2005 Position-by-Position Preview: OL

If football, indeed, starts with the big guys up front then the margin separating Texas from championship hardware and also-ran status is a fine line.

Head coach Mack Brown has already said the 2005 Longhorn offensive line is the best he has ever coached. And while Brown is occasionally prone to hyperbole, the fact remains that the Horns are replacing only one offensive starter on a front five that is anchored by a couple of Lombardi candidates. The fact is not lost on the national media as several preseason publications have listed the Texas O-line as tops in the Big 12, if not nationally.

QB Vince Young may be Texas' most celebrated athlete but, by the end of the year, LT Jonathan Scott will be Texas' most awarded. Scott (6-7, 310) is everybody's (preseason) All-American and was a consensus first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2004. The senior is Texas' most experienced O-lineman with 32 starts and is considered one of the nation's premiere pass-blockers. He's a legitimate contender for the Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and joins junior RT Justin Blalock and LDT Rodrique Wright as one of three Longhorns named to the Lombardi preseason 'watch' list.

"(Scott) has been a tremendous leader." Brown said. "He has been an outstanding guy, started every play that he was healthy for the four years he has been at Texas. This is his fifth year and he has a chance to be an outstanding player this year, one of the best in the country and a great pro player."

Blalock (6-4, 329) has started all 25 games that he has played during his Texas tenure. He earned first-team All-Big 12 honors after logging starts in all 12 games last season. Blalock manned the line in all 13 games during his redshirt freshman season en route to grabbing UT's Most Improved Offensive Player award in 2003. In addition to Wright, Brown praised Blalock for his leadership during voluntary summer workouts these past two years.

"I thought Rod was one of the key seniors, along with Justin Blalock, to have our summer workouts so strong last year," Brown said. "He took a leadership role and stepped up and he has done the same thing this year."

RG Will Allen (6-6, 315) just might be the toughest son-of-a-gun on the O-line. He earned that reputation during the 2003 August camp when he returned to the lineup two days following surgery on an injured thumb. At the time, Allen was competing for the starting center's job before tearing a ligament in his snapping hand. Two days after the injury, Allen was back on the field learning to snap with his other hand before moving to RG. All told, Allen has battled the injury bug more than his counterparts on the O-line but teammates respect his ability to play with pain. Allen has 19 career starts at RG and was an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection in 2004 despite missing the last four games of the regular season due to injury.

Last year, LG Kasey Studdard (6-3, 290) was the only underclassmen to earn a starting nod on a seasoned O-line. Studdard fought his way past heir apparent Mike Garcia on the way to 11 starts as a RS-sophomore. If there is a class clown on the O-Line, it is certainly Studdard. The second-generation Longhorn (his father Dave played for Texas from 1975-77 before ten seasons with the Denver Broncos) may be the loosest Longhorn this side of Vince Young. He saw action in seven games during his freshman campaign and was a two-time, first-team Colorado all-state selection while at Lone Tree (Highland Ranch) High.

Junior Lyle Sendlein takes over at center this season, and it's not every day that you can say replacing a three-year starter might be an upgrade. Former C Jason Glynn, who completed his eligibility with the Rose Bowl win, gives up three inches and 30 pounds to the 6-5, 305-pound Sendlein. Time and again, Brown gushed over Sendlein's progress during the spring. Sendlein saw action in 10 games last season at center and at guard. He is the only Longhorn O-lineman entering the fall without a career start but, like Studdard, he comes from good stock. His father Robin Sendlein was a Texas linebacker (1977-80) before playing eight years in the NFL.

RS-Sophomore Dallas Griffin (6-4, 280) missed spring drills due to a knee injury but will compete for playing time as Sendlein's understudy. Griffin saw action in four games in 2004. Meanwhile, former RT Kyle Thornton worked as Studdard's backup during the spring but is now penciled in behind Allen at RG.

Garcia (6-3, 310) will compete with Studdard for playing time at LG. Garcia started the last four games of the 2004 regular season at RG following Allen's injury, Garcia has seen action in 36 games with six career starts.

Sophomore LT Tony Hills (6-6, 295) would probably start on any team that didn't have Jonathan Scott. Hills is former Parade All-American who made the transition from TE to the O-line in spring of 2004. He saw action in seven games and on special teams as a true freshman last season. Hills sat out the 2003 season to rehab a knee injury suffered in the 2002 Texas 5A semifinals and is the heir apparent for the starting LT spot in 2006.

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