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Midseason Review: Offensive Line

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Onward with the reviews and the conclusion of the offense. (Clearly, the defensive reviews will be post-Iowa State.)


First, a note on the above stats. They're meant to be snapshot looks and you shouldn't read too much into them. They prove nothing and serve instead as cursory glances at a few statistics (at least in part) related to the unit's overall performance.

Though statistics can certainly help you get a general idea about how an offensive line is performing, you won't get a good view of how they're performing unless you watch tapes of the games. It's hard, even, to evaluate the group (and individuals therein) from a live view of the game. There's too much happening, too quickly, to see everything you need to.

I've had the (dis)pleasure of rewatching all of Texas' games this year, and it's always in the second watching that you notice which linemen are doing what. (It's even more difficult when you're just not much of an expert on line play, as I assuredly am not.)

As a whole, the unit is decidedly average. They definitely aren't bad, but they're not very good, either. Individually, the only player who's played pretty consistently well has been right guard Cedric Dockery. He's steady and is Texas' only lineman who run blocks as you hope your right guard would. He pulls reasonably well, pass protects adequately, and doesn't make many mistakes.

At left tackle, Tony Hills has been solid enough, but he's a far cry from the first round NFL Draft choice that some preseason publications thought he might be. Hills still isn't as good a run blocker as you'd like him to be. Again, though - he's definitely not a problem.

The rest of the line? A problem. Most notably, center Dallas Griffin has been a brutal, occasionally fatal, weakness all season long. He's a coach and media favorite because he's a 4.0 double-major, but on the football field, he's just overmatched. He requires help constantly, which disrupts even the most modest of blocking schemes. It's problematic that we're asking guys like Charlie Tanner to help him, too. Because Tanner's struggled mightily himself.

Chris Hall deserves credit for playing seventeen different positions this season, but he's not playing any of them very well, so let's temper the praise. You know where Chris Hall would be a great player to have? On a team with five healthy studs in front of him on the depth chart. As a rotating reserve, he could be great to spell starters. As is, we're asking too much from him, and it's hurt both the line play overall, and - I'd guess - him individually.

I had high hopes that Adam Ulatoski was ready to take a big step forward this year, but was saddened to learn that 'ulatoski' is Serbian for 'procelain.' Sad, but true. The big fella can't stay healthy, and when he's been out there, he's been beat far too many times. The gap between potential and performance remains vast.

As for the younger crew - we'll touch on that in the next section.

Unlike the previous midseason reviews, it won't do to simply note how imperative it is that young players be given live, on-the-job training. You can't just toss true freshmen into the mix, let them fail, and be glad that they're developing. You need some modicum of stability on the line, while the youngest ones need time and training development to get to a point where they can be useful contributors. Throwing in a bunch of newbies to be destroyed inevitably will frustrate everything you want to do on offense. Colt and Chiles would get killed. The running backs won't have anywhere to run. Receivers may as well not run their routes.

No, linemen must be developed. And a healthy portion of that development has nothing to do with live game training.

Still, some changes are in order. First and foremost, it's time to sit Dallas Griffin and begin the grooming of Buck Burnette for 2008. Most importantly, it'd be tough for Burnette to be a downgrade over Griffin, so there's no immediate penalty for getting him in there to work and learn. Further, he'd likely outperform Griffin, which makes it a win-win.

As for the rest of the youngsters, Michael Huey is already earning more and more playing time, and should continue to get solid work at guard this season. There's no need to overuse him, but continuing to use him generously is good in the short- and long-term. Believing Tanner will work out at guard just looks like wishcasting. As for Kyle Hix and Tray Allen - the redshirts are gone, so it'd be stupid not to use them more as the season goes on. We don't need any baptisms by fire here, but a steady increase in play over the remainder of the season is in order. In all likelihood, Tray Allen is going to be starting at left tackle for the Longhorns next season. It might be a good idea to start getting him as ready as possible for that role.