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Friday, February 15, 2013
Position breakdown: Offensive line

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' offensive line is stacked with returning starters at every position.

Yet, every position remains open.

Donald Hawkins
Last season's starting left tackle Donald Hawkins might get more time at guard this spring.
Welcome to the new world of the offensive line. The Longhorns, not satisfied with the blocking against teams even remotely talented on the defensive line (The Longhorns, despite having two of the most-hyped running backs in the country, failed to gain 100 rushing yards on TCU, Oklahoma or Kansas State.) could be in a position to change things up across the line.

And while four of the recently signed offensive linemen will not make it to campus until the summer, the coaching staff can start evaluating how the current handful of returning starters reacts to the new no-huddle offense. If they do not excel in their evaluations, Texas at least now could have viable options to replace a few of them.

Tackles: Since Desmond Harrison is not enrolled yet so it is tough for him to be a part of the spring conversations. Although returning tackle Donald Hawkins will probably get extra work inside in preparation for Harrison’s arrival. Texas has a few guys it can and wants to throw into that tackle position this spring with Kennedy Estelle chief among them. Estelle played last season but had a shoulder injury that forced him to the sideline. He has a big, athletic body and can run so he might be very well suited for a no-huddle attack. Camrhon Hughes is a player Texas was extremely high on last spring but a knee injury in the offseason cost him playing time. Texas is hoping Hughes can participate throughout the spring so they can determine how and when to use him.

Returning starter Josh Cochran might move sides, but he is not likely to move from the tackle spot.

Center: Jake Raulerson is the most intriguing player here. The freshman has come in early and already put on muscle in anticipation of playing the center spot. Still Texas would like to see him gain 20 more pounds and get to about 290. Dominic Espinosa is the two-year returning starter but coaches are going to give Raulerson every opportunity to fight for that spot. Also Trey Hopkins might be an option in the future. But Hopkins had surgery on a fractured fibula and will miss spring practice. Darius James, another player who could be at center, is not on campus yet. It also appears as if James will first be tested at guard rather than center.

And finally, guard Mason Walters did play center in high school and might take a few snaps in that position this spring.

Guard: Walters, while possibly getting a look at center, will most likely keep his guard position. But with Hopkins gone it will allow Texas to take long looks at Curtis Riser and Sedrick Flowers. If Texas is to get to 10-deep, and that might be crucial given that a no-huddle offense could wear down linemen, particularly in the hotter months, one of these two needs to at least threaten for playing time. Texas has waited for Flowers to accept his role but the rising sophomore has not yet stepped up. He might be the most athletically gifted player along the line and would be well-suited for an agile line, But, again, he has only shown flashes and not consistency.

Riser worked will in practice last season and could be an asset. But his primary role this spring and in 2013 will most likely be that of a backup guard.