As new Texas coach Charlie Strong is putting together his coaching staff, his strongest hire, so to speak, has come from within the Big 12.
It hasn't been confirmed by Texas yet, but multiple outlets, including 247Sports and Yahoo!, report that Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline will be taking the same position with the Longhorns. In fact, Wickline himself confirmed on Sunday to Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman that he was headed to Austin.
By no means…was it an easy decision, because of just the love for the (Stillwater) community and the love for the area and the respect for Oklahoma State, the Oklahoma people as a whole.
Wickline had been with the Cowboys for nine years, joining head coach Mike Gundy's staff in 2005. However, Wickline also has ties to Strong. The two worked together at Florida as graduate assistants in 1983, then as assistants at Ole Miss in 1990 and again at Florida in 2003-04.
This isn't the first time Texas had pursued Wickline, either. Former Longhorns coach Mack Brown considered Wickline in 2010 when former offensive line coach Mac McWhorter "retired" following a disappointing 5-7 season. However, Wickline opted to stay in Stillwater. Two months later, he had a new contract worth $400,000 a year.
It was money well spent as far as Oklahoma State was concerned. Wickline is considered one of the best in the business at his position. As The Oklahoman notes, "Eight total offensive linemen have earned All-Big 12 honors since 2006" under Wickline's direction. The most recent selection was Parker Graham this past season.
Though Oklahoma State has been known for great passing offenses through the years under Gundy, the underappreciated part of those offenses has been the success in the running game. The Cowboys also produced six consecutive first-team All-Big 12 running backs from 2007-12, no doubt in part because of Wickline's coaching in the trenches.
Other Wickline success stories include Levy Adcock, a 2011 consensus All-American, and Russell Okung, a 2009 All-American who was picked sixth overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Therein lies one of Texas' biggest issues: NFL-caliber linemen have been hard to come by for the Longhorns lately. As Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman tweets, the 'Horns haven't had an offensive lineman drafted since 2008 (Tony Hills.) Similarly, Texas hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Jamaal Charles in 2007.
Following Texas' 2010 BCS National Championship loss to Alabama, Brown began recruiting with a greater emphasis on a solid running game. The result of that effort is a talented backfield with Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.
However, the development of offensive linemen has still been an issue. Though the 'Horns did well in pass protection in 2013, ranking 17th in fewest sacks allowed, they also finished tied for 76th in tackles for loss allowed.
The problem with those numbers is that Texas' best offensive option was running the ball. Yet players were getting tackled before getting back to the line of scrimmage at least six times a game.
Wickline is expected to bring a boost of energy to a group that badly needs it. However, there will be several new faces along the offensive line in 2014. Guards Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins, along with tackle Donald Hawkins, are seniors. Junior tackle Josh Cochran has been forced to give up football because of a chronic shoulder injury.
That means four Week 1 starters will be gone next season.
Strong is looking to change the culture of Texas football by placing more emphasis on toughness. That's a trait that Wickline is known for and something the Pokes have shown over the past several years.
In terms of results and personality, Wickline is a great hire for Strong. It's also a huge loss for Gundy, one that won't be easy to replace.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All stats courtesy of the NCAA. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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