Texas offensive line, one of nation’s most experienced units, getting used to up-tempo pace


Elisabeth Dillon

Senior guard Trey Hopkins fields questions at last month's Big 12 Media Days. One of five returning starters on Texas' offensive line, Hopkins can play guard, tackle or center if needed.

Peter Sblendorio

As Texas employs its revamped up-tempo offense for the first time on night, much of the focus will be on how quickly the Texas skill players can get down the field and score.

While the running backs and receivers prepared all offseason for offensive coordinator Major Applewhite’s scheme, the offensive linemen could very well be the ones forced to make the biggest adjustment.

The linemen have spent the offseason sprinting to the line between plays and practicing getting the snap off quickly in order to keep the fast-paced offense in rhythm. Senior guard Trey Hopkins said that quarterback David Ash is adamant on running through plays as quickly as possible to keep defenders on their toes, and he believes that the difference will be evident in Week 1.

“I feel like we have David pushing us in the backfield saying ‘Come on, let’s get up to the line,’” Hopkins said. “We’re really limiting the amount of time, squeezing every last second out of the amount of time we can get from snap to snap. I think that’s something that will be really noticed in the season.”

Hopkins joins fellow senior Mason Walters as a starter at guard for the first game at left guard, with Dominic Espinosa lining up at center. Josh Cochran and Donald Hawkins bookend the line as the starting tackles.

Junior college transfer Desmond Harrison recently received clearance to practice after being deemed ineligible due to taking a course through BYU over the summer. Despite Harrison’s lack of practice time, head coach Mack Brown expects the junior to see considerable playing time at left tackle against New Mexico State.

“We still expect him to play quite a bit on Saturday night,” Brown said. “We’re just going to put him out there and turn him loose. We still feel like he needs to be out there and he needs to continue working on his conditioning and learn what to do and be ready to go by the time we get to Big 12 play for sure.”

The Longhorns’ veteran line figures to be among the best in the conference due to its depth and experience. Even though Texas only allowed 16 sacks last season, Hopkins wants the team to play with greater consistency and dominance in 2013.

“Our goal for the offense line is to be dominant in every phase,” Hopkins said. “I think last year we had glimpses of where we were dominant against certain opponents or we had a really great run game or we had really great protection one game but could never really sustain that throughout the whole season and that’s one thing we have as our goal is to maintain consistency throughout the season no matter who our opponent is.”

Junior running back Joe Bergeron believes that the offensive linemen work well together, and this should help open for holes for him in the running game come Saturday.

“All of them are in sync,” Bergeron said. “All of them are working together. All of them are communicating better. It definitely it is a good feeling knowing that you’re going to hit in one place, and just like you practiced you should hit in
the game.”

The Longhorns offense expects to score early and often under the new offensive scheme, and the continuity and depth of the offensive line is a major part of that.