- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 50 Jake Raulerson
Redshirt freshman center
Recruitment rewind: Raulerson was the "bell cow" of Texas' 2013 recruiting class. Mack Brown made him the first verbal commitment of the class on Feb. 3, 2012, and he took great pride in recruiting for that class. The versatile ESPN 150 big man from Celina, Texas, came to Texas at 6-foot-5 and around 250 pounds with the ability to play almost anywhere on the offensive or defensive line. Raulerson enrolled early in the spring of 2013.
Career so far: An emergency appendectomy shut Raulerson down during spring ball last year, but he recovered well and bulked up during his redshirt year. Raulerson checked in at nearly 280 pounds this spring and enters his second year in the program as Texas' top backup at center.
Best-case scenario for 2014: The Longhorns trust Dominic Espinosa at center. He's going to be a four-year starter and has started 39 straight games. Raulerson isn't going to put him out of a job, barring an injury to the senior leader, and Texas already has a veteran deep snapper on special teams. What gives Raulerson an advantage, despite those roadblocks, is he knows the playbook and can play anywhere on the line. He can sub in and help keep Espinosa fresh. And if injuries do hit, he could work his way into the lineup.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: If Raulerson spends a year on the bench, dedicating himself to mastering what Joe Wickline asks of his linemen, what's the harm in that? He's a fiery competitor and he's going to push the players around him to get better on the practice field, whether he's playing or not.
Future expectations: The path to success for Raulerson is easy to see: Spend another year learning from Espinosa and Wickline, then take over the starting center job next spring and hold it down for the next three years. His biggest competition for that job will likely be incoming freshman Terrell Cuney, but Raulerson will have two years in the program under his belt by next year. He's got a chance to be a exciting player; he just might need to wait another year.