Texas Longhorns: Stacy Searels
The Longhorns’ senior offensive guard has job shadowed at a local rehab center and interned at Austin Sports Medicine. He’s planning for a long future in the business, no matter when his playing days end.
“As far as the NFL and physical therapy, I’m kind of taking those kind of things one step at a time,” Hopkins said. “Both are things I’d love to do. Whichever happens, happens. I’m just making sure both options are available.”
Hopkins is the 6-foot-4, 300-pound unsung hero of the Texas offense. He’s worn burnt orange for 43 games and has started 35. The left guard can play every position on a line and was once a 13-game starter at right tackle. He’s everything a coach could ask for, and one of the players line coach Stacy Searels trusts most.
“I like everything about Trey, to be honest with you,” Searels said. “He’s our most consistent lineman in grading. He has not given up a sack. Very few pressures. The kid is really solid. He’s a leader. No negatives off the field. Smart kid. He’s the kind of player you want.”
He’s quietly put together a resume that will impress NFL personnel men. There hasn’t been a Longhorns lineman drafted since tackle Tony Hills went to the Steelers in the fourth round in 2008. Hills, by the way, was an elite tight end prospect in high school. Back in the Class of 2003. So, yes, it’s been a while.
Hopkins laughs when asked about breaking that strange streak.
“To know I would be starting that pipeline back up for offensive linemen would be great,” he said.
But, again, this was a goal he only recently began taking seriously.
The past year changed his vision. A 63-21 beatdown from a far more physical Oklahoma team last October was the catalyst. Hopkins decided it was time to reevaluate.
“I really thought about everything I was doing. I thought about how important it was to me,” he said. “If it is that important, why not be more consistent? Why allow yourself to be held back by something?”
The next game, a home win against Baylor, was the first in Hopkins’ career where he truly felt he’d played a great game.
“That’s the mentality I bring into every game now: How important is it to you?” Hopkins said.
His dedication was put to the test in December, when team doctors determined Hopkins would need surgery for a stress fracture in his right leg. According to Searels, he’d had been playing through the fracture and shin splints for a while. Hopkins toughed it out and waited until after the regular season finale for the bad news.
He missed the Alamo Bowl. He missed spring practices. And he hated every second of it. Hopkins considered those months missed easily the most difficult of his college career, and those “terrible, completely awful” days brought new perspective.
“It just makes you think, ‘I really can’t live without playing this game,’” he said.
The guys he lines up next to on a weekly basis only deepen his love. Hopkins helps tie this offensive line together. It’s a quirky group led by veterans who have made a combined 151 career starts.
The guys who’ve been doing this a long time -- Hopkins, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Donald Hawkins, Josh Cochran -- go out to eat together and play video games. They mess with each other in one long, running group text message. Sometimes, they’ll even trade books.
Well, OK, that’s just Hopkins and Walters. It started when Walters suggested Hopkins try “1984.” He enjoyed it. So Walters recommended a personal favorite, “Catch 22.”
“He starts reading it and he says, ‘Man, this is terrible. It’s an awful book. It’s not a good book, Mason,’” Walters said. “Maybe I was being a little abstract in my reading of it and trying to connect too many dots, and he’s trying to read it at face value. So that was the end of the book club. But I think he’s reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ now…”
Walters is disappointed Hopkins doesn’t share his cynical view of bureaucracy, but they’ve still formed a bond that makes them a special duo. It’s almost a good cop-bad cop dynamic.
“I mean, I’m kind of the even-keeled guy,” Hopkins said. “I’m not really the fire-starter like Mason is. I would say it’s Mason’s job to get everybody going.”
The Texas line certainly got going last Saturday. One year after Hopkins wondered what this game meant to him, he and his fellow lineman are coming off their finest performance of the season.
This time, they were the ones owning Oklahoma at the line of scrimmage, paving the way for 59 carries and 255 rushing yards. He finally got to put on the Golden Hat.
“It’s indescribable,” Hopkins said after the game. “I’m really proud of my fellow seniors and really proud of this group. To go through all the lows we’ve gone through and finally accomplish this big milestone is great for all of us.”
Keep this up and Hopkins really won’t have a choice. His career as a physical therapist will just have to wait.
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.”
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.”
The offensive line that anchored Texas’ third national championship in eight years featured a pair of two-time All-Americans: The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Jerry Sisemore and 6-foot-3, 235-pound Bobby Wuensch.
They were the stars of a Texas offensive line that averaged 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds.
Today, mammoth 300-pounders rule up front, and the 6-1, 220 guys are linebackers and defensive ends. The evolution of the offensive lineman is impossible to ignore.
Texas’ 2005 title team averaged 6-5 and 314 pounds, with nine offensive linemen checking in at 300-plus. The 2013 Longhorns could have as many as 15.
Now imagine having to find those big men as 15- and 16-year-olds, before they’ve even reached their junior year of high school, and trying to determine how and when they’ll grow, how they eat, how big they’ll get and, of course, how well they actually play football.
That’s the unenviable task facing Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searles these days, but he’s thriving.
Texas already has landed commitments from three linemen in the 2015 ESPN 300: Keller (Texas) guard Maea Teuhema (No. 31 in the ESPN 300), Sherman (Texas) guard Aaron Garza (No. 203) and Buda (Texas) Hays tackle Connor Lanfear (No. 292). They’re three of the top six linemen in Texas in 2015, and the No. 2 ranked in-state lineman, Patrick Vahe (Euless, Texas/Trinity), also could commit this summer.
They might be only high school juniors (well, not even that yet), but the Texas commits know there’s a lot more to the number 300 than most people assume.
No. 76 Garrett Greenlea
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
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.
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.
Stacy Searels, who has long bemoaned the lack of talent, bodies and blocking ability of his charges along that line, has earned the praise of Texas coach Mack Brown, not only for Searels' patience but also his persistence in rebuilding that line.
Reloading might not be the right word to use there, as such a term leads one to believe the line was recently loaded. It has been several seasons since that argument could be made. Texas hasn’t produced an NFL lineman since 2008. Prior to that, Brown’s program had seven offensive linemen drafted over a nine-year span -- a healthy number and one that exceeds the production of Alabama and Oklahoma over the same time period.
So Searels has been more pouring a foundation than restocking the shelves. And now the time has come to find out if there are cracks or if Texas is ready to build on a solid base.
Heading into 2013, the offensive line has all five starters returning. Four of those players were also starters on the 2011 offensive line, while the fifth, Donald Hawkins, came in as a junior college transfer after that season. Those starters did have less-than-stellar performances throughout 2012, however, and, quite frankly, were shoved around by TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and a few other teams.
Texas, with its loaded backfield, averaged 3.4 rushing yards per attempt against the six ranked opponents it played in 2012. Against TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State, the Longhorns failed to reach 100 yards rushing and averaged 3.0 rushing yards per attempt.
It's safe to assume those types of numbers have not exactly locked down a starting job for every player who started along that offensive line. To that end, Texas does have a potential new tackle waiting in the wings in the form of junior college transfer Desmond Harrison.
His arrival should signal some shifts along the line at every position, save for Josh Cochran at the opposite tackle spot.
"He [Cochran] is a tackle, so you'd leave him there," Brown said. "But the fact that Trey Hopkins has played everywhere, Donald Hawkins could play different places, guard or tackle, just gives you a lot more flexibility for depth. [Sedrick] Flowers would be a center or guard. You wouldn't move him outside. But you have flexibility and you have to look at that great freshman class coming in, too, to see if any of those guys are ready to play."
Texas signed five offensive linemen in its 2013 class and could play at least one of those. Darius James, who was ranked No. 17 in the ESPN 150, appears to be the odds-on favorite to be that player. He could fill in at the guard spot and also has some center in his background.
Since Texas wants to average about 84 plays per game, it is not unreasonable to believe that up to 10 linemen could see time in each game. To believe that Texas had that many linemen available in the past would have been a ludicrous assumption.
Even last season, Texas could barely go beyond six offensive linemen. But given the emergence of Kennedy Estelle (tackle) and Flowers (guard), plus the improved health of Camrhon Hughes (tackle), the arrival of Harrison and James makes a deeper rotation at least a plausible thought.
"I really think that we can have two-deep, and that will be the first time we have been two-deep around here in a long time," Brown said. "And I think we are -- I know we are headed in the right direction with our depth in the offensive line."
The list of players from Georgia who transferred in isn’t much bigger -- you can count them on one hand with a few fingers to spare -- making former Longhorns punter Greg Johnson part of a very small fraternity.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
He has at least one option to do so at the moment, but there are two programs in particular that he'd especially be interested in, if the opportunity arose.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
But forget all the Scrabble-tile shifting of titles at Texas for a moment, the Longhorns are in the market for a new running backs coach. Now all they have to do is figure out what type of qualities that coach must possess.
Someone who can figure out the distribution of carries for the running backs should not be on top of the list. That’s Applewhite’s job now. And seeing as how running backs already know how to run, well a great technician is not exactly a huge necessity either. It helps but it is not crucial.
What Texas needs in a running back coach is someone who can help recruit Texas. The Longhorns, through their own failings on the field, and Texas A&M’s momentum both on and off it, have become the less bright star in the state. More than anything high school players want to go to a place where they believe their talents can be showcased against the best. Right now the best place for that is Texas A&M.
The Aggies play in a superior conference and this year, at least, played superior ball to Texas. So it is not a huge shock that Texas A&M has 34 commitments and has steamrolled right into 2014.
That’s not to say Texas is not resigned to being a wallflower within the state. The Longhorns have the power to get any recruit they need in the state. It’s just that Texas needs some help flipping that switch. And that is where the running back coach comes into the picture.
Texas can go one of two routes here.
The first is with a Texas high school. DeSoto’s Claude Mathis fits this bill perfectly. He is up for national coach of the year, churns out of ton of recruits, wins on a consistent basis, has the respect of other high school coaches in the state and has shown with his brief dabble at going to Houston earlier this year (and then subsequently heading back to DeSoto) he is willing to make the jump to college.
What Mathis would do for Texas is curry tremendous favor for Mack Brown among high school coaches. It will once again show that Brown feels there is coaching talent at that level and is willing to give a high school coach a shot. The benefits of that are immeasurable when it comes to being tapped into the Texas high school network.
A Mathis hire would also give Texas a bridge between the world the current Longhorns coaches are in and the high school world. Mathis is more in touch with high school kids and understands their wants and needs better because he has been around them every day. Figuring out the psyche of a 17-year-old player is not an easy thing and Mathis could help in that.
Now, Texas might opt to go a completely different route with a veteran coach like Tim Brewster. Like Mathis, Brewster makes sense on several fronts.
Brewster and Brown have a long relationship, have worked together in the past at Texas and North Carolina and understand what each expects out of the other. Brewster respects Brown’s abilities so much he sent his son to play safety for the Longhorns. When Nolan was unable to play due to injury, Brown took care of him.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
First down: We have some ying, where’s the yang?
Bobby Bowden, the good cop, had Chuck Amato and Mickey Andrews.
Mack Brown, the good cop, had Dick Tomey and Will Muschamp.
Who is the bad cop now? Who do the players fear? I don’t mean fear as in danger. I mean fear as in, “When I screw up, I don’t want to go to the sidelines." I mean fear as in, "I’m scared to watch film tomorrow.” I mean fear as in, "I’m going to lose my job.”
Who sets the edge for this team? Is that person defensive coordinator Manny Diaz? Is that person offensive line coach Stacy Searels?
Whoever that person is, they need to be heard. There seems to be no healthy amount of fear in the Texas program. I see interceptions thrown, tackles missed and passes dropped and very little chastising when they get back to the sideline. While that is not the end all and be all to a football team, that is part of the formation of a team and accountability.
Second down: Is the offense too complicated?
I was all for the offense put in buckets when I first heard about Bryan Harsin and the way his offense was structured at Boise State. His goal was to define roles for players and give the best athletes opportunities to get the ball in prime positions.
That worked for a while and still does, but the overview of the offense is that there is too much going on. There are so many different things that Texas probably does OK, but nothing is done really great. Players are not allowed to find a rhythm within the offense and the offense has become somewhat predictable based on motions and personnel packages.
Texas should not have to do what Boise State did to find success. Texas gets some of the best athletes in the country and tricking and teams without a consistent scheme is almost a misuse of talent.
Simple will be better for this team in 2013.
Third down: Another QB?
Texas is looking at two junior college quarterbacks: Nick Marshall of Garden City Community College and Arizona Western College's Tanner McEvoy.
With five scholarship quarterbacks (Case McCoy, David Ash, Conner Brewer, Jalen Overstreet and Tyrone Swoopes) already in the fold and sealed for the 2013 season, Texas is talking to more quarterbacks.
Does that mean that it is not happy with those signal-callers on campus or does that mean that it knows all five will not be back on campus for the 2013 season?
Either way, the quarterback situation is a mess. For an offense that over-delivered this fall it appears the only position that will come back with a dose of unknown will be the quarterback spot.
I will stay with the notion that Texas will not be a championship winning team in 2013 if it doesn't leave the spring with a dialed-in, 100-percent starting quarterback. This is a competition that cannot go into the fall.
Fourth down: When are people going to talk about the defense?
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
But Searles didn’t answer. On that Aug. 6 afternoon, Texas was in the middle of a preseason practice. So Knox waited, and after talking it out with his family and coaches he decided to hold off.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Texas’ 66-31 road victory against Ole Miss on Saturday has the program at the No. 10 spot in this week's coaches' poll and its players and fans brimming with confidence.
Perhaps then there’s no more opportune time than now for a bye week. Brown and his Longhorn coaching staff have safeguards in place this week to ensure their team doesn’t starting getting overconfident.
“It’s a younger team, so we’ll talk to them,” Brown said Tuesday. “I think the environment here is we get too high too fast and we get too low too fast. I think they pretty much understand what they’ve got ahead of them, and that’s the good thing.”
What’s ahead is a brutal three-game stretch against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma. Brown isn’t even touching those games during the bye week though.
This is a week for re-evaluation, for circling back and analyzing what did and didn’t work during Texas’ nonconference slate.
For example, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will meet individually with each and every one of his defenders this week. The performance reviews will include watching film of every missed tackle or missed assignment a player has made through three games.
The goal? Find the flaws and make the fixes. The Longhorns have been good, but there's plenty to improve upon. Even the Texas offensive line, which recorded a combined 101 knockdown blocks against the Rebels, isn’t infallible.
“I think Stacy Searels will bring the offensive line back down to Earth today,” Brown said. “They’ll think they lost the game by the time we get to about 6 o’clock tonight.”
To keep the focus on self-correction, Brown said he and his coaches won’t even start talking to players about Oklahoma State until Sunday.
The staff isn’t grinding away on tape of the Cowboys’ No. 1 ranked scoring offense. Assistant coaches will spend more of this free time hitting the recruiting trail.
Texas is only worried about Texas right now.
“We will actually look at cleaning us up, and we’re going to look at what we need to do to improve,” Brown said. “We feel like, in the past, if you’re not careful you can start playing games too early. If you start on them and talk about them all week, it’s kind of old news when [players] get back for next week.
“We’re going to work on things that they do, but we will not mention Oklahoma State until next week.”
More fresh faces:
Donald Hawkins, OT: Hawkins and another guy on this list were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002, and both look like they'll have huge impacts in their first seasons on campus. Texas' offensive line is pretty stout, but Hawkins has already earned a starting spot after a spring and fall camp, trotting out as the starting left tackle ahead of freshman Kennedy Estelle. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder came to Texas via Mississippi, and OL coach Stacy Searels will help mold him. You never know, of course, but don't be surprised if you see Hawkins' name on the All-Big 12 offensive line at season's end.
Chris Whaley and Brandon Moore, DTs: Texas is crazy deep at defensive tackle, but these two players have the oddest roads to where they are today. Whaley came to Texas as one of the nation's top running backs all the way back in 2009, but he's earned a starting spot as a 292-pound defensive tackle. He made five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and fumble recovery last year, but made just one start. Moore, meanwhile, was the second juco transfer to sign with the 2012 class, despite Texas' aversion to the practice for the past decade. The 6-5, 320-pounder already wowed teammates in the spring, and with the kind of depth Texas has to help spell Moore, he's going to be scary when he's on the field.
Steve Edmond, LB: Edmond came to Texas as the nation's No. 4 linebacker, and he's going to be literally and figuratively a huge presence at middle linebacker for the Horns. The 6-3, 255-pounder offers some size in the middle of the defense that few Big 12 teams can duplicate. We'll see how well Edmond can cover, but Texas' scheme is unlikely to leave Edmond on islands with pass-catchers. He had two tackles for loss last year, 16 tackles and a forced fumble.
The junior is at left guard right now. But at any moment he could go to center, a place where he has been working as a backup.
“I’ve been moved around quite a bit,” he said.
Same goes for Mason Walters. He has been a fixture at guard, but there were those days back in the spring when the junior was asked to snap a few.
Searels also refuses to allow his players to only know one position. Instead as defensive ends coach Oscar Giles is apt to say, he likes to throw all the different ingredients in the pot and try and come up with the best stew.
And in 2012, Texas has all the ingredients for a solid line. Four of the five players are returning starters. The fifth, Donald Hawkins, is a junior college transfer who came in and took a starting spot in the spring.
“We have guys up front that actually know what they’re doing,” Hopkins said.
And know how to do it regardless of the position they’re playing. That’s because Searels refuses to have his linemen typecast as just a guard or just a tackle.
Just about every player is given a shot at another position at one time or another. The theory being, that if injuries hit, Searels can shuffle the deck and still come up with a flush hand.
“If anything happened we believe we’re going to have a guy that can step up and there will not be a step back,” Hopkins said.
But there is another underlying benefit as well. Searels’ method allows for each player to have a deeper understanding of not just his position but of all the positions along the line.
“You have to know not only what you’re doing as an offensive lineman but you have to know what the guy next to you is doing to work as a cohesive unit,” Hopkins said. “It makes us better if I know what my left tackle is doing because I can move within that framework and not have any miscommunication or anything like that.”
That, in turn, leads to confidence from the players about their individual play and the play of the individual next to him. A confident player is one who is inclined to be more aggressive. Aggressive is one of the first steps to becoming tougher. And ultimately toughness is what Mack Brown has been preaching about since the end of 2011.
“You go back look at our BCS games we haven't run the ball as well as we needed to in those games,” Brown said. “I thought Colt [McCoy] was so good and so accurate that we became a softer offensive football team from a running standpoint.
“We were throwing the ball on 3rd-and-4, and I wanted to bring the toughness back. I want us to get so we are a more physical football team from top to bottom.”
The downhill blocking scheme which was implemented last season by Searels and Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has started to allow the line to become more physical. So too has the depth and versatility along that line.
“We’re in a system that compliments what we have,” Hopkins said. “[Harsin] knows what he has and he knows what our strengths are and that is what we utilize.”
And Searels knows he can utilize any player in any place within that system.
Maybe more importantly he knows with whom he faces it -- a coach that understands the pressures of being a quarterback at Texas (Major Applewhite), a coach that delegates and does not dictate (Mack Brown), a head coach who thinks wide receivers should block first, second and third, then think about pass patterns (Darrell Wyatt), and a throwback with more grunts than glad handing (Stacy Searels). And that is just on the offensive side of the ball.
In all, six members of Texas’ staff are sophomores now. They have lived the life for a year. And, after being 8-5 together, they have lived to see another.
“Now we understand what we’re doing,” said Harsin, the co-offensive coordinator along with Applewhite. “We understand the details. We understand how each of us operates. And what the expectations of each positions are.”
"Even at our coaches' retreat a couple of weeks ago, the guys were all on the same page and it went so much smoother,” Brown said. “Last year they were talking about what are you doing in pregame warmups. They were talking about where we stay the night before the game.
“Now all of those things they know. We are so much further along than we were, and that leads to more excitement as we start the season as well.”
That progress is not just owed to those position coaches. Included among those six is strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie. The backbone of the program, Wylie is the one who has pushed the players to stand tall, and at the same time, turned the head of Brown as to what expectations a cohesive staff can put on these players.
It’s that work that has Brown talking about Texas being a tougher football team. And everybody knows a fist is much tougher to defend against than a slap. A fist is what Texas considers itself now that it has come together.
“Now we all know what is expected of everyone else,” junior offensive guard Mason Walters said.
D-Line Success the Focus for Chris Rumph
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35