When Texas brought in Stacy Searels after the 2010 season to overhaul its offensive line, it did so with an ideal in mind.
Searels had been coaching SEC offensive lines -- first at LSU, then Georgia -- since 2003. The assumption, fair or not, was that he’d whip the Longhorns line into shape and up to the standards of college football’s most dominant conference.
Principles are important. Personnel matters more.
In Searels’ first two seasons in Austin, the line he inherited too frequently settled for above average, in large part because there was seemingly nobody around to push Texas’ starters. In 2012, Searels relied on a rotation of only six linemen. The lone backup he trusted with snaps in big games, Luke Poehlmann, has graduated.
Having a line full of two- and three-year starters doesn’t mean a whole lot if nobody else is pushing them for starting jobs, and a Texas offense that has built its identity on running the ball the past two seasons hasn’t taken the leap to elite status yet.
But help is on the way. Offensive line is far and away the highlight of the 15-man class Texas inked Wednesday. Three signees -- center Darius James and tackles Jake Raulerson and Kent Perkins -- are ESPN 150 prospects who pledged to Texas in the spring and never looked back.
Searels might be just as excited about the other two he locked up. Guard Rami Hammad’s stock exploded after his senior season, and Searels went hard after him, beating out Oklahoma and TCU for the former Baylor commit. The fifth signee, junior college tackle Desmond Harrison, won’t arrive until the summer but could be a starter by the season opener.
Add that group to last year's class of Donald Hawkins, Kennedy Estelle, Curtis Riser and Camrhon Hughes and Searels will finally have the luxury of something that's easily taken for granted: serious competition.
Searels sent a clear message to all of Texas' incoming linemen: The best five linemen will play. Forget age and experience. That leads to a hungry group of newcomers and a squad of incumbents who must get better. Great recruiting will do that for you.
The 2013 class makes it clear Searels should now have all the ingredients necessary for the dominant, reliable line he desires. Texas isn’t playing for national championship again without one.