Mid-Spring Look: Offensive Line

Texas struggled at times on the offensive line in 2010. Will 2011 be any better?

The Candidates: Tray Allen, senior; David Snow, senior; Mark Buchanan, junior; Thomas Ashcraft, sophomore; Trey Hopkins, sophomore; Paden Kelley, sophomore; Mason Walters, sophomore; Garrett Porter, sophomore.

Returning Starters: Snow, Walters, Hopkins (four starts), Kelley (one)

What It Looks Like: The 2010 offensive line was decimated by attrition (look at the lack of Class of 2006 players on roster last year) and injuries. But 2010's struggles could be 2011's gains. Snow established himself as one of the better centers in the Big 12, while a loaded sophomore class was able to push for playing time. Unfortunately, despite the return of Tray Allen from a foot injury a year ago, injuries have still been a storyline this spring. Dominic Espinosa, Kyle Kriegel and Luke Poehlmann are sitting out spring ball, leaving the Longhorns with just eight scholarship offensive linemen available. That number will see a boost when those three get healthy and a strong freshman class that includes five linemen arrives in the fall. But that doesn't help now, and Texas coach Mack Brown has admitted that the Longhorns have had a rough time fielding a line for all the drills and in team periods.

Ideal Situation: Any ideal situation with the Longhorns starts with finding health. But even then, the Longhorns have the makings of a talented starting five. Snow would be the obvious center, with Hopkins and Kelley at the tackles. Allen was slated to start at guard in 2010, but missed the year with an injury. Into his place stepped Walters, who performed admirably at times. Now the two should combine to give Texas a nice interior with Snow. Ashcraft has size and ability, and would make an ideal backup at guard, while Porter and Espinosa could provide depth at center. Poehlmann was the No. 3 tackle a year ago, only to have his injury give Kelley a chance at more playing time. He could provide in a similar role if healthy.

What We Would Like To See: Close to the ideal situation. Hopkins has astounding mobility for a 290-pound man, and has drawn comparisons to Justin Blalock. Him reaching his vast potential is something we would certainly like to see, and could improve the line immediately by protecting the quarterback's blind side. At the other tackle there's Kelley, who looks like a high draft pick on one play and a backup on others. He was young a year ago, and establishing consistency is a must. Snow needs to step up and become one of the league's best at his position, and in doing so can help Walters, Allen and Ashcraft blend into a strong guard unit.

What Will Probably Happen: The starting five listed above is realistic, if for no other reason than the fact that those players have the most experience. Walters and Allen have a chance to add to the run game. But don't be surprised if a member or two of the incoming freshman class finds his way onto the two-deep. The primary candidates are probably Sedrick Flowers, a flexible and athletic guard, and Josh Cochran, who could play onto the two-deep at tackle, a weak spot for the 'Horns. If everything goes right, the Longhorns could field a strong unit. But it's probably more realistic to expect a few growing pains early, then see improvement late that could set Texas up for a strong 2012. After all, of the 16 offensive linemen on scholarship, only two are seniors, and the most talented players are underclassmen.

Horns Digest Top Stories