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Texas Longhorns spring football 2013: Offensive line overview

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How well the 2013 offensive line group performs will provide the first definitive early returns on Stacey Searels as a developer of talent.

Can Donald Hawkins hold onto his starting job this fall?
Can Donald Hawkins hold onto his starting job this fall?

Departures: Luke Poehlmann, Thomas Ashcraft

Additions: Desmond Harrison, Contra Costa CC; Darius James, Harker Heights; Kent Perkins, Lake Highlands; Rami Hammad, Irving; Jake Raulerson, Celina

Projected depth chart:

Position No. Player | No. Player | No. Player
Right Tackle 78 Josh Cochran | 76 Garrett Greenlea

Right Guard 72 Mason Walters | 62 Curtis Riser | 68 Taylor Doyle
Center 55 Dominic Espinosa | 73 Garrett Porter | -- Jake Raulerson
Left Guard 75 Trey Hopkins | 66 Sedrick Flowers | 65 Marcus Hutchins
Left Tackle 51 Donald Hawkins | 68 Kennedy Estelle | 71 Camrhon Hughes


Can the offensive line take the next step?

The group will be mostly made up of seniors next season and was effective in reducing sacks and negative plays last season, if not so successful in consistently moving the line of scrimmage against the better defensive lines they faced last season.

For the 'Horns to take a leap offensively, especially in terms of forcing their will on opponents early and late in games, the group needs to make some improvements.

The new offense, which will feature a faster tempo in order to get off more plays, will also place a greater emphasis on conditioning, which falls on strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie.

Finding young players to emerge as rotation candidates is an important part of that equation, as the starting group likely won't be able to manage many more plays per game than they did last season, requiring the second team to fill in those gaps.

The loss of Luke Poehlmann means that the primary back-up at the guard and tackle positions is now gone. Adding JUCO tackle Desmond Harrison should help, but the real emergence probably needs to come from players like Sedrick Flowers and Curtis Riser, the two most likely candidates to among the young guards to push for playing time.

This spring will also be important for the development of young tackles like Camrhon Hughes, who is recovering from an ACL injury that forced a redshirt last season, and Kennedy Estelle, who worked his way into the rotation while battling a shoulder injury of his own late in 2013.

Battle to watch: The real battle to watch in the fall while be among the starting tackle candidates, a group that will include Harrison when he arrives on campus.

Until then, the thought is that Flowers and Riser are well ahead of guys like Doyle and Hutchins, both of whom aren't currently on track to ever contribute at Texas. Even though Flowers and Riser aren't likely to push Hopkins and Walters for the starting jobs in the fall, Flowers should benefit from the reps that Hopkins is likely to miss out on if he isn't ready to go in the spring (it's not clear if he will be) and both need to take the opportunity to progress as players, especially Flowers, whose failure to push the starters in 2012 was one of the major disappointments of the season offensively.

Overview: Experience often correlates to success along the offensive line, which requires advanced understanding of technique and the type of strength that most players only develop after several years in a college strength program.

In that sense, the Longhorns are poised for success in 2013 after the offensive line played a role in reducing sacks from 28 in 2011 to 16 in 2012, the latter of which was good for 24th in the country and tackles for loss from 77 to 52, tied for sixth nationally in 2012.

As mentioned above in the storyline, the development of the second-team offensive line is so imperative because the starters will need some breathers with the increase in tempo, meaning there will likely be three or more series a game mostly featuring the back ups.

Head coach Mack Brown has talked a lot about championship depth over the last several seasons. Texas hasn't had it along the offensive line for years. Will Searels be able to start developing it this spring heading into the pivotal 2013 season?