As I’ve hit on before, the offensive line was going to be a key factor in how good the Horns were able to do this season.Â Since that last post, OT Paden Kelley quit football, and OL Camhron Hughes tore his ACL playing pickup basketball.Â Make no mistake, these were major blows to a still young and building unit.Â I’ve been asked to try and make sense of what the line looks like and where the Horns can go in the next few months.
First, lets get a feel for what the Depth Chart would look like if we were going to play Wyoming this Saturday:
Now we have an idea about the chart, lets meet the projected first teamers:
The first team offensive line is talented but not long on starts.Â The veteran of the group is Mason Walters, who has started 25 games the last two years and was second team All-Big 12 performer last year.Â Walters can also play center in a pinch and will be relied on to lead these guys this year.
Josh Cochran has 12 games and 7 starts under his belt last year, and was learning right tackle after being moved from left.Â Good kid, talented, but still not seasoned.
Dominic Espinosa is the current starting center, with 13 starts last year.Â He is still learning going into his second year and sometimes lacks the toughness and power you want to see from a center. His development was and continues to be a story to watch headed into camp.
Trey Hopkins has played in 25 games with 17 starts, and teams with Walters to be the other veteran voice on the line, though it should be noted he started all 13 games at right tackle last year and was transitioning to guard to â€œbackupâ€ new stud LT Donald Hawkins, who started every game for his JUCO team last year but is learning the offense and hence major college football.
Now you know your starters and what they bring to the table, what about the backups?
If you’re reading this and nervous about the numbers of Sophomores and Freshman, you should be, but also realize this is years of bad recruiting being washed away slowly but surely. Also keep in mind Poehlmann is now two years removed from an ACL injury and God willing can help this team out.
The second team is comprised of some guys with bright futures but much to learn (Greenlea/Flowers), guys who haven’t quite â€œgot itâ€ (Porter/Ashcraft), and two guys who will need to step up in a big way (Estelle/Poehlmann).
Prior to the ACL, Hughes was going to be that swing guy we hoped to man the 7 or 8 spot in the offensive line rotation, allowing Estelle to redshirt, but now Estelle is probably going to have to play right away.
Poehlmann has worked the line and even caught a TD last year as a TE, but probably just isn’t going to be a reliable guy as a senior for this group.
Hutchins is still in my opinion too small at 260lbs to make an impact on the line. He needs to add at least 20lbs to his frame or shock me and live up to the hype surrounding him by being on the â€œFab 55â€ during his recruitment.
If Taylor Doyle has something to say or would care to assert himself, the time is now.Â Â Also expect Kennedy, Ashcraft, Greenlea, and Doyle to cross train in every position over the summer, with the hope being you get 8 solid offensive linemen out there for week 1.
Don’t worry yet Horns fans, we’re ok right now, but we can’t afford to lose a starter at this point.
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