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Post-spring questions: Can the Texas interior OL level up in 2023?

Kyle Flood has already made some position changes to level up the interior, but can that help propel the offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Valero Alamo Bowl Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Orange-White spring game answered many questions about what the 2023 Texas Longhorns could look like when fall rolls around.

We saw flashes of brilliance from the wide receivers and backs, while the defense played largely sound football, with room to grow as they get healthy and add key pieces on both sides of the ball. However, as we begin to think about 2023 in earnest, there are still questions to be answered when fall camp rolls around.

In spite of the Longhorns having a successful year on the ground a year ago, at times the interior blocking left a bit to be desired, buoyed by the skills of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson. With those two headed to the NFL, the offensive line’s ability to create space for the runners and keep the offense on schedule becomes even more crucial.

On Saturday, Texas started a group of Kelvin Banks, Neto Umeozulu, Jake Majors, Cam Williams, and Christian Jones, returning a pair of successful bookends and a third-year center as they hope to shore up the guard positions. Junior Hayden Conner likely would slot in at left guard, but he was getting reps with the second unit alongside Andre Cojoe, Malik Agbo, Connor Stroh, and Payton Kirkland. Regardless of what unit was on the field, it seemed like the defensive interior had the advantage, causing problems in the running game. Most of what Texas found success with on the ground game leveraged the tackles, likely the strongest group in the trenches.

For the offense, and the team overall to reach the heights they hope to achieve in 2023, Kyle Flood needs to figure out the winning formula for the A and B gaps.

Moving Williams, a physical freak with NFL upside inside seems to be the first piece of the puzzle to fit in place, but that leaves the spot next to Banks still vacant. Two players likely to play a role in that puzzle were unavailable on Saturday, Cole Hutson and DJ Campbell, both sophomores missing the game due to injury. Hutson, an early enrollee a year ago, got the jump on Campbell and ended up starting all 13 games a year ago. Once Campbell got his feet underneath him, his five-star talent started to show, appearing in six of the final eight games — including the final three.

The advantage of having three players competing for one spot along the line is something alluded to by head coach Steve Sarkisian ahead of the Orange-White game: depth.

Sarkisian mentioned ahead of the spring game that the Longhorns had enough scholarship offensive linemen to return to a more typical spring game format, meaning they have successfully completed the flip of the room he and Flood began when he arrived on campus. The 2022 haul of linemen have already made their presence known and will only continue to mature under the tutelage of Flood in this offensive system.

So now the question becomes, who can separate themselves from the pack and take the job that’s in front of them?