We've already discussed the impressive talent Texas will field at the tailback, wide receiver, and tight end next year, but as any good football fan knows, the offensive line is as, or more, important than anything else. Today's look ahead will focus in on the hogs in the middle. Three of the five line spots (Sendlein, Studdard, and Blalock) are set, but there's fierce competition for the remaining two spots.
Au Revoir Last year's stellar offensive line was a memorable group for the Horns, and two staples of that group have departed to try to make names for themselves on Sundays. Right tackle Will Allen (Saints) and Jonathan Scott (Lions) have moved on after their excellent careers at Texas. While we wish them well, Horns fans have plenty to remain excited about.
Meet The New Guys We've already written prospect profiles of Buck Burnette and J'Marcus Webb. Two other freshmen will head to Austin this fall: Roy Watts and Steve Moore. With all these guys, it's a year in the weight room to undergo hardcore weight training, so you won't need to know anyone by name just yet. Both Burnette and Webb, though, have interesting potential, especially Webb, who is a freakish 6'8" tall with good feet.
One important note: Mack Brown has lined up commitments that, assuming they all sign with Texas next February, will rank as one of the best in history. There's a LOT of big, talented boys headed to block for the Texas Longhorns.
Cedric Dockery His development this year is terribly important. The coaches would like him to step in to the vacated Guard spot left by Will Allen. The only other option would be to shift Blalock around between Tackle and Guard, which is a last-resort plan that all involved want to avoid. For Dockery, if he can help anchor the right side with Blalock, MacWhorter and the Texas coaches can focus the remainder of the energy on figuring out who's best to fill Scott's shoes at Left Tackle. If Dockery slumps, some think Charlie Tanner, a redshirt freshman, can win the job. Reports are that Tanner has the best feet of any lineman MacWhorter has ever worked with at Texas, and he's had some good ones.
Tony Hills Most expect Hills to round out the line and play the all-important Left Tackle position. No one questions his physical skill set, but he's still unproven. With talented freshman Adam Ulatoski waiting in the wings, there will be legitimate competition for the spot. Still, it looks like Hill's job to lose at this point. The bottom line, however, is that MacWhorter wants his five best lineman on the field; if that requires some shifting and tweaking, so be it. Only the three returning starters have secure jobs.
Justin Blalock, Kasey Studdard, Lyle Sendlein Blalock is the best of the three returning starters, though all three are excellent. Blalock has been named All Big 12 in each of his first three seasons, and barring injury, will be a first round pick in the 2007 NFL draft. Kasey Studdard, the wild and scraggly goofball that is the heart and soul of the spirit of the line, is also a solid first day NFL draft prospect. And Sendlein continues to improve each year at the center position. All three, if healthy, will anchor what should be a strong line for a Texas team that is certain to run the ball as much as anyone in the country. While it's still too early to predict exactly how it will all turn out, it's safe to say that these three will be starting, with four or five others competing for the final two spots. As fall approaches, we'll have a clearer picture of how the coaches intend the line to take shape.