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Friday, January 25, 2013
Roundtable: Offensive line class' legacy

By Max Olson

Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson answer a question about the Longhorns.

This week’s question: In four years, Texas fans will look back on the Horns' 2013 offensive line class as _______.

William Wilkerson: Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus.

To be fair, I’m not even sure if that word really has a meaning. Then again, I’m not sure if there is going to be a word you can find in the dictionary that could potentially be used to describe how good this offensive line could be four years from now.

Rami Hammad
Three-star prospect Rami Hammad is the latest Longhorns commit on the offensive line.
Should Andrew Billings choose Texas, like I believe he will, its decision to start recruiting him as a defensive tackle instead of an offensive lineman speaks to the type of talent it believes it’ll have to work with across the offensive front.

The fact that the Longhorns even had the luxury of moving someone with the potential of Jake Raulerson over to the defensive line, which they did before recently moving him back to center, speaks volumes.

Just think about what Stacy Searels has to work with now and in the future.

All five of his starting offensive linemen return next season. They weren’t great by any means but they did improve the offense as a whole.

In 2011 Texas was eighth in the Big 12 in scoring offense (28.1), 7th in total offense (392.5) and third in rushing offense (202.6). In 2012 it was 7th (35.7), 6th (434.6) and 6th (171.5) respectively.

Couple their return with the addition of 6-foot-8 behemoth Desmond Harrison, who should start right away, and the Longhorns are in a position to bring along the younger ones at a slower rate, which is normally a good thing.

OK, so Mason Walters, Trey Hopkins and Donald Hawkins will have all exhausted their eligibility after 2013. That still leaves Texas with Harrison, Josh Cochran and Dominic Espinosa for another year.

Then you start to add in reserves like Kennedy Estelle, Sedrick Flowers, Garrett Greenlea, Taylor Doyle, Garrett Porter, Curtis Riser and Camrhon Hughes. There area a lot of former high school All-Americans in that list.

And that doesn’t even include this year’s freshmen linemen in Darius James, the No. 1 center in the country, Kent Perkins, the No. 4 offensive tackle, and Rami Hammad, Texas’ most recent commitment that has more than 50 offers.

As for 2014, the Longhorns already have a commitment from the top linemen in the state in Demetrius Knox and are in good position with perhaps the top center in the state in Terrell Cuney.

Of course the productivity of the line hinges greatly on the caliber of Texas’ skilled players too. But the Longhorns should be in good shape as far as they are concerned.

Max Olson: The class that proved what kind of coach Stacy Searles is.

Yes, the offensive line is the overwhelming strength of Texas’ 2013 class. But is that really such a surprise? Texas has been signing the state’s best offensive linemen year after year. Too many of them haven’t done anything.

Paden Kelley was the nation’s No. 2 tackle prospect and Thomas Ashcraft was the No. 5 guard in 2009. Flowers and Greenlea were the state’s two best offensive line prospects in 2011.

The four of them have combined for zero career starts. Kelley and Ashcraft should be veteran contributors on this Texas line, yet both are already done playing football.

When Searels left Georgia after the 2010 season to take over as Texas’ new offensive line coach, he inherited lots of guys who were blue-chip, four-star, ESPN 150-caliber prospects in high school. They just haven't developed.

A school that signs one of the nation’s best classes year after year has no excuse for having only six offensive linemen it can trust with serious playing time. In all fairness, though, that’s not on Searels.

Since taking over, he’s done an impressive job of signing linemen that fit his blueprint of a towering, punishing line that’s versatile without being finesse. His first class had an immediate starter in Hawkins and three more -- Estelle, Riser and Hughes – who can contribute next season.

This 2013 class has the potential to be Searels’ masterpiece, the one that could set the table for four or five years of great Longhorn offensive lines. You can’t compete for national championships without one.

I wouldn’t fault Searels one bit for paying extra attention to his 2013 linemen once they hit campus. They are the future of the program. They deserve every opportunity to pass up those who’ve been at UT two or more years and achieved little.

This incoming class should give Searels and the Texas staff the ability to play the program’s five best linemen, regardless of age, experience or previous position. Move Hopkins to center and Hawkins to guard if you must. Or start a true freshman like James.

Rotate. Tinker. Find a lineup that meshes during fall camp and stockpile five more linemen who can see the field at a moment’s notice.

Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin learned the hard way in 2012 that simply having good running backs and saying you want to be powerful and dominant doesn’t give you a physical, “SEC-style” offense (whatever that means).

This much is obvious: It’s time for Texas to put together an SEC-caliber offensive line. Searels has all the ingredients he wants now. Let’s see what he can cook up.