I certainly have mixed emotions about the performance of the Longhorns in tonightâ€™s 37-17 victory over Wyoming to open the season, but my area of expertise so to speak is the offensive line, so I’ll reserve comment on the rest of the game.
Offensive Line MVP: Donald Hawkins
Overall Grade: B-
Good Things I Observed: The unit played with cohesion for the most part.Â They held their blocks, did some great work on the screen passes they just wouldnâ€™t have been able to perform in 2011, and when they were hitting on all cylinders after the 1st quarter, the tackles and guards put in work.
Hawkins will continue to improve as the season progresses, but largely rendered his defender impotent all night long, and provided the security blanket we’ve been lacking atÂ left tackleÂ the last couple seasons. Several runs went right by him because he held the point of attack, again, something we couldnâ€™t depend on last year.
Mason Walters played as mean as I expected, and Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran showed me big improvement from what I witnessed in the spring game.Â They both appear to â€œget itâ€, and the physical skills are starting to meld with the mental cues.
The guards and tackles did a good job against Wyoming when it came time to run the Wildhorn, imposing their will on an opponent that knew exactly what was coming.Â The blocking on the jet sweeps was excellent, and the guys really seemed to take offense to their bad 1st quarter performance.
Things I Saw That Need Work: Several times in the 1st quarter, one could clearly see the undersized Wyoming defensive line get a push, and that is absolutely, 100%, unacceptable.Â After they got rolling in the 2nd quarter on, I didnâ€™t see too many more instances of this, but in this conference with these running backs, our line shouldnâ€™t give one damn inch.
Dominic Espinosa continues to be the liability I feared since spring football.Â Espinosa had extreme difficulty holding the point of attack against inferior linemen, something he should have had no issue with facing the DT’s he does in practice.
Espinosa doesnâ€™t go out and seek people to block, allowing defenders to cross his face several times while he was uncovered.Â A good offensive lineman has to know when its been 4 or 5 seconds, his QB is probably going to be running or scrambling, and you need to get a hat on someone.
He didnâ€™t handle the bullrush well at all, getting knocked back several times two yards deep in the backfield, and on one of the touchdown runs he just flopped forward to the ground and put a hat on no one.
Overall the line did its job and will continue to improve, but Espinosa’s short comings drag this down from a B+ to a B-.Â This line won’t be mistaken for the bad asses that blocked for Vince or Cedric Benson, but they’re far more adequate than the line of 2010/2011.
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