The Texas Longhorns entered the 2013 season with one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football. That all changes heading into spring practice this year.
The Longhorns lost four starting offensive linemen from their 2013 squad. The group helped set up the Texas running game, which rushed for an average 196 yards per game and 25 touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline is one of the most respected offensive line coaches in college football, but he will face a big challenge in his first year at Texas trying to put together the Longhorns offensive line.
"I just want to find five players," Wickline said. "Let's get the five on the field, and once they're there, we will adjust accordingly."
Wickline has 13 offensive linemen to work with this spring. The group has 48 combined starts, but 39 of those are center Dominic Espinosa's. In other words Wickline has a crowded room of inexperienced players.
Espinosa has started every game during his three seasons at Texas and will likely hold onto his job this spring. The rest of the positions are up in the air.
|Taylor Doyle||6'5" 300 lbs.|
|Sedrick Flowers||6'3" 312 lbs.|
|Rami Hammad||6'5" 315 lbs|
|Darius James||6'5" 320 lbs.|
|Curtis Riser||6'4" 310 lbs|
Replacing former guards Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins will not be an easy task, especially considering the amount of experience the Longhorns lost with these two. Walters started 51 of his 52 career games and Hopkins started 42 games.
The options available to replace the guards have a combined one start among them. The most experienced is Sedrick Flowers, who played in all 13 games last season and picked up his first career start in the Valero Alamo Bowl game against Oregon. Next on the experience totem pole are Curtis Riser and Taylor Doyle. Riser saw action in four games and Doyle played in two games in 2013.
Darius James and Rami Hammad both redshirted in 2013, but were very highly touted recruits in a class former coach Mack Brown referred to as one of the best offensive line classes he has signed during his 16 years coaching the Longhorns. Alex Anderson is an early enrollee from the 2014 signing class.
Flowers proved to be a reliable backup in 2013 and will be the likely candidate to nab one of the starting roles. The spot opposite of him could be taken by any of the remaining guards, but keep an eye on Hammad and James. Hammad ranked as the No. 10 guard in the 2013 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. James is a versatile player who played all positions on the offensive line while in high school.
|Kennedy Estelle||6'7" 290 lbs.|
|Garrett Greenlea||6'7" 305 lbs.|
|Desmond Harrison||6'8" 310 lbs.|
|Camrhon Hughes||6'7" 320 lbs.|
|Kent Perkins||6'5" 310 lbs.|
Unlike the guard position, the tackles have much more game time experience. Kennedy Estelle and Kent Perkins saw significant playing time in 2013. Estelle moved into a starting role after Cochran went down with a season-ending injury. He has seen action in 15 games during his first two seasons at Texas and started eight games in 2013. Perkins saw the field in six games during his true freshman season and picked up his first career start against Texas Tech.
The unknown of the bunch is junior college transfer Desmond Harrison. He came to Texas as one of the top-rated junior college offensive tackles in the nation but has not seen significant playing time as a Longhorn. The talent is there, but if he can play up to his potential remains unknown.
What will Wickline do
Wickline is considered one of the best in the business for a reason: He demands excellence from his linemen and keeps the competition going throughout the season. Wickline said the starting roles will be earned on a week-by-week basis.
"It's week-by-week," Wickline said. "I understand chemistry. I understand continuity. But in my world, the only important things are the quarterback doesn't get hit, you can run the football and win football games."
All quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.