as the lone junior and three freshmen — Mason Walters, Paden Kelley and Trey Hopkins.

That's what happened when Allen sustained a season-ending foot injury heading into fall camp putting the team down one guard. The team's third offensive tackle, Luke Poehlmann, was knocked out for the year following the season's second game, a victory over Wyoming. Huey suffered an ankle injury at midseason and was also out for the rest of the year. Hix's woundings were less severe, but he had a concussion that caused him to miss some time at the end of the year.

The good news is that those injuries allowed players like Walters, Kelley and Hopkins to come of age. Walters became one of the Longhorns' top interior players, while the staff was high on Hopkins from the get-go. The true freshman was smart enough to step in at both guard and tackle, and seemed to find a home as a starter at guard, where his intelligence and mobility were at a premium. Add in center David Snow, arguably the Longhorns' top linemen, and the 'Horns appear set on the interior.

And of course none of that counts Allen, a former five-star prospect with excellent athleticism.

At tackle, things are less set. Kelley and Poehlmann are both left tackle types, slender 6-foot-7 players who each weigh less than 290 pounds. And there aren't many pure mauling right tackles in the program. Mark Buchanan, Garrett Porter and Thomas Ashcraft are all in the 6-6 305 range, but they spent a large part of the season working on the interior. At least one could bump out to play right tackle. If not, somebody like Christian Westerman, who we'll get to in a bit, could potentially push into the two-deep.

Dominic Espinosa, a player the staff likes as a future center, could play some snaps there when Snow isn't in the ballgame, while Kyle Kriegel, a former defensive lineman, has switched sides of the ball.

2011 Commitments: Christian Westerman, 6-5 295, Hamilton (Ariz).; Garrett Greenlea, 6-7 285, Klein Collins; Sedrick Flowers, 6-3 275, Galena North Shore; Josh Cochran, 6-7 270, Hallsville; Taylor Doyle, 6-5 270, Lake Travis; Marcus Hutchins, 6-5 270, De Soto

Arguably the jewel of Texas's recruiting class is Westerman, a beast in the running game who projects well either at right tackle or on the interior. However, he's now considered a soft commitment as he waits to see who Texas coach Mack Brown picks as the next offensive line coach. The rest of the class is also pretty stellar. Greenlea, who is recovering from an ACL injury, looks to be an excellent tackle who can add another 30 pounds of good weight. Flowers is one of the country's top interior prospects, while Cochran, Doyle and Hutchins are all developmental players. Hutchins could even find his way to the defensive side of the ball.

Future Outlook: The Longhorns will lose just two players — Allen and Snow — after the 2011 season. Other than that, Texas is packed with young bodies at the line positions. The 2012 recruiting class is packed with tackle type players, so don't be surprised if the Longhorns go for a couple of players there. With Snow leaving, the Longhorns could also pursue a center prospect.


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