Going into the 2009 campaign, the Texas coaching staff should feel pretty confident in what they have at their disposal along the offensive front.
Of any position on the field, this group may have made the biggest improvement in production from 2007 to 2008.
Last season, the Longhorn offense scored 42 points a game up from 37 in 2007. The Longhorns also averaged 475 yards of total offense a game, which was good for fifth best in the country.
With four of the five starters from last year's line returning, Colt McCoy and the Texas offense should continue, if not improve upon, the excellent numbers from last year.
It all starts with senior left tackle Adam Ulatoski (30 career starts, All-Big 12 selection in 2008), the man charged with defending McCoy's blind side.
At 6'8", 302 lbs, Ulatoski is a sure-fire first team All-Big 12 selection as well as a possible All-American candidate. His combination of size and brute strength will be pivotal in keeping McCoy on his feet and comfortable in the pocket.
Opposite Ulatoski at right tackle is junior Kyle Hix (14 career starts, 13 in 2008). Hix proved to be an underrated asset to the Texas front line and was one of the more consistent blockers of the group.
As long as these two remain healthy, the Longhorn line should be in good shape. However, there is always a risk of injury to the big men up front.
Juniors Tray Allen and Brit Mitchell are the primary back-ups to the two starting tackles. While both are talented players, neither has played consistently enough to get on the field for more than a few plays at a time.
Allen was a top 20 prospect back in 2007, but he hasn't panned out to be the top player Mack Brown recruited. He will have to step up and show significant improvement or he will lose his job to one of the younger linemen on the roster.
As for Hix, his shift from guard to tackle this spring should serve him well. He has good technique and impressive lateral quickness, now he just has to utilize it when it matters.
Though depth at guard is a bit of a concern, Texas has some solid starters in place.
Senior Charlie Tanner (19 career starts, honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2008) and junior Michael Huey (three career starts) are slotted to be the starters after strong showings in the spring game.
Tanner isn't the best run blocker, but he has proven he can push his man off the line with relative ease.
Huey, however, wasn't able to hold his starting job when Tanner was injured for a portion of last season. He needs to show that he is prepared to handle a full-time job before the coaching staff and Colt McCoy can fully trust him.
That being said, his bullish nature and amazing strength should serve him well at the guard position.
Junior Steve Moore and redshirt freshman Mark Buchanan serve as the back-ups to the starting guards. Both provide some much needed depth and will be called on should the injury bug strike again this season.
Freshman Mason Walters, a center in high school, is a versatile player who will be a known name by mid-season.
Texas is set at center with senior Chris Hall (23 career starts, second team All-Big 12 in 2008) taking the starting reins. Hall is by far the most versatile lineman of the group as he has started at least once at every position along the front five.
Hall has an excellent work ethic and is the kind of player a coach loves to have. He has gotten stronger in the offseason and will prove to be perhaps the most valuable player on the line.
Following the dismissal of Buck Burnette last season, then-freshman David Snow had two very impressive showings at center.
This season, he will be called on to provide some key depth for Chris Hall in the event that he has to make yet another unexpected position change during the season. Snow slightly eases worries of an injury to Hall, as well.
Freshman Luke Poehlmann, Garrett Porter, Paden Kelly, and Thomas Ashcraft will all redshirt this season in order to focus their attention on getting stronger in the weight room.
All-in-all, Texas has a very solid offensive line that has a chance to be among the best in the nation. As long as injuries stay at a minimum, this group will bolster an already stunning offensive attack.
Look for the line to improve on run-blocking this season, as it was an area of concern last season.
If they keep the pressure off of McCoy, the Longhorns will be in good shape for a title run.
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