Doyle welcomes new challenges at center

Jori Epstein

Taylor Doyle isn’t sure what’s more challenging: starting against Oklahoma in a position he had never played before or drinking the team-mandated beet juice. Both challenges energize him — the beet juice quite literally. But both also come with fair shares of adversity.

“I have to hold my nose, but I do partake in the beet juice — just a little bottle,” said Doyle, a redshirt junior offensive guard. “It’s a lot to handle; the taste will stick in your mouth.”

Doyle’s memories of the lasting taste of beet juice date back further than his memories of playing center. He produced a successful career as an offensive guard at Lake Travis High School in Austin, carrying his offensive line to three state championships, starting for three years and meriting a hoard of all-state, all-area and all-district honors. 

His playing time dropped off when he joined the Longhorns, competing in just two games during his sophomore season under then-head coach Mack Brown. But when head coach Charlie Strong brought in a new group of coaches, Doyle found another chance.

“This coaching staff came in and gave everyone an opportunity to play, and I was excited to be able to contribute to the team,” Doyle said. “We didn’t know what to expect at first, but Coach Strong has come in and been a great leader, as has the entire coaching staff. They put us in a position to win games, which is all we can ask for.”

Sometimes, however, the coaching staff goes beyond just putting players in position to win. Offensive coordinator Joe Wickline also likes putting players in new positions.

“Wickline is a huge proponent of moving guys around and having them playing each position,” Doyle said. “You never really know where you’re going to fit in until you’re going into the game
with him.”

Before the Red River Showdown, Doyle had tallied three starts at right guard this season. He also had minimal experience as center in practices when senior center Dominic Espinosa needed breaks.

“Oklahoma had a great defensive front, and we sure had a great challenge going out there and moving those guys around,” Doyle said. “But every team in the Big 12 has a solid defensive front; that’s pretty standard in our conference.”

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes said the offensive line played well in Texas’ near-comeback 31-26 loss to the Sooners.

“Those guys are kind of a young group — young and inexperienced — but these past two or three games, they’ve been playing hard, and they play well,” Swoopes said. “I couldn’t ask any more of them. It helps me a lot to have confidence in them.”

Doyle’s new position is far from permanent. He competes with redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson, who has a background of playing center, for playing time, but Doyle said the competition only makes both of
them better.

“Wherever the coaches decide they need me, I’ll gladly do it,” Doyle said.

That is, unless it’s in the beet juice room — there, Doyle might leave center for someone else.