Offensive line, running backs must step up for Texas

Nick Castillo

Offensive Line

The Texas offensive line doubled its starts in one game. The Longhorns enter this weekend’s game with the same line that had started just five games before facing BYU, so the issue will continue to be their youth and inexperience. 

Nobody expected redshirt senior center Dominic Espinosa, a 40-game starter, to go down in the first game of the season. The Longhorns also lost tackles junior Kennedy Estelle and senior Desmond Harrison to suspensions. With the loss of Espinosa and the suspensions of Estelle and Harrison, the line is devoid of leadership.

The patchwork bunch will have to gel quickly if they’re going to improve.

“You’ve got to work with a group of five, and they’ve got to know each other,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense. “It’s like a basketball team. They’ve got to know one another and know how the pieces all fit.”

Running Backs

Texas planned for its offensive identity to be run-based, but it’s difficult to run the ball when the offensive line is struggling.

Texas needs running backs senior Malcolm Brown and junior Jonathan Gray to find ways to make plays in the run game despite an inexperienced offensive line.

Gray and Brown ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener but only totaled 75 yards against BYU. Gray also had a fumble last weekend, which set up the Cougars with great field position.

If the running backs can find ways to make big plays, they may spark this young offense and get things rolling against the Bruins.

WR Marcus Johnson

Junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson has essentially been nonexistent so far. If it wasn’t for a poorly timed fumble on a kickoff return, Johnson’s name may not have been mentioned at all in Texas’ loss to BYU.

Johnson, who entered the season as Texas’ top deep threat, has caught just three passes for 26 yards through the first two games.

Johnson needs to get more targets down field, especially considering new sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes’ biggest asset is his arm strength. Johnson has the ability to make a big play off of the short pass, too, a spark the lackluster Longhorn offense could use against UCLA.