2004 Season Preview: O-Line Should Be Fine

The old football adage is that it all starts up front. That's why Inside Texas' position-by-position preview of the 2004 Longhorns begins today with the big uglies (A.K.A. the offensive line). Pre-season camp begins August 9.

One of the most encouraging things that can be said of the O-Line is that nobody is saying much about them at all. One year ago, the line's effectiveness (particularly its ability to run-block) was a hot topic during the heat of August camp. Fiery Mac MacWhorter, who was given full reign of the entire line in 2003 after previously focusing on OTs and TEs, promised the unit would be better. And, to small extent, they are.

To be sure, there were serious lapses in pass protection against Arkansas and Washington State. And the resurgent ground game resulting from the mid-season switch to the Zone Read offense may have made the group look, at times, better than it actually was. However, the linemen gradually assumed MacWhorter's confident, fiery persona after head coach Mack Brown fired former OL coach Tim Nunez (a cerebral, finesse-oriented guy who some within the program said couldn't recruit worth a damn). The O-line displayed impressive interior strength (but struggled at the edges) against Kansas State's physical defense last season, but later manhandled the once-proud defensive lines at Nebraska and Texas A&M. Put it all together and Texas' rushing offense surged from an NCAA No. 74 (135.5 ypg) in 2002 to No. 8 (232.5 ypg) last year.

For starters, there are four returning starters. Plus there are five other athletes who have taken significant game-day snaps. The Horns must replace first-team All Big 12 OG Tillman Holloway but, overall, the O-line should out-talent every D-line it faces all season save for the second Saturday in October. For now, Texas has the kind of continuity up front that Brown has anticipated since day one.

"Since our first year, we've had pieces of an offensive line," Brown said. "We've had an old guy and a young guy but we haven't had consistency with guys working together. Only Tillman Holloway will be gone this year and only (C) Jason Glynn will be gone next year so we could have a great run the next two years with our offensive line."

Right Guard: We're starting with RG Will Allen because the 6-6, 305-pound junior deserves first mention. He may be the toughest OL to don the Burnt Orange in years. Case-in-point: early last August, Allen had just displaced Glynn at center when he broke his thumb on his snapping hand. Brown was as amazed as anybody to see Allen back on the field within two days. The coaches wanted his talent on the field that badly. Allen started 11 games at RG and saw action in eight games in 2002 as a RS-freshman. Junior Terrance Young (6-6, 350, 11 appearances in 2003) and senior Trey Bates (6-5, 280, six appearances in 2003) will compete for backup status, but quality depth at RG is a concern.

Right Tackle: Two years ago, the prediction here was that RS-sophomore RT Justin Blalock (6-4, 330) would be the next big-thing on the OL. I honestly thought Blalock would lose his redshirt as a true freshman in 2002 when the run blocking was so pitiful. A first-team USA Today All-American out of Plano East, Blalock came to Texas rated as the nation's 15th-best high school prospect overall by The Sporting News. The best is yet to come for Blalock, but his UT career got off to a fine start. A first-teamer in all 13 games, Blalock was also named first team Freshman All-American by The Sporting News. Speaking of the next big thing, check out Blalock's backup in 6-7, 350-pound junior William Winston. "Big Will" has appeared in 26 games but does not have Blalock's versatility and speed.

Center: Jason Glynn just will not go away, and that is to his credit. Fair or not, Glynn was the unofficial poster child for all that was wrong with the O-line two seasons ago. Brown put it mildly when he said "we need to get Jason stronger because he's been overpowered a couple of times." Listed at 6-2, 275-pounds, Glynn has logged 26 starts and has even earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Award (awarded to the nation's top center). Backup RS-sophomore Lyle Sendlein is the heir apparent at center and appeared in all 13 games last year.

Left Guard: The most interesting offensive battle for playing time shapes up as the contest between junior Mike Garcia (6-3, 310) and RS-sophomore Kasey Studdard (6-3, 285). Either way, Texas wins. Garcia seemed destined for Holloway's old spot after starting two games at RG last season, but a knee injury during spring drills opened the door for Studdard. Garcia has logged 26 appearances and will be counted on this fall. But Studdard had such a breakout spring that Brown couldn't shut up about him. Studdard played in seven games last year as a reserve OG. His father is former Longhorn OT Dave Studdard (1975-77) who also spent 10 years with the Denver Broncos.

Left Tackle: Junior Jonathan Scott (6-7, 305) was shoved around against Arkansas and KSU but then emerged as one of the Big 12's better linemen. He started all 13 games last season en route to post-season honors (third-team All-Big 12 by league coaches, honorable mention All-Big 12 by the Associated Press). Senior Lionel Garr will battle freshman Tony Hills, Jr., (recruited as an All-American TE but rehabbed last fall following knee surgery) for backup time. The nod could well go to the talented true freshman over the under achieving senior.

Horns Digest Top Stories