Texas Longhorns: Kent Perkins
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
So let’s make life a little easier for Texas’ new head coach. Here’s an early breakdown of how Texas’ offensive depth chart might look in 2014, based on who’s slated to return and the incoming freshmen. On Wednesday, we’ll break down the Longhorns defense.
Keep in mind, a lot can and will change between now and the end of August. All of these players have to prove themselves to a new regime. You could see lots of movement, position changes and reshuffling between now and the season opener against North Texas.
David Ash, junior
Tyrone Swoopes, sophomore
Jerrod Heard, freshman
Malcolm Brown, senior
Johnathan Gray, junior
Joe Bergeron, senior
Donald Catalon, freshman
As long as Gray heals up 100 percent from his torn Achilles, Texas will have one of the best rushing duos in the Big 12. Brown was a revelation to end the season and could be in for a big senior campaign. Bergeron will work his way back into the mix. Catalon and D'Onta Foreman will provide depth as freshmen, and one could contribute early.
Jaxon Shipley, senior
Daje Johnson, junior
Jacorey Warrick, sophomore
Shipley is the leader of the group and should be in for a big season, no matter the offense. Will Strong’s staff give Daje one more chance? No guarantees he’s still on the roster by the fall. Warrick earned praise in practice and limited playing time.
Kendall Sanders, junior
Montrel Meander, redshirt freshman
Jake Oliver, redshirt freshman
This is the year Sanders can take a big step forward. He’s a legit playmaker whose role will expand. Meander made a strong impression in his redshirt year and is a big, athletic target. He and Oliver will battle for snaps and should contribute in 2014.
Armanti Foreman, freshman
Emanuel Porter, freshman
Johnson made some big plays and had a nice rapport with Case McCoy. He can stretch a defense and burn corners deep. Should see big opportunities this fall. Foreman and Porter are instant-impact guys among in large group of incoming freshman receivers, and keep an eye on Lorenzo Joe, too.
Geoff Swaim, senior
Greg Daniels, senior
M.J. McFarland, junior
Swaim, a junior college transfer, was a revelation as a blocker in 2013. Daniels got the job done as a blocker, too, but neither had many opportunities as receivers. Let’s hope the next staff can salvage the career of McFarland, who got stuck on special teams this season but needs to become a trusted pass-catcher.
Desmond Harrison, senior
Kennedy Estelle, junior
Mack Brown still believed Harrison will develop into an NFL first-rounder before he’s done, though his first season was a disappointment. If he’s not the solution at left tackle, you could see Estelle or several others move over. Estelle has mostly played right tackle and had some good moments in eight starts, but was suspended from the bowl for grades.
Sedrick Flowers, junior
Darius James, redshirt freshman
The departing senior linemen were big fans of Flowers, who they considered starter-quality throughout 2013 even if he was mostly a reserve. This is his spot to take. James needed a redshirt year to get back in shape, but he has the potential to be one of Texas’ best.
Dominic Espinosa, senior
Jake Raulerson, redshirt freshman
The new veteran leader of the line, Espinosa has 39 career starts under his belt and improved as a junior. Hard to see him losing his spot. Raulerson continues to put on muscle and will have a long, successful career. Texas also adds incoming freshman Terrell Cuney here.
Curtis Riser, sophomore
Rami Hammad, redshirt freshman
Riser is entering his third year in the program and seems likely to be the favorite for this spot, but don’t count out Hammad. He redshirted as a freshman and missed part of the season with an arm injury, but he’s as impressive as any first-year lineman the Longhorns had.
Kent Perkins, sophomore
Josh Cochran, senior
Perkins earned one start as a freshman and should be an All-Big 12-caliber tackle by the time he’s done in Austin. It’s hard to peg what’s next for Cochran, who lost enough weight from a shoulder injury to necessitate a move to tight end. The former starter could end up at either spot in his final season.
Nick Jordan, sophomore
Good luck to whoever must replace Anthony Fera, the All-American and Groza Award finalist. Jordan strugged as a freshman in 2012 but got a year off and seems most likely to assume the kicking duties, though there will be competition.
1. Texas is 7-0 all-time against New Mexico schools and is averaging 50.4 points per game in games against New Mexico and New Mexico State. Texas has never won a game against those two schools by less than 30 points.
2. First-year New Mexico State coach Doug Martin went 1-3 against Big 12 schools during his stint as head coach at Kent State from 2004-2010. The lone victory came against Iowa State in 2007. In its past three games against Big 12 schools, NMSU went 0-3 and averaged 7.7 points per game.
3. In Mack Brown’s first game as Texas coach, the Longhorns blew out New Mexico State 66-36 in 1998. Ricky Williams kicked off Brown’s tenure and his own Heisman Trophy campaign with 215 rushing yards and a school-record six touchdowns.
4. On the injury front: Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson have been practicing this week and have a good chance of playing Saturday. Texas’ staff has been coy about how it will use Tyrone Swoopes, citing the hamstring issue that has slowed him, but don’t be surprised if he enters in the fourth quarter against NMSU.
5. Texas has only three true freshmen – Swoopes, receiver Jacorey Warrick, guard/tackle Kent Perkins – listed on this week’s depth chart. Mack Brown said Wednesday that “very few” freshmen will play in 2013 and most will redshirt, unlike the past two seasons.
2. “The team theme is, ‘For the man on my right and the man on my left.' What that means to us in the military is all the training you're going through, everything that you're doing when you're in combat or in a situation, it's about making sure the guy next to you is successful, keeping him safe, keeping him alive.” -- Texas deep snapper Nate Boyer
3. “I am excited. I see improvement, I see hope. I have worked as hard as I can possibly work for three years to get this team to where it will get back into the mix and I am excited about seeing if we are. I think we are, but we have to play and you have to do it every week.” -- Mack Brown
4. “I was confused. Man, that's cool. I doubt she really knows who I am. She's from Texas, she probably saw the jersey. If she did know who I was, I'm not going to not think that [is cool].” -- Texas quarterback David Ash, on a photo of Beyonce wearing his No. 14 jersey.
1. Establish the run early. Ash is at his best as a big-play passer when the run game is creating those opportunities. A hot start from Johnathan Gray with help from Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will make Texas’ play-action game hard to stop.
2. Avoid turnovers. Don’t make this opener – against one of the worst teams in FBS last season -- anything more than it needs to be.
3. Depth up front. How will Texas’ offensive line react and rotate when going up-tempo, and how effective will its defensive line be at pressuring NMSU while throwing as many as eight or nine different linemen into the game?
Two key players
1. Texas LB Jordan Hicks: Texas knows so little about what NMSU will throw at it offensively that it’s easy to see why Hicks’ return is vital. As the veteran leader of the linebackers, he’ll be trusted to get everyone else lined up correctly and make adjustments as needed. He’s experienced and smart enough to handle the unknown this week, and he’s been looking forward to this start for a long time.
2. New Mexico State P Cayle Chapman-Brown: I know, he’s just a punter and so what? Yes, but he’s one of the better ones in the country, and the Australian has a big leg. If NMSU wants to give Texas a real fight, field position will be important. Pin the Longhorns in their own territory repeatedly and it’s a safe bet their untested tempo plans will get thrown off. That could mean turnovers, and a chance.
No. 15 Texas 45, New Mexico 10
Major Applewhite goes for some fireworks early – think a bomb to Mike Davis or Daje Johnson – as the Texas up-tempo makes its debut. There will be a few hiccups here and there, and the Longhorn offense will slow down as needed, but the first impression will be solid. Jackson Jeffcoat will get right back to business and lead a pass rush that overwhelms the Aggies, and Texas pulls away thanks to two interceptions. This one isn’t close.
Best offensive performance: QB David Ash. He throws as pretty a ball as any Texas quarterback in the past, oh, 10 years, and on most days the incompletions were few and far between. Ash was sharp and made it all look easy. Nobody is questioning who the team’s top QB is this year.
Best defensive performance: CB Carrington Byndom. Granted, he wasn’t covering Texas’ top two wideouts, but Byndom provided lockdown coverage pretty much all week long. He played like a senior, with considerably more confidence.
Best newcomer: OT Kent Perkins. Perkins jumped right into the second-team right tackle spot early in the week and probably would’ve stayed there had a sore shoulder not kept him out a few practices. He impressed his fellow linemen this summer and could have a solid role in 2013. Honorable mention goes to speedy receiver Jacorey Warrick and cornerback Antwuan Davis.
On the rise: CB Sheroid Evans. Quandre Diggs sitting out practice this week meant lots more work for Duke Thomas and Sheroid Evans, and both made a good impression. Evans, a 6-foot, 192-pound junior, snagged several interceptions during the week in 1-on-1 drills and could carve out a key role in Texas’ nickel defense.
Most improved: LB Steve Edmond. The middle linebacker is rebounding from his difficult 2012 season by shedding weight (from 260 pounds to 235), and the results have been positive. Edmond has made plays up the middle in 11-on-11 work and appears to have the edge over Dalton Santos for the starting job.
Fastest player: WR/RB Daje Johnson. We must tip our hats to Evans, a track athlete who probably is truly faster, but Johnson was practically a blur when running routes over the middle this week. His transition from running back to receiver has been a successful one thus far.
Biggest hit: S Adrian Colbert. The redshirt freshman popped tight end Greg Daniels hard Saturday night after he caught a ball over the middle, prompting the entire Texas secondary to run onto the practice field in celebration. The downside: Colbert probably would’ve been popped for a targeting penalty had it happened in a game this year.
Best position change: RB Jalen Overstreet. He’s still getting some work as the No. 3 quarterback, but Overstreet turned heads this week as a running back. He had little trouble adjusting to taking handoffs and showed he could be an explosive weapon as essentially an “athlete” for Texas this season.
Best position group: Running backs. Tough decision here. The RBs get credit here due to Overstreet’s rise and the new and improved Joe Bergeron. The junior back dropped from 240 pounds to 230 this offseason and looks quicker than ever but just as powerful.
Best depth: Offensive line. Thanks to Texas’ decision to practice with three separate offenses, we know the Longhorns have as many as 15 scholarship offensive linemen who could make the two-deep. Perkins and Rami Hammad worked with the No. 2 offense Saturday, and there’s the potential for more reshuffling in the next few weeks.
Top position battle: Wide receiver. The absence of Davis and Shipley meant lots of opportunity for everyone else. First-team reps went to Sanders, Marcus Johnson, Daje Johnson and Bryant Jackson, but Warrick, John Harris, Montrel Meander and Jake Oliver are all in the mix for playing time.
Biggest disappointment: Desmond Harrison’s absence. Texas’ junior college transfer hasn’t practiced since Monday due to an academic issue. Mack Brown has declined to disclose the specifics, but Texas officials believe it will be resolved soon. Still, it’s becoming a troubling development considering Harrison has a chance to be the team’s starting left tackle this fall.
Boldest quote: “Of course you’re mad about last year. You don’t want to be known as a soft defense. We’re taking the right steps to be a dominant defense. We want to be the most dominant defense in the world.” -- Safety Adrian Phillips
Biggest question: Tempo. Ash said Texas' offense will speed things up in the next few weeks after keeping the time between snaps to between 12-15 seconds this week. Just how fast will the final product look, and how well will Texas be executing it by Aug. 31?
Still wondering: We didn’t get much of a look at the Longhorn special teams this week, and it’s safe to say there are still unanswered questions with that unit. Could be some intriguing battles at placekicker and punter over the next few weeks with several participants: Nick Jordan, Anthony Fera, Nick Rose and William Russ.
Injury update: Exclude those who were already planning to be limited entering camp and you have to say Texas fared well. Byndom (head) and Josh Cochran (shoulder) were held out Saturday for precautionary reasons. All in all, there were no major injuries in week one. That’s a significant plus.
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.”
First Down: This is why David Ash is going to be good
2012 Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon State
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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.
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.
No. 76 Garrett Greenlea
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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.
First down: Few O-linemen in 2014 class
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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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First down: Getting recruits on campus is only part of the deal
We have also seen Alabama and most of the SEC dominate the rankings and, consquently, the national championship game, for the last seven years, with Alabama winning three of the last four national titles.
Before you get too excited about the rankings, coaching staffs still have to develop the talent once it gets to campus.
They have to build a fighter’s mentality in a group of young men and get them to pull in the same direction. The have to develop leaders instead of looking for them.
Recruiting is like having potential -- you have to do something with it or else you get fired.
Second down: The pressure of 2013 just increased
I watched ESPN’s national signing day show on ESPNU starting at 7 a.m. CT on Wednesday morning and was wondering when the University of Texas would get its first mention.
At 10:41 a.m., Texas was finally mentioned before cutting away to Mack Brown.
Texas has some work to do. It was not too long ago that ESPN College Gameday, College Football Live and shows about national signing day could not go for 30 minutes without the University of Texas being part of some conversation.
Slowly over the last few years some goodwill has eroded from the monster program that is Texas. Let us not kid ourselves, Texas is a program that could have a good 2013 and be right back in the crosshairs of favorable conversation by media everywhere around the country.
While it might be easy to turn around the conversation, Texas better figure out how to do it. The ‘chip on your shoulder’, ‘backed into a corner’ and ‘no respect’ angles only work for a while before you discover that you just aren't very good.
2013 continues to be a "must win 10 games (in the regular season)" type of season.
Third down: Impact of the 2013 recruiting class
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All Access Wired: Chris Vaughn
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
TBD North Dakota State Iowa State TBD Louisiana Tech Oklahoma TBD North Texas Texas TBD Stephen F. Austin Kansas State TBD Samford TCU TBD Central Arkansas Texas Tech 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State