- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- They didn’t make kids like this back in 1970.
The offensive line that anchored Texas’ third national championship in eight years featured a pair of two-time All-Americans: The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Jerry Sisemore and 6-foot-3, 235-pound Bobby Wuensch.
They were the stars of a Texas offensive line that averaged 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds.
Today, mammoth 300-pounders rule up front, and the 6-1, 220 guys are linebackers and defensive ends. The evolution of the offensive lineman is impossible to ignore.
Texas’ 2005 title team averaged 6-5 and 314 pounds, with nine offensive linemen checking in at 300-plus. The 2013 Longhorns could have as many as 15.
Now imagine having to find those big men as 15- and 16-year-olds, before they’ve even reached their junior year of high school, and trying to determine how and when they’ll grow, how they eat, how big they’ll get and, of course, how well they actually play football.
That’s the unenviable task facing Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searles these days, but he’s thriving.
Texas already has landed commitments from three linemen in the 2015 ESPN 300: Keller (Texas) guard Maea Teuhema (No. 31 in the ESPN 300), Sherman (Texas) guard Aaron Garza (No. 203) and Buda (Texas) Hays tackle Connor Lanfear (No. 292). They’re three of the top six linemen in Texas in 2015, and the No. 2 ranked in-state lineman, Patrick Vahe (Euless, Texas/Trinity), also could commit this summer.
They might be only high school juniors (well, not even that yet), but the Texas commits know there’s a lot more to the number 300 than most people assume.
Garza serious about diet, health
Aaron Garza likes to live by a new credo these days: Average isn’t good enough.
For the first member of Texas’ 2015 class, inspiration came at a U.S. Army combine in January down in San Antonio. He saw elite offensive line prospects. He wanted to be better than them.
“I’m a technician of the game now,” Garza said. “I’ll be watching film over and over every day. I have a notepad, and I critique myself on what I need to do. I practice my stance in the mirror at home. I kill my footwork.”
His height was always above average. He shot up 6 inches to 6 feet before he even turned 12. He was 6-2 by the start of freshman year.
He fondly remembers feeling thin back then at only 260 pounds.
“Then I went from 260 to 300 in three months. It was bad,” Garza said. “Everybody was saying I was on steroids. I was putting up impressive numbers for a freshman. I got my bench press from 240 to 385 in a month and a half. Everyone was shocked.”
He didn’t cheat. Garza is now 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds and continues to be a prodigy in the weight room. And he’s becoming as passionate about how much he eats as how much he lifts.
Garza adheres to a diet of 2,000 calories per day, one heavy on steak, chicken, fish, rice and broccoli. He hasn’t sipped a Coke or tea in three years. He refuses to eat candy and sweets.
This is the burden he has accepted of being 300 pounds at age 16. He must be smart about what he puts into his body now.
“I’m a big guy, and that’s a lot of weight on my joints,” Garza said. “I can’t afford to be that heavy. 'Playability' is a big thing. It’s all about being functional and fast and not getting beat.”
Garza’s goal is to have as strong a core as possible, which requires trimming belly fat and putting on more muscle in all areas. He hikes and bikes and wants to run a 4.8 in the 40 by the time he gets to college. He’s serious about playing as a freshman.
“It’s not about how skinny I get,” Garza said. “I need to be able to pack an enormous punch in the run game and the pass game without sacrificing any weight.”
Weight concerns don’t faze Teuhema, Lanfear
Other than the fact he’s already 6-5 and weighs 348 pounds at age 16, Maea Teuhema is as natural and normal as it gets.
The Keller (Texas) lineman didn’t do anything special to get to this size. He’s always been big. He eats like a teenager, guardian Robert Taliaferro said, and he’s not looking to go on a diet.
But don’t call him fat, not without seeing him in person or in pads.
“There were coaches this spring who saw him and thought he was 280 pounds,” Taliaferro said. “He’s not carrying that weight in his belly or waist. It’s not from being lazy or overeating.”
Teuhema wears size 46 pants, which usually have to be special ordered online. His shoes are size 17. Big and tall stores are of little help.
He’s down to around 325 pounds this summer from working construction with his father, and Teuhema doesn’t stress about the number. His guardians and parents aren’t pressuring him.
“We don’t talk a lot about his weight,” Taliaferro said. “He is what he is, and he’s normal. We didn’t feed him more to make him bigger. We don’t feed him less to lose weight. I mean, in seventh grade, he was already 283 pounds.”
Fellow Texas commit Connor Lanfear is still at 270 pounds and has learned not to fret about his growth. He’s confident he’ll hit 300 pounds eventually, when his body is ready.
“In today’s world, you need more than just big guys,” Lanfear said. “You need them to be able to move, as well. You have to be athletic. A lot of people think lineman are big ol' fat guys who just push people around. That’s not the case anymore.”
He’s keeping to a 4,000-calorie diet these days in an effort to gain weight. Before he committed to the Longhorns in June, there were times when he feared his lean frame might lead fewer schools to offer. He doesn’t need to fret now.
“Really, I got where I am now on a lot of Mom’s meat and potatoes more than anything else,” Lanfear said. “For right now, I just want to be natural, put good stuff into my body and grow naturally.”
Getting to a healthy 300
Texas assistant athletic director and sports dietician Amy Culp doesn’t want to judge a book by its cover when it comes to talking about 300-pound teenagers. It’s not that simple.
“I have a concern when any blanket number is thrown out there, for any athlete,” said Culp, who can't specifically discuss high school athletes who haven't yet signed with colleges. “They hear a number and think, ‘At 16, I need to be at 300.’ We want them to get as big, strong and powerful as possible, safely.”
Gaining weight the right way is hard, she says, and can require as much commitment as losing weight. Cleaning up a student-athlete’s nutritional habits is usually step No. 1 when they join the program.
But the simple 300 number doesn't tell her much. Culp cares about body composition, lean mass and keeping body fat within goal ranges.
She's also quick to point out that athleticism will be as important as ever for Texas linemen now that the offense is transitioning to an up-tempo scheme. That move only reinforces the importance of proper fuel and staying in shape, no matter what the scale says.
So if a recruit is already managing his nutrition long before he arrives in Austin, he's no doubt ahead of the game.
"When they come in here, we can take it one step further," Culp said. "I can continue to optimize their nutrition even more. If you have the basics covered, we can do some great and exciting things.”
Texas took a chance on Garza, Teuhema and Lanfear by accepting commitments earlier than ever before. They're nearly done growing, but the linemen still have plenty of growing up to do.