Season Preview: Offensive Line

2010 in Review: If you really want to get to the root of all the offense’s problems last season, look no further than the offensive line. In 2010, Mack Brown decided that he wanted to become a North-South, downhill, I-formation running team, like he used to have when Major Applewhite and Chris Simms were under center. But it seems you actually can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Texas’ offensive line was senior laden with guys like Kyle Hix, Michael Huey and Britt Mitchell who had spent their previous years at Texas on their heels in pass protection. Pushing forward to gain a few yards on the ground was just not their forte. For an offensive line that had so many struggles last season, it’s surprising to note that they only allowed 18 sacks last season. A decent number considering the Horns defense had 31 sacks in 2010.

Key Returner: There will be a lot of new faces on the offensive line which is why the key returner has to be one of the two guys that are back. Mason Walters started all 12 games at right guard last year, but by all media accounts will probably be moved out to tackle in 2011. There is a lot more responsibility on the end of the line, so Walters will have to step up big time if the Longhorns are to have any sort of success this year. Senior David Snow will likely move out to guard to take Walters’ spot after playing all last season at center.

Player to Watch: This could easily go to newcomers Trey Hopkins orĀ Dominic Espinosa, which by early accounts will be starters on the line, but a key player to watch this season will be tackle Tray Allen. Allen was one of two 5-star recruits in the 2007 freshman class, however he has only played sparingly in his first four years on campus. He sat out all of 2010 with a foot injury and after years of waiting, finally seems to be getting his shot at a starting gig. Coming out of high school Allen was a consensus prep first team All-America selection, he was tabbed as the top lineman on the Parade All-America team, and earned first-team All-America honors from USA Today. So the talent is there, but can he finally put it together as a collegiate player. (If you have never seen or heard from Allen like me, watch the video below. He pops up at about 3 minutes in)

For the Offensive Line to be successful, they need to … open up holes for Longhorn running backs. The Texas running game struggled mightily last season in the new offense. Well, now they have a new, new offense with incoming Co-O Coordinator Bryan Harsin, which emphasizes the same downhill running game. Harsin’s passing offense needs a good rushing attack if it is to be successful because he likes the play-action pass. To the naked eye Harsin’s offense at Boise State may seem like it was a predominantly passing attack with the success of QB Kellen Moore, but over the past two seasons the Broncos have had more than 30 rushing touchdowns per season, a 5-yard per rush average and an 1,100-yard rusher.

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