Texas Longhorns: Rami Hammad

Former Texas offensive guard Rami Hammad is transferring to Baylor after visiting the school on Monday morning.

Hammad, a redshirt freshman who left the Texas program last week, told ESPN.com he will sit out the 2014 season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman told ESPN.com he chose Baylor over Alabama and UCLA after receiving interest from more than 40 programs at the FBS and junior college level.

"It was the hardest decision for me to ever make in my life. I want to thank Texas and Mack Brown for giving me a chance to play there," Hammad said. "I wish it would've worked out. The staff changed and the coaches changed and I never knew this would happen. God works in mysterious ways. I wish nothing but the best for them and my teammates were my brothers. I never would've made this move if I didn't think it would work out. It was never about depth chart or playing time. It was simply a clash between me and [offensive coordinator Joe] Wickline and it couldn't be resolved."

During his recruiting process out of Irving (Texas) High School, Hammad initially committed to Oklahoma State and its offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who is now at Texas. He then committed to Baylor in November 2012, but reopened his recruitment two months later and chose Texas before signing day.

Hammad redshirted last season after suffering an injury and was a backup lineman in the Longhorn program during fall camp before he elected to transfer.

“He decided it was in his best interest to go ahead and transfer and we wish him nothing but the best," Texas coach Charlie Strong said last week.

Hammad would've provided depth and perhaps could've pushed left guard Sedrick Flowers for his starting spot during the season, but Texas is in relatively good shape at that position with Flowers on the left side and sophomore Kent Perkins at right guard.
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. 67 Rami Hammad
Redshirt freshman offensive guard


Recruitment rewind: Texas was the third school Hammad committed to during his recruiting process. The three-star lineman from Irving, Texas, initially chose to play for Joe Wickline at Oklahoma State in June 2012. Five months later, he flipped to Baylor. But Hammad's recruitment blew up again in January after an impressive showing at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, and he committed to Texas in late January over offers from Oklahoma and TCU.

Career so far: Hammad, a practicing Muslim, joined the program last summer and fasted during Ramadan and team workouts. That wasn't the reason he redshirted in 2013, though. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound guard suffered an shoulder injury during the season and did not end up appearing in a game. At the start of spring ball, he was practicing as the first-team right guard. By the end of spring ball, Taylor Doyle held that job with Hammad working with the No. 2 line.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Hammad wins the right guard job and doesn't look back. There was a time last season, right before the shoulder injury, when Texas coaches considered plugging Hammad into the starting lineup. Wickline, now the Longhorns' offensive coordinator, knows Hammad has serious potential. He just needs to adjust to Wickline's schemes and coaching style after some struggles this spring. He can become a devastating blocker once he gets it all down.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Kent Perkins is more than capable of winning out at right guard, despite the knee injury that cost him much of spring ball. So is Doyle, who emerged from obscurity to earn major reps with the No. 1 offense this spring. If Hammad doesn't rise to the occasion in fall camp, or if he clashes with Wickline, he'll have to fight to regain his job throughout the season.

Future expectations: The many Big 12 coaches who fought so hard to recruit Hammad in 2012 believed he would develop into a multi-year starter and future NFL lineman. Those are lofty expectations, especially for a supposed three-star prospect, and Hammad didn't get a chance in 2013 to prove whether his play merited such praise. He enters this fall with plenty of motivation and a clear goal of winning a starting job. If he does so, Hammad should become a mainstay in the lineup.

Spring game review: Texas

April, 21, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas finished its first spring under new coach Charlie Strong with its annual Orange-White spring game on Saturday. The two-hour scrimmage was won by Texas' first-team offense 38-14, and while Tyrone Swoopes' up-and-down showing stole most of the attention, here are a few more takeaways from the Longhorns' spring finale:

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTyrone Swoopes should improve as he gains confidence.
Best offensive performance: With only one other scholarship back available, you knew Malcolm Brown was in for a big workload. He kicked off his critical senior season with a solid day, picking up 82 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and adding 26 yards and another score on two screen passes. Texas will need Johnathan Gray (torn Achilles) healthy and Joe Bergeron (academics) back if this run game is going to lead the way, but Brown could be poised for an All-Big 12 caliber season if he stays healthy.

Best defensive performance: Strong didn't need to watch any film to know who stood out on his defense on Saturday. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown was a "handful," in his eyes, and that was obvious to everyone in attendance. The junior lineman racked up five tackles, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and he spent plenty of time in the backfield. "When he wants to play," Strong said, "he can create a lot of havoc and can make plays."

Best debut: Not many candidates for this, since Texas had just three early enrollees, so let's give a little love to a walk-on. Dylan Haines is a name most Longhorns fans had never heard entering Saturday, but the defensive back stole the show in the first quarter by intercepting Swoopes' overthrown first pass attempt and returning it 23 yards. Haines, a second-year scout team player in 2013, was rewarded for his big play with reps on Texas' first-team defense.

Notable play: Swoopes' best play of the day was his last. He took a low snap midway through the fourth quarter, faked a handoff and hurled a deep ball to Jaxon Shipley, fitting it in perfectly between defensive backs Chevoski Collins and Adrian Colbert. Shipley pulled it down over his shoulder for a 44-yard touchdown, giving Swoopes plenty to smile about after a frustrating start to the day. The pass was by far the best Swoopes has thrown in his first year of action and, to some extent, an encouraging sign he's not afraid to take shots downfield.

Developing storyline: Texas has a chance to have one of the Big 12's better offensive lines this fall under the guidance of Joe Wickline, but this summer and fall camp will be critical toward fortifying that line and establishing needed depth. The mammoth Desmond Harrison must continue to develop at left tackle after a rough 2013 season. Kennedy Estelle and the injured Kent Perkins can become some of UT's best linemen in time. And the battle at right guard, between Taylor Doyle and Rami Hammad, isn't over. Wickline will start his five best, and that five should reveal itself over the next few months.

Biggest question answered: Is Swoopes the heir apparent at quarterback for Texas? He showed flashes in the spring game, particularly in the second half, but he never faced a first-team defense Saturday and his play early on served as a reminder why a redshirt would have been the right move last fall. Shawn Watson is encouraged by his potential and still has plenty to teach him this summer and beyond. Swoopes has raw tools and will get better as he gets more confident, but his coaches and fans should stay patient.

Quotable: "When you look at the level of concern, you look at today and you go out and say defensively you would like to play a lot better and get stops and make sure you don't allow teams to just consistently drive the football on you. Then on offense it is all about executing, but that is going to come with focus and with preparation. What happens is that the players understand what we are looking for and what we are all about. So once we understand that, things are going to get much better because they believe in the system. When they trust and believe in the system, then we are always going to have a chance." -- Strong
Editor's note: This is the fourth part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: It’s entirely possible no BCS program had a more experienced duo of offensive guards in 2013 than Texas. Mason Walters started 51 of his 52 career games at right guard. Trey Hopkins started 42 career games, 28 of them at left guard and 14 at right tackle, and twice earned All-Big 12 honors.

[+] EnlargeSedrick Flowers
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesSedrick Flowers is the most experienced of Texas' guard options, having played every game in 2013.
The contenders: The guys ready to take over for those two longtime starters have a combined one career start among them. That one belongs to Sedrick Flowers, the most experienced of these interior lineman. He started at left guard in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.

Sophomore Curtis Riser earned limited playing time in 2014, as did junior Taylor Doyle. Touted recruits Darius James and Rami Hammad both redshirted as freshmen, and true freshman Alex Anderson enrolled early in January.

Moving forward: The Joe Wickline factor is strong with this group. Texas’ respected new offensive line coach says he’s simply looking to find the five best offensive linemen and piece together his lineup this spring, and he’ll bring fresh eyes and a new perspective when it comes to which of these guards can help this Texas line in 2014.

Flowers would seem to be the favorite to land a starting gig after playing in all 13 games last season. By the end of his sophomore year, Flowers was respected as a trusted backup by Walters and Hopkins, and both agreed he’d be worthy of taking their place this fall. But he’ll have to earn that spot, and the competition should be strong.

The rest of Texas’ guards have potential, but only two of them have even seen the field. Riser appeared in four games last season, and Doyle saw action in two contests.

The guys most fans will be watching this spring are James and Hammad. The former was one of the nation’s best offensive line recruits a year ago but took a redshirt because he was out of shape. That time off should help him better prepare for playing at this level. Hammad came close to earning a spot in the lineup in the middle of the 2013 season, but he went down with a season-ending injury and should be healthy this spring.

Anderson, a New Orleans native, arrived in Austin with a chip on his shoulder and should benefit from getting in early. He could be a sleeper challenger in this group.

Another possibility to keep in mind: Wickline likes to cross-train his offensive linemen at several positions, so he’ll likely try out several other Longhorns at the guard spots to see if he can find a fit. Don’t be surprised if someone like Kent Perkins, a sophomore, proves he can handle such a move and challenges for a spot this fall.

Prediction: I can tell you right now that Flowers and Hammad seem like the safest bets to win jobs, but a lot can change this spring. Wickline will try to instill a certain mentality with his offensive line this season: Your job is on the line every single week. Whoever the favorites are after spring, they’ll have to fight every day to keep their spots.
Texas entered the 2013 season with one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines. That's no longer the case going into spring ball, though the Longhorns did add one of the nation's most respected offensive line coaches this offseason.

How's he going to put this group together? A look at the battle to replace four former starters:

Departed: Left guard Trey Hopkins (42 career starts), right guard Mason Walters (51) and left tackle Donald Hawkins (23) are graduating, and former starting right tackle Josh Cochran elected to end his playing career due to a recurring shoulder injury. The junior had started 23 of his 30 career games. Backup center Garrett Porter also graduates. Walters’ 51-game start streak tied for longest in the nation among lineman at the end of 2013.

Spring contenders: OT Kennedy Estelle, OT Desmond Harrison, OT Kent Perkins, OT Garrett Greenlea, OT Camrhon Hughes, OG Sedrick Flowers, OG Curtis Riser, OG Rami Hammad, OG Darius James, OG Taylor Doyle, OG Alex Anderson, C Dominic Espinosa, C Jake Raulerson

Summer contenders: C Terrell Cuney, OT Elijah Rodriguez

The skinny: Yep, that’s a crowded field. Lot of big bodies, not a lot of experience among them.

Espinosa is the elder statesman of the group, having started all 39 games of his career. He and Harrison are the only seniors of this group, and Harrison hasn’t played meaningful minutes yet.

We don’t know what many of these linemen are capable of entering spring ball because so few have seen the field, but the bar has been set high for the members of Texas’ 2013 signing class. Former Texas coach Mack Brown considered that group -- Harrison, Perkins, Hammad, James and Raulerson -- the best offensive line class he had ever signed.

Will new offensive line coach and OC Joe Wickline agree? He recruited several of his new pupils during his days at Oklahoma State, but he has no reason to stick to the plan laid out by the previous staff. If the younger linemen beat out the veterans, they’ll play.

The best of the bunch, at least based on 2013 performances, could be Estelle and Perkins. Estelle, a junior, started eight games in place of Cochran and had some promising moments. Perkins was too good to redshirt as a true freshman. Harrison is the wild card of the group and has been an enigma during his time in burnt orange.

As for the guards, Flowers had the full respect of Walters and Hopkins and is finally getting his chance. The highly-touted James redshirted as a freshman, as did Hammad. They’ll battle Riser this spring. Anderson, an early enrollee from New Orleans, could challenge them as well.

That’s how it looks on paper, but keep this in mind: Wickline isn’t afraid to move linemen around and cross-train them at other positions. That preparation paid off for several of his Cowboy linemen over the years. The way this group looks today could be very different come August.

Prediction: Expect movement and possibly a few surprises. It’s all up to Wickline and who makes an impression on him in spring ball. The safest bets to start are probably Espinosa, Estelle and Flowers. Don’t be surprised if James or Hammad win out for the other guard spot, and for Perkins to take a lead over Harrison exiting spring ball. These second-year linemen are legit.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: OL

February, 21, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Friday with offensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the offensive lines at the moment:

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose their captain in All-American Gabe Ikard, who kept the line together through several moving pieces. Those pieces, however, are almost all back. Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams are steady veterans at tackle. Inside, guards Dionte Savage and Nila Kasitati both started the Sugar Bowl, and former starter Tyler Evans returns after sitting out the last two years with injury. The Sooners also have been grooming Ikard’s replacement at center in Ty Darlington, who has played well in a reserve role the last two years. Even without Ikard, this is a seasoned unit.

[+] EnlargeJoe Wickline
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJoe Wickline's move from the OSU staff to Texas is an important storyline in the Big 12.
2. Kansas State: The Wildcats will be stout inside. Guard Cody Whitehair and center BJ Finney are All-Big 12 caliber. Veteran starters Cornelius Lucas and Tavon Rooks are gone at tackle, but Bill Snyder signed two of the top 15 juco tackles in the country in A.J. Allen and Luke Hayes. If Allen and Hayes can solidify the bookends, K-State could be stout up front.

3. Texas: The Longhorns return veteran center Dominic Espinosa, who has 39 career starts. But with three starters gone, the Longhorns really need the light to come up for Desmond Harrison. The talent is there, and if Harrison can put it all together, he’ll give Texas a much-needed bookend on the left side. There’s potential elsewhere in freshman guard Rami Hammad and sophomore tackle Kent Perkins, who could both earn starting roles this spring. The biggest addition to this group will be new assistant Joe Wickline, who worked magic with the offensive lines in Stillwater.

4. Baylor: The Bears need left tackle Spencer Drango to make a healthy recovery from his back injury. After Drango was injured in November, Baylor struggled at times to keep quarterback Bryce Petty upright. Departing unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson is irreplaceable, though Desmine Hilliard had a solid sophomore season at right guard. Sophomore Kyle Fuller looks ready to take over at center, but the Bears will need another piece or two to emerge. The skill talent is in place for the Baylor offense to keep humming. How the players up front perform will determine whether it will.

5. Oklahoma State: The key for the Cowboys here will be a healthy return of left tackle Devin Davis. Davis might have been Oklahoma State’s best lineman last season, but suffered a torn ACL during a preseason that knocked him out for the year. Davis has NFL ability, and if he resumes his role, that will allow Daniel Koenig to move back to right tackle. The O-line in Stillwater was something never to worry about because of Wickline’s masterful track record of mixing and matching to get a right fit. It will be interesting to see how the line performs next season with Wickline now at Texas.

[+] EnlargeLe'Raven Clark
John Albright/Icon SMITexas Tech's Le'Raven Clark is one of the best offensive tackles in the Big 12.
6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have an NFL talent in left tackle Le'Raven Clark, who earned All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. Despite Clark, the Red Raiders line struggled last year, giving up 33 sacks (second-worst in the Big 12). But it should be improved in 2014. Juco tackles Dominique Robertson (ESPN JC 50) and Shaq Davis are on the way, and 2013 RT starter Rashad Fortenberry could be back, too, if the NCAA grants him a medical hardship waiver. Losing guard Beau Carpenter to dismissal hurts, but Baylen Brown has starting experience. Brown, Alfredo Morales, James Polk and center Jared Kaster all return after combining for 31 starts along the interior last season.

7. West Virginia: The good news is that the Mountaineers should be superb inside. Quinton Spain is one of the best returning guards in the league, and Mark Glowinski had a solid season at the other guard spot. Tackle, however, is the biggest question on the entire squad going into the spring, outside QB. Coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday that guard Marquis Lucas would be swinging to the outside to compete with Adam Pankey, Marcell Lazard and Sylvester Townes.

8. Iowa State: A healthy Tom Farniok at center would go a long way in stabilizing an inconsistent offensive line that gave up a Big 12-high 38 sacks last season. Farniok was never healthy last year, and it showed. The Cyclones are excited about the potential of Brock Dagel as a cornerstone at left tackle. Jacob Gannon will battle Jake Campos for the other tackle spot, while Jamison Lalk, Oni Omoile and juco transfer Wendell Taiese will compete for the guard spot opposite Daniel Burton. Under the new offensive regime, this line could enjoy huge improvement from 2013.

9. TCU: The line was one of many reasons why the TCU offense struggled so much in 2013. Getting Matt Pryor on the field would be a big help. Pryor is massive at 6-foot-7, 350 pounds, and could fill a need a tackle. Getting Tayo Fabuluje back after a year away from football could help, too, assuming he’s not too rusty. Juco guard Frank Kee, who chose the Horned Frogs over Oklahoma, could fill a spot inside immediately. True freshman Ty Barrett, the prize in a hotly contested recruiting battle, could challenge for time quickly, too.

10. Kansas: John Reagan takes over at offensive coordinator and line coach, and he’ll have some talented newcomers to weave into the rotation. Devon Williams and Keyon Haughton both arrived as three-star guards from Georgia Military College. Haughton is already on campus and could start right away. Freshman Jacob Bragg, the No. 3 center recruit in the country, could vie for time immediately, too, at the vacancy at center (2013 backup center Dylan Admire has moved to fullback/tight end).

Texas position groups to improve: No. 2

February, 13, 2014
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. We’ve already broken down No. 5 (tight ends), No. 4 (defensive tackles) and No. 3 (safeties). Here’s No. 2 on the list.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy and Dominic Espinosa
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDominic Espinosa (right) owns 39 of Texas' 49 returning starts on the offensive line.
2. Offensive linemen

The players: Dominic Espinosa, Kennedy Estelle, Sedrick Flowers, Kent Perkins, Curtis Riser, Desmond Harrison, Rami Hammad, Darius James, Jake Raulerson, Garrett Greenlea, Taylor Doyle, Camrhon Hughes, Alex Anderson, Terrell Cuney, Elijah Rodriguez

Last year: Texas entered last season feeling good not only about its starting five, but also its depth for the future. Four of Texas opening-day starters (Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Mason Walters, Josh Cochran) have moved on. This group was impressive and physical on its best days and maddeningly inconsistent on its worst.

Enter Joe Wickline, regarded as one of the nation’s finest offensive line coaches and the architect of some excellent lines at Oklahoma State. He’s in charge of calling the offense, and his linemen will have to establish an identity.

What’s missing: Experience. Espinosa has plenty of it, with 39 career starts. Estelle has eight starts. Perkins and Flowers have one each. And that’s it. Flowers is a guy the departed starters greatly respected, and his chance to earn a job is now. Harrison was supposed to develop into the starting left tackle but had too many setbacks last season.

The previous staff believed they’d signed their best line class ever in 2013 (James, Perkins, Harrison, Hammad, Raulerson), and it wouldn’t be shocking if several of those guys break into the lineup in 2014.

Moving forward: How will Wickline perceive what he’s inheriting? That’s always the big question when a new coach arrives. Oklahoma State offered scholarships to at least seven of these Texas linemen, so you’d think Wickline is familiar with many of these guys.

It’s also safe to say nobody is guaranteed a starting job along this line. Finding 10 trusted linemen from this group is just as important as a strong starting five. Bring on the competition, and let’s see how Wickline works his magic this spring.
AUSTIN, Texas -- You’re not supposed to mess with a good thing, right?

Texas’ offensive line is as experienced as any in the country this fall. All five starters return and have a combined 124 career starts under their oversized belts.

So why is each of them at risk of losing their jobs? Because, in 2013, Texas thinks it has a chance to have not just a good offensive line, but a great one.

“If one of these guys coming in is better than the starters, we will replace them, without question,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “And they know that. We’ve told them that.”

[+] EnlargeDonald Hawkins
Tim Heitman/US PresswireDonald Hawkins, a junior college transfer in 2012, could find his starting job in peril because of another junior college lineman.
Seniors Mason Walters (38 career starts), Trey Hopkins (29) and Donald Hawkins (11) and juniors Dominic Espinosa (26) and Josh Cochran (20) enter fall camp as the incumbents and received nearly all of the first-team reps in the Longhorns’ first two days of practice this week.

But for the first time in his tenure at Texas, third-year offensive line coach Stacy Searels has options. He’s wanted 10 offensive linemen he can lean on, 10 he can trust. Thanks to two years of strong recruiting, the cupboard is now well-stocked.

The star of that two-year talent infusion could very well be a lineman who arrived in Austin only three weeks ago: Desmond Harrison.

He’s never put on pads for the Longhorns, and the sum total of his experience in the program is one fall practice. But the 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive tackle is already the talk of fall camp after wowing his new teammates.

“He is huge. He’s a massive human being,” Hopkins said. “Probably the only person I’ve seen stand next to Mason and make him kind of look short.”

If the touted transfer from Contra Costa (Calif.) College is everything he’s hyped up to be, Harrison could become the starting left tackle by the end of the month. If that’s the case, the rest of the line would be in for a reshuffling.

Hawkins, a junior college transfer last year, could move from left tackle to guard, prompting Hopkins to take over the center duties. Or he could bump off Cochran for the right tackle job. Or he could get benched.

“Your position could change, and you could be second- or third-string really quick,” Walters said. “The guys we have here now really want to play. We have a lot of bodies and talent right now. I love it. We want to be as good as possible, and you have to have somebody pushing you.”

Harrison isn’t the only threat. Brown and Searels have high hopes for four true freshmen who have a serious shot a cracking the two-deep.

“This recruiting class for offensive linemen could be one of the best offensive line classes ever before they finish at Texas,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to see them when we put the pads on. I’m really excited about them. We haven’t been able to find these guys and get these guys on campus like this. It’s going to be fun to watch them. Don’t know how soon that will be, but our future is very bright there.”

Kent Perkins is already working as the second-string right tackle. Guards Darius James and Rami Hammad and center Jake Raulerson lined up with the third-team offense Tuesday. Several could be worthy of serious playing time this fall.

If they are good enough, that puts Searels in somewhat of a difficult position. How does he explain to three seniors and two juniors that the freshmen must play?

Walters and the rest of the veteran linemen have been through a lot together. When Searels arrived in the spring of 2011, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound guard was one of only seven scholarship linemen in the program. He’s started 38 straight games because Texas really had no choice. He and Hopkins have lined up together for 25 of Texas’ last 26 games.

“[Hopkins has] grunted at me before and I knew exactly what he was saying,” Walters said. “That’s just with all of us. You can tap somebody on the shoulder at a certain time and we all know what to look for on certain plays.”

They share that bond with Cochran and Espinosa, both of whom started as true freshmen. Through the good times and the bad these past two years, they survived together. There has to be some intangible value to that.

But the veterans know this is a meritocracy. Searels had six offensive linemen he trusted in crunch time last season. He needs more than that. The added depth comes at a critical time, when an up-tempo scheme will require more rotating to keep the line fresh and effective.

No matter what, Searels needs 10 good men. And that’s only going to make his five starters work even harder.

“Our togetherness is big, and I think that helps with the guys who have been around for a while,” Walters said. “But at the same time, Coach Searels has definitely made it clear he’ll play the five best.”

Four Downs: Why David Ash is the man 

July, 30, 2013
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David Ash AP Photo/Mario CantuDavid Ash changed the tune of the Alamo Bowl last December when he went to an up-tempo approach, something that bodes well for the Longhorns as they enter 2013.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First Down: This is why David Ash is going to be good

2012 Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon State

DALLAS -- The informal beginning of Texas’ 2013 season came Tuesday with the Longhorns’ appearance at Big 12 media days. Here are five Texas-related things we learned from Big 12 media days:

1. Ash a year older, wiser

We’ll have a lot more on this topic in a future story, but David Ash made quite an impression during his two hours of media time on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
AP Photo/Tim SharpTexas quarterback David Ash appear confident on Day 2 of Big 12 media days.
There’s no doubt Ash has grown much more comfortable with his role as QB No. 1 and as a spokesperson for the team. It’s easy to jump to conclusions that how Ash acted Tuesday is a sign of what’s to come this fall. While I don’t necessarily buy that, he’s definitely carrying himself like a veteran now.

Ash is proud of the fact Mack Brown and Major Applewhite put their full faith in him this spring. He’s excited about the up-tempo scheme and its possibilities. He knows he can bring a lot more to the table in 2013.

“I think I have the ability to do a lot of things,” Ash said. “I can throw any ball. What I’m going to get better at is taking what the defense gives me. Sometimes they give the quarterback the run. If they do, I have no doubt I can take advantage of that.”

That’s confidence. You didn’t see a ton of it in 2012 as Ash battled injury, Case McCoy and his own inconsistency. The seniors in attendance have faith in him. Now it’s time to find out what he’ll do with that trust.

2. Brown unfazed by No. 4 rankings

Brown didn’t squeeze in any serious potshots at the SEC Conference, but he did take time during his 20-minute press conference Tuesday to applaud the parity of the Big 12.

He chuckled when asked, with Phil Steele ranking the Longhorns No. 4 in the nation and conference media tabbing them No. 4 in the league, where his team truly did fit on that scale of expectations.

“I really like the first guy better,” Brown said, referring to Steele. “I don’t know about his merit, but I like it better. Who knows? You know, I do think that we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom.”

The days of two or three teams dominating the conference are long gone, he said, and anyone can beat anyone. He pointed to the most obvious example -- Texas at Kansas last fall -- as proof.

“When you look at us being voted fourth, I thought what we saw is the numbers are all really, really close, and people are confused on who they think may win this conference championship,” Brown said. “That's a compliment to our league.”

3. Jeffcoat ready to return

For Jackson Jeffcoat, senior season started the October day he found out he wouldn’t play again in 2012.

The preseason All-Big 12 defensive end is proud to say his second pectoral injury in two years is now in the rearview mirror. He has been fully cleared for the start of fall camp next month and is ready to start hitting again.

"I’m just excited to get out there with my teammates, and it’s really helped me grow,” Jeffcoat said. “Being out there and seeing things like a coach and talking with coach about things, it’s different. You see different things. I helped players out and I learned.”

Perhaps that’s the silver lining for Jeffcoat -- he’s glad he got a chance to help Cedric Reed prepare for the starting role and that his absence ended up letting Texas develop its depth on the line.

We heard good things about Shiro Davis, Bryce Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett this week, too, though they’re primarily pass rushers right now. Oscar Giles could have some serious options for rotations this fall.

4. Hopkins likes OL depth

Trey Hopkins insisted he and the four returning members of the Texas offensive line don’t feel threatened by the addition of the best incoming line class of Brown’s tenure.

In fact, the senior guard said he’s excited to see what the five linemen -- Darius James, Kent Perkins, Rami Hammad, Jake Raulerson and juco transfer Desmond Harrison -- can do to provide depth in 2013, especially when an up-tempo scheme likely will call for more substituting up front.

“There’s a lot of competition. That only makes everyone else rise,” Hopkins said. “They can come in, and I expect them to work hard. They’ve shown they’ll work hard. That’s going to be an energy booster for the rest of the team. Everyone knows now you can’t take a lazy step, or the guy behind you will be the guy in front of you pretty soon.”

5. Odds and ends

• Texas officials confirmed Tuesday that linebacker Jordan Hicks officially was approved for a medical redshirt for the 2012 season. Hicks is still considered a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.

• Harrison had his first workout with the team on Monday after enrolling last week. Hopkins called the 6-foot-8 tackle a “massive human being” and has been impressed by his demeanor.

• No update on the status of wide receiver Cayleb Jones and when he’ll resume working out with the team. Jones was suspended this spring and has not been with the program during the summer.

• One interesting note on newly hired football analyst Greg Robinson: He’ll continue to live in Los Angeles this fall and likely will visit Austin only for home-game weekends. Robinson, whose primary duty is to break down opponents’ film, had a similar role with the Seattle Seahawks last year.
ESPN 150 offensive tackle Kent Perkins (Dallas/Lake Highlands) values relationships.

The bond he has built with fellow 2013 signees and the Texas coaching staff cemented his feelings of wanting to become a Longhorn when he committed to them 16 months ago.

Perkins (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) is anxious to continue to build those relationships in Austin, where he’ll arrive and enroll in school on June 10. But more so than anything he wants to be entrenched in the game he’s grown so fond of… and is also so dominant in.

[+] EnlargeKent Perkins
Max Olson/ESPN.comFour-star offensive tackle Kent Perkins chose the Longhorns over Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
HornsNation caught up with the No. 76 player overall before Perkins enrolled at Texas and before summer workouts began to get his feelings on becoming a Longhorn and where exactly he sees himself playing when football activities start.

HornsNation: Where is your excitement level right now about getting down to Austin?

Kent Perkins: It’s skyrocketed. I am so excited to go down there. I am ready to compete. I am excited about everything. I’m excited about football, the next step in my life.

HN: Take me back to the day that you knew you wanted to become a Longhorn. What was it about Texas?

Perkins: Well I was down to A&M, Texas and OU. I visited all those schools and talked to every coach. I just felt I could see myself at Texas. I enjoy being around the guys, Mack Brown, Coach [Stacy] Searels. I love Coach Searels. I saw how he is in his meetings and how he talks to his players and how he coaches. I want to be a part of that.

HN: What is it about Coach Searels that you like so much and how important is it to have a good relationship with your position coach?

Perkins: It’s real important to me because he reminds me so much of my high school coach. He can joke around at times and then when it is time to get serious he can be serious. If you listen to every detail he says you are going to get better.

HN: You spent your high school career on the right side of the line. Where do you think you’ll end up at Texas?

Perkins: Right now I know, speaking with Coach Searels, that he is going to play his top five linemen. Basically if you are good you are going to play anywhere on the line. You have to be ready to come in and work. I’m really thinking the left side because I know [Donald] Hawkins is fixing to leave so I am thinking the left side.

HN: Is the footwork for a right tackle going to the left side that big of a deal or not?

Perkins: It’s a huge deal because you change your side, your hand placement, which foot you step with first, which foot you kick with. You kick with your left foot instead of your right. It’s a big change but I am a hard worker and I can get that down.

HN: There’s been a lot of hype around the class of offensive linemen coming in. Do you guys talk about that at all?

Perkins: I talk with Rami [Hammad] and he talks to Darius James and others. We all talk about having one of the best offensive lines in the country. We are going to work as hard as we can, put the work in the weight room and conditioning and get our jobs done right.

HN: Do you honestly believe that this group of offensive linemen coming in can be one of the best to ever come through Texas?

Perkins: I really, truly believe that. We have size, speed and smart guys. We can get down the plays and can be aggressive.

HN: What have you been doing to keep yourself in shape since signing day?

Perkins: I have a conditioning program that I’ve been keeping up with. I’m lifting and running in the morning and the afternoon. I’m trying to keep my grades up at the same time.

HN: What are you weight-wise and what does Searels want you to come in at?

Perkins: I’m at 310 pounds and he wants me at 300.

HN: What are you most excited about as you begin your career as a Longhorn?

Perkins: I’m excited about, dang, football. I love playing football. I’m excited about being around a group of older guys that will teach me the game. Being in front of thousands of people in a huge stadium. I’m excited about the next step.

HN: Was there ever a time after you committed to Texas that you thought about looking around anywhere else?

Perkins: Nope, I never thought about that. I think I made a really good choice. I look at academics first and I think I made a really good choice.

Four Downs: Texas collecting receivers 

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
1:30
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, I look at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Few O-linemen in 2014 class


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Meet the Freshmen: OL Rami Hammad

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Though it’s essentially meaningless now that he’s on campus and a member of the Longhorns, Texas offensive line signee Rami Hammad still can’t get over the fact he was deemed a three-star prospect.

He won’t soon forget that. It’s been a driving force for the Irving, Texas, offensive guard for the past year, and he’s confident he’ll dispel any doubt about his talent by competing for a starting job immediately this summer and fall.

[+] EnlargeRami Hammad
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesRami Hammad plans on competing for a starting job on Texas' O-line.
Thanks to the Bennie Wylie workout plan this spring, the 6-foot-5 lineman went from 335 pounds on signing day to 308 pounds today. He’s done everything he possible could to prepare for his arrival and his freshman debut.

Before he left for Austin, Hammad sat down with HornsNation to discuss is plans for 2013 and how far he’s already come.

HN: It seems like your goals for your freshman season are pretty obvious. How do you map them out?

Hammad: First things first. I’ve got to take care of academics and adapt to college life. I don’t think it’ll be that tough for me considering I don’t like to party or do anything wrong. My main goal is to play in Year 1. I don’t want to settle for anything else.

HN: Think back to a year ago. How would you have felt had you been told you’d end up a Longhorn?

Hammad: Man, I’d probably think you’re crazy. They never talked to me then, and it was pretty much last minute when I caught their attention. I like to earn my things, and I think I earned it. People doubted me throughout the way, even at my own high school. I’m really glad I proved myself.

HN: Why do you think it took so long for Texas to target you?

Hammad: I don’t know. I think they might’ve overlooked me. I wasn’t as solid-looking my junior year, and it was my first year on varsity. I really don’t know.

(Read full post)

AUSTIN, Texas -- One could argue that the group of offensive linemen Texas signed in 2013 was as strong as any school's class in the country.

Darius James, Kent Perkins and Jake Raulerson were all ESPN 150 recruits and Rami Hammad had close to 50 offers. That doesn’t even include junior college offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, who many project will start at left tackle for Texas this season.

Those players coming in combined with the youth already in place on the roster, means that the Longhorns aren’t in dire need of offensive linemen again in 2014. At least not the degree they were needed this time a year ago.


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The magnitude of Sione and Maea Teuhema’s commitments to Texas on Thursday might not truly be felt for a while, considering Maea, the more highly-touted of the two, won’t graduate until 2015.

But make no mistake about how gigantic a victory this is for the Longhorns. If there were a fly on the wall inside Texas’ football offices when the coaches got word of the commitments, that fly assuredly saw plenty of chest bumping and high-fives.


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