Contract Year - #2. Mason Walters

Brett Deering

For many reasons, players often enter their senior year with something to prove. Whether it's looking to cement status as an NFL Draft pick, or shoring up their Longhorn legacy, players will have their senior year be a "contract year". In this series, we'll count down five senior Longhorns that have contract years in 2013.

Highly-rated high school prospects who become four-year starters at Texas often find themselves on the disappointed side of fan opinion. Mason Walters, the former five-star tackle and center prospect, is no exception, both fairly and unfairly. Walters enters his fifth season in Austin with one final shot at becoming a dominant offensive lineman and turning Texas offensive lines back to the type of unit that can go out and win football games.

As a massive center and tackle prospect out of Wolfforth Frenship, Mason Walters' 6'6" 320-pound frame was supposed allow him to be an anchor tackle for the Texas offensive line that it hadn't had in years. However, after appearing briefly as a true freshman, a broken foot would end his first season and forever change his career. Despite a full recovery, Walters wouldn't regain the same mobility he had before and moved to guard before the 2010 season, where he'd start every game and be one of the better players on the very porous line.

His biggest moment was likely a display of frustration in the destruction in Manhattan, emotion that led him to become a leader for the 'Horns moving into the 2011 season.

Walters' improvement would begin to mirror the improvement of the line as a whole. The 2011 line improved in the run game, asserting some control over opponent lines, but still struggled in allowing negative plays and failing to control better defensive fronts. In 2012, the line took the next step, showing further improvement in the run game and dramatic improvement in limiting negative plays, but once again struggled with better defensive fronts, where the running game would stall. It provides a tangible point of improvement for 2013, where an uptempo offense and better spacing could prove the extra jolt the line needs to become one of the nationally elite fronts.

Walters has improved incrementally in his previous three season at Texas. However, he's struggled to consistently get displacement inside, and has had trouble maintaining a low pad level against shorter defensive tackles, who have been able to get underneath his shoulder pads and control his movement.

In his fifth and final season, Walters needs to take a more dramatic step in his development to realize the tremendous potential he arrived with in Austin. Still, regardless of his on-field performance, his leadership is a strong addition for a Texas offensive line that could be its best since the national championship holdover line in 2006 and a good season could help Walters be the first offensive lineman drafted in years, where he could sneak into a late-round selection, though fellow senior Trey Hopkins is a better bet to hear his name called.

Previously on Contract Year:

#5. WR Mike Davis

#4. DE Jackson Jeffcoat

#3. Carrington Byndom

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