Big 12: Stacy Searels

Texas finds unsung hero in OG Hopkins

October, 17, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The guy who will be Texas’ first offensive lineman drafted in six years didn’t dream of playing in the NFL. No, Trey Hopkins wanted to be an anesthesiologist. These days, he’s working toward a different profession: Physical therapist.

The Longhorns’ senior offensive guard has job shadowed at a local rehab center and interned at Austin Sports Medicine. He’s planning for a long future in the business, no matter when his playing days end.

“As far as the NFL and physical therapy, I’m kind of taking those kind of things one step at a time,” Hopkins said. “Both are things I’d love to do. Whichever happens, happens. I’m just making sure both options are available.”

[+] EnlargeTrey Hopkins
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesTexas OG Trey Hopkins has started 35 games, can play every O-line position and should be the first UT O-lineman drafted since 2008.
Coming out of high school, Hopkins knew his future: He’d be in the medical profession no matter what. He gave no thought to being an NFL player. He realizes now that’s going to be an option.

Hopkins is the 6-foot-4, 300-pound unsung hero of the Texas offense. He’s worn burnt orange for 43 games and has started 35. The left guard can play every position on a line and was once a 13-game starter at right tackle. He’s everything a coach could ask for, and one of the players line coach Stacy Searels trusts most.

“I like everything about Trey, to be honest with you,” Searels said. “He’s our most consistent lineman in grading. He has not given up a sack. Very few pressures. The kid is really solid. He’s a leader. No negatives off the field. Smart kid. He’s the kind of player you want.”

He’s quietly put together a resume that will impress NFL personnel men. There hasn’t been a Longhorns lineman drafted since tackle Tony Hills went to the Steelers in the fourth round in 2008. Hills, by the way, was an elite tight end prospect in high school. Back in the Class of 2003. So, yes, it’s been a while.

Hopkins laughs when asked about breaking that strange streak.

“To know I would be starting that pipeline back up for offensive linemen would be great,” he said.

But, again, this was a goal he only recently began taking seriously.

The past year changed his vision. A 63-21 beatdown from a far more physical Oklahoma team last October was the catalyst. Hopkins decided it was time to reevaluate.

“I really thought about everything I was doing. I thought about how important it was to me,” he said. “If it is that important, why not be more consistent? Why allow yourself to be held back by something?”

The next game, a home win against Baylor, was the first in Hopkins’ career where he truly felt he’d played a great game.

“That’s the mentality I bring into every game now: How important is it to you?” Hopkins said.

His dedication was put to the test in December, when team doctors determined Hopkins would need surgery for a stress fracture in his right leg. According to Searels, he’d had been playing through the fracture and shin splints for a while. Hopkins toughed it out and waited until after the regular season finale for the bad news.

He missed the Alamo Bowl. He missed spring practices. And he hated every second of it. Hopkins considered those months missed easily the most difficult of his college career, and those “terrible, completely awful” days brought new perspective.

“It just makes you think, ‘I really can’t live without playing this game,’” he said.

The guys he lines up next to on a weekly basis only deepen his love. Hopkins helps tie this offensive line together. It’s a quirky group led by veterans who have made a combined 151 career starts.

The guys who’ve been doing this a long time -- Hopkins, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Donald Hawkins, Josh Cochran -- go out to eat together and play video games. They mess with each other in one long, running group text message. Sometimes, they’ll even trade books.

Well, OK, that’s just Hopkins and Walters. It started when Walters suggested Hopkins try “1984.” He enjoyed it. So Walters recommended a personal favorite, “Catch 22.”

“He starts reading it and he says, ‘Man, this is terrible. It’s an awful book. It’s not a good book, Mason,’” Walters said. “Maybe I was being a little abstract in my reading of it and trying to connect too many dots, and he’s trying to read it at face value. So that was the end of the book club. But I think he’s reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ now…”

Walters is disappointed Hopkins doesn’t share his cynical view of bureaucracy, but they’ve still formed a bond that makes them a special duo. It’s almost a good cop-bad cop dynamic.

“I mean, I’m kind of the even-keeled guy,” Hopkins said. “I’m not really the fire-starter like Mason is. I would say it’s Mason’s job to get everybody going.”

The Texas line certainly got going last Saturday. One year after Hopkins wondered what this game meant to him, he and his fellow lineman are coming off their finest performance of the season.

This time, they were the ones owning Oklahoma at the line of scrimmage, paving the way for 59 carries and 255 rushing yards. He finally got to put on the Golden Hat.

“It’s indescribable,” Hopkins said after the game. “I’m really proud of my fellow seniors and really proud of this group. To go through all the lows we’ve gone through and finally accomplish this big milestone is great for all of us.”

Keep this up and Hopkins really won’t have a choice. His career as a physical therapist will just have to wait.
AUSTIN, Texas -- You’re not supposed to mess with a good thing, right?

Texas’ offensive line is as experienced as any in the country this fall. All five starters return and have a combined 124 career starts under their oversized belts.

So why is each of them at risk of losing their jobs? Because, in 2013, Texas thinks it has a chance to have not just a good offensive line, but a great one.

“If one of these guys coming in is better than the starters, we will replace them, without question,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “And they know that. We’ve told them that.”

[+] EnlargeDonald Hawkins
Tim Heitman/US PresswireDonald Hawkins, a junior college transfer in 2012, could find his starting job in peril because of another junior college lineman.
Seniors Mason Walters (38 career starts), Trey Hopkins (29) and Donald Hawkins (11) and juniors Dominic Espinosa (26) and Josh Cochran (20) enter fall camp as the incumbents and received nearly all of the first-team reps in the Longhorns’ first two days of practice this week.

But for the first time in his tenure at Texas, third-year offensive line coach Stacy Searels has options. He’s wanted 10 offensive linemen he can lean on, 10 he can trust. Thanks to two years of strong recruiting, the cupboard is now well-stocked.

The star of that two-year talent infusion could very well be a lineman who arrived in Austin only three weeks ago: Desmond Harrison.

He’s never put on pads for the Longhorns, and the sum total of his experience in the program is one fall practice. But the 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive tackle is already the talk of fall camp after wowing his new teammates.

“He is huge. He’s a massive human being,” Hopkins said. “Probably the only person I’ve seen stand next to Mason and make him kind of look short.”

If the touted transfer from Contra Costa (Calif.) College is everything he’s hyped up to be, Harrison could become the starting left tackle by the end of the month. If that’s the case, the rest of the line would be in for a reshuffling.

Hawkins, a junior college transfer last year, could move from left tackle to guard, prompting Hopkins to take over the center duties. Or he could bump off Cochran for the right tackle job. Or he could get benched.

“Your position could change, and you could be second- or third-string really quick,” Walters said. “The guys we have here now really want to play. We have a lot of bodies and talent right now. I love it. We want to be as good as possible, and you have to have somebody pushing you.”

Harrison isn’t the only threat. Brown and Searels have high hopes for four true freshmen who have a serious shot a cracking the two-deep.

“This recruiting class for offensive linemen could be one of the best offensive line classes ever before they finish at Texas,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to see them when we put the pads on. I’m really excited about them. We haven’t been able to find these guys and get these guys on campus like this. It’s going to be fun to watch them. Don’t know how soon that will be, but our future is very bright there.”

Kent Perkins is already working as the second-string right tackle. Guards Darius James and Rami Hammad and center Jake Raulerson lined up with the third-team offense Tuesday. Several could be worthy of serious playing time this fall.

If they are good enough, that puts Searels in somewhat of a difficult position. How does he explain to three seniors and two juniors that the freshmen must play?

Walters and the rest of the veteran linemen have been through a lot together. When Searels arrived in the spring of 2011, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound guard was one of only seven scholarship linemen in the program. He’s started 38 straight games because Texas really had no choice. He and Hopkins have lined up together for 25 of Texas’ last 26 games.

“[Hopkins has] grunted at me before and I knew exactly what he was saying,” Walters said. “That’s just with all of us. You can tap somebody on the shoulder at a certain time and we all know what to look for on certain plays.”

They share that bond with Cochran and Espinosa, both of whom started as true freshmen. Through the good times and the bad these past two years, they survived together. There has to be some intangible value to that.

But the veterans know this is a meritocracy. Searels had six offensive linemen he trusted in crunch time last season. He needs more than that. The added depth comes at a critical time, when an up-tempo scheme will require more rotating to keep the line fresh and effective.

No matter what, Searels needs 10 good men. And that’s only going to make his five starters work even harder.

“Our togetherness is big, and I think that helps with the guys who have been around for a while,” Walters said. “But at the same time, Coach Searels has definitely made it clear he’ll play the five best.”
AUSTIN, Texas -- The thin, burnt-orange offensive line that has broken apart and allowed Texas to be pushed from good to bad is supposed to be fixed this time around.

Stacy Searels, who has long bemoaned the lack of talent, bodies and blocking ability of his charges along that line, has earned the praise of Texas coach Mack Brown, not only for Searels' patience but also his persistence in rebuilding that line.

[+] EnlargeStacy Searels
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTexas offensive line coach Stacy Searels finally has enough depth in his group to have a two-deep.
"He didn't know until he got here there were only seven scholarship guys that were going through spring practice," Brown said. "He has done a tremendous job of reloading our offensive line."

Reloading might not be the right word to use there, as such a term leads one to believe the line was recently loaded. It has been several seasons since that argument could be made. Texas hasn’t produced an NFL lineman since 2008. Prior to that, Brown’s program had seven offensive linemen drafted over a nine-year span -- a healthy number and one that exceeds the production of Alabama and Oklahoma over the same time period.

So Searels has been more pouring a foundation than restocking the shelves. And now the time has come to find out if there are cracks or if Texas is ready to build on a solid base.

Heading into 2013, the offensive line has all five starters returning. Four of those players were also starters on the 2011 offensive line, while the fifth, Donald Hawkins, came in as a junior college transfer after that season. Those starters did have less-than-stellar performances throughout 2012, however, and, quite frankly, were shoved around by TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and a few other teams.

Texas, with its loaded backfield, averaged 3.4 rushing yards per attempt against the six ranked opponents it played in 2012. Against TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State, the Longhorns failed to reach 100 yards rushing and averaged 3.0 rushing yards per attempt.

It's safe to assume those types of numbers have not exactly locked down a starting job for every player who started along that offensive line. To that end, Texas does have a potential new tackle waiting in the wings in the form of junior college transfer Desmond Harrison.

His arrival should signal some shifts along the line at every position, save for Josh Cochran at the opposite tackle spot.

"He [Cochran] is a tackle, so you'd leave him there," Brown said. "But the fact that Trey Hopkins has played everywhere, Donald Hawkins could play different places, guard or tackle, just gives you a lot more flexibility for depth. [Sedrick] Flowers would be a center or guard. You wouldn't move him outside. But you have flexibility and you have to look at that great freshman class coming in, too, to see if any of those guys are ready to play."

Texas signed five offensive linemen in its 2013 class and could play at least one of those. Darius James, who was ranked No. 17 in the ESPN 150, appears to be the odds-on favorite to be that player. He could fill in at the guard spot and also has some center in his background.

Since Texas wants to average about 84 plays per game, it is not unreasonable to believe that up to 10 linemen could see time in each game. To believe that Texas had that many linemen available in the past would have been a ludicrous assumption.

Even last season, Texas could barely go beyond six offensive linemen. But given the emergence of Kennedy Estelle (tackle) and Flowers (guard), plus the improved health of Camrhon Hughes (tackle), the arrival of Harrison and James makes a deeper rotation at least a plausible thought.

"I really think that we can have two-deep, and that will be the first time we have been two-deep around here in a long time," Brown said. "And I think we are -- I know we are headed in the right direction with our depth in the offensive line."

Fresh faces: Texas Longhorns

August, 27, 2012
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Today we continue our look across the league at few players from each team who had low profiles last year, but you'd better get to know before Saturday. They just might be household names by season's end.

More fresh faces:
Next up: Texas.

Donald Hawkins, OT: Hawkins and another guy on this list were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002, and both look like they'll have huge impacts in their first seasons on campus. Texas' offensive line is pretty stout, but Hawkins has already earned a starting spot after a spring and fall camp, trotting out as the starting left tackle ahead of freshman Kennedy Estelle. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder came to Texas via Mississippi, and OL coach Stacy Searels will help mold him. You never know, of course, but don't be surprised if you see Hawkins' name on the All-Big 12 offensive line at season's end.

Chris Whaley and Brandon Moore, DTs: Texas is crazy deep at defensive tackle, but these two players have the oddest roads to where they are today. Whaley came to Texas as one of the nation's top running backs all the way back in 2009, but he's earned a starting spot as a 292-pound defensive tackle. He made five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and fumble recovery last year, but made just one start. Moore, meanwhile, was the second juco transfer to sign with the 2012 class, despite Texas' aversion to the practice for the past decade. The 6-5, 320-pounder already wowed teammates in the spring, and with the kind of depth Texas has to help spell Moore, he's going to be scary when he's on the field.

Steve Edmond, LB: Edmond came to Texas as the nation's No. 4 linebacker, and he's going to be literally and figuratively a huge presence at middle linebacker for the Horns. The 6-3, 255-pounder offers some size in the middle of the defense that few Big 12 teams can duplicate. We'll see how well Edmond can cover, but Texas' scheme is unlikely to leave Edmond on islands with pass-catchers. He had two tackles for loss last year, 16 tackles and a forced fumble.

HornsNation links: Making three RBs work

August, 22, 2012
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HornsNation has more coverage of the Texas Longhorns:

Max Olson writes: Texas can make its three-headed running attack work. It can find the model at some recent BCS bowl teams.

Inside the numbers Insider: More on the rushing attack goes inside the percentages and compares them to previous Bryan Harsin offenses.

Carter Strickland writes: Key to the Texas offense will be a cohesive offensive line. While the linemen are doing the Stacy Searels shuffle, they are becoming more complete players.

William Wilkerson writes Insider: 2013 prospect Andrew Billings can is super strong. He's benching 475 and has several programs after him.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Bryan Harsin knows what he faces now -- a tougher schedule, bigger stadiums, louder crowds, better athletes, more expectations and plenty of pressure.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown, Bryan Harsin
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireHeading into his second season co-coordinating the Texas offense for Mack Brown, Bryan Harsin, right, says he's more comfortable.
Maybe more importantly he knows with whom he faces it -- a coach that understands the pressures of being a quarterback at Texas (Major Applewhite), a coach that delegates and does not dictate (Mack Brown), a head coach who thinks wide receivers should block first, second and third, then think about pass patterns (Darrell Wyatt), and a throwback with more grunts than glad handing (Stacy Searels). And that is just on the offensive side of the ball.

In all, six members of Texas’ staff are sophomores now. They have lived the life for a year. And, after being 8-5 together, they have lived to see another.

“Now we understand what we’re doing,” said Harsin, the co-offensive coordinator along with Applewhite. “We understand the details. We understand how each of us operates. And what the expectations of each positions are.”

"Even at our coaches' retreat a couple of weeks ago, the guys were all on the same page and it went so much smoother,” Brown said. “Last year they were talking about what are you doing in pregame warmups. They were talking about where we stay the night before the game.

“Now all of those things they know. We are so much further along than we were, and that leads to more excitement as we start the season as well.”

That progress is not just owed to those position coaches. Included among those six is strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie. The backbone of the program, Wylie is the one who has pushed the players to stand tall, and at the same time, turned the head of Brown as to what expectations a cohesive staff can put on these players.

It’s that work that has Brown talking about Texas being a tougher football team. And everybody knows a fist is much tougher to defend against than a slap. A fist is what Texas considers itself now that it has come together.

“Now we all know what is expected of everyone else,” junior offensive guard Mason Walters said.

That’s from the coaches straight on down the line. But, like everything else, it starts at the top. In this case, that means with the coaching staff.

Now that the staff is together, the coaches can be more calculating in their approaches.

“When you have had more time together, you have identified who you are, what you want to do, this is what we can major in and now from a personnel standpoint, whether it is recruiting or on the field, this is how we’re going to place people to do these certain things,” Harsin said. “Everybody has got that in their minds in the staff now and that makes it easier on all of us as a staff now. Instead of one guy trying to figure out who needs to go where, everybody knows where guys need to go and what’s the best group to have on the field.”

That means Applewhite and Harsin, who now know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, have more efficiently been able to work to find the strengths and weaknesses in the two quarterbacks, fix those problems and find solutions. Similarly, the pair is more comfortable putting their heads together on just how to deploy the three-headed backfield that is Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray.

“This time last year we were talking about a Boise offense and Mississippi State defense and what flavor will Georgia have with their offense and what about [co-recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt and his travels and how much will that change what we do offensively,” Mack Brown said. “And now we have a Texas offense that we are working toward and the players believe in, and the same thing defensively. So very little talk about anything other than Texas and us moving forward.’’

That means moving forward as one instead of many.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Whenever possible Mack Brown does his best to avoid Trey Hopkins.

It's not the hulking size, although 6-foot-4 and 300-pounds can lead to a little intimidation. But in this case, it is the brains not the brawn.

He's too smart, the Texas coach always jokes.

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The discussion comes up every year, especially in years like 2008, 2009 and 2011 when the Big 12 mounts a serious threat at toppling the SEC's run of national title wins.

So what separates the two leagues? TCU coach Gary Patterson was asked the question this weekend. He's a Big 12 newcomer, and his answer confirms what you've probably heard before, but from one more source.

"There are a lot of good players every where else. If you look at the NFL per capita, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi they put out more NFL players than anywhere else in the country," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's the body types in the regions of the United States that make a difference, too. You are going to find the skill players, but what we don't have as much in this state is the size of bodies of offensive and defensive linemen that the southeast part of the United States has. It's the gene pool."

I agree with Patterson. In the high-stakes games we've seen in the past few years, beefy linemen like Nick Fairley at Auburn and Marcell Dareus at Alabama have proved too much for spread offenses like Oregon and Texas.

But for those across the Big 12, Patterson's latter comments should be cause for concern.

Texas brought Bo Davis from Alabama to coach the team's defensive tackles and Stacy Searels to coach the offensive line. This year, both Davis and Searels will have junior-college transfers to coach.

Traditionally, the more mature-bodied talents show up on campus ready to contribute and have been staples of championship SEC defenses.

Texas' Brandon Moore has been described by teammates as "unstoppable" this offseason. Apparently, word has gotten out.

"Alabama is playing with 350-pound guys. Like the guy who just transferred to Texas; he's 6-7, 340. They ain't had 6-7, 340 guy forever that can run like he does," Patterson said. "(The state of Texas) has skill players. It doesn't matter whether it's 1-A or 5-A, they can all run. I'm not knocking what we do here at all. It's just a different body type."

Patterson's right, but could Texas be the first step in a changing game? Moore and offensive lineman Donald Hawkins are just the first.

Will they be the last? If either has a big impact, you better believe there's no way others won't follow suit, and we could see a whole lot of Big 12 teams gunning for those highly recruited jucos in the South.
Recruiting Nation scoured every league and named the recruiter of the year in each conference.

Who landed the honor in the Big 12?

Bo Davis of Texas.

Writes Recruiting Nation:
Bo Davis settled right in for the Longhorns and did very well in his first season as a recruiter for Mack Brown and Texas. His impact was immediate as ESPNU 150 defensive end Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) signed with Texas on signing day instead of LSU, where he had been a longtime commit. These are battles LSU doesn't normally lose to Texas. Davis was also responsible for landing junior college standout Brandon Moore (Scooba, Miss./East Mississippi C.C.), who originally signed with Alabama out of high school two years ago. Davis also had a key hand in the Longhorns getting defensive end Caleb Bluiett (Beaumont, Texas/West Brook) and defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. (Humble, Texas/Humble) on signing day. Davis, who is from Louisiana, is a big reason Texas, which normally isn't very active late in the process, made some big, late moves.
Honorable mention: Stacy Searels, Texas; Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State; Terrell Williams, Texas A&M; David Yost, Missouri.

No doubt an impressive haul for a Texas team bringing in lots of talent once again. We'll see how well each develops.
We're marching along in our recap of 2011 here on the blog, and today it's time to look back on the most improved players of 2011.

Here's a few other posts you might want to check out:
In no particular order, here are the players who showed the most growth during 2011 or from 2010 to 2011.

Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma: The physical tools had always been there for Alexander, but he'd never quite progressed into what he looked like he could be as a freshman in 2008. Until this year, that is. Alexander was a monster all season, leading the Big 12 in tackles for loss (19) and finishing second in sacks (8.5) to win defensive player of the year honors.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Nobody knew exactly what to expect from Klein this season, but he exceeded anyone's expectations on the ground, and developed into a serviceable passer by season's end. That growth should only continue into 2012. He ran for more than 1,000 yards and tied the Big 12 single-season record with 27 touchdowns, which also tied an FBS record for quarterbacks.

Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas: Byndom was a huge question mark when the season began, but by December, he'd developed into arguably the league's best shutdown corner. Players like that don't often put up big stats, but ask around the league's receivers about Byndom and look at how many big plays the Longhorns gave up. Both are testaments to Byndom's talents.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Wright, like Alexander, was a good player who became truly elite in 2011. Wright, believe it or not, had never enjoyed a 1,000-yard receiving season before 2011, even though he'd led the Bears in receiving in the three previous seasons. But who led the Big 12 in receiving this year? It wasn't Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon. It wasn't Ryan Broyles. It was Wright, with 1,663 yards and 17 scores. Insane. Robert Griffin III is the biggest reason for Baylor's rise, but Wright is a much closer second than most realize.

Texas' offensive line: Tough to pick one guy out of this group, which was dreadful last year but was a big part of Texas' moderate rebound this year. Stacy Searels coaches the unit, which ranked third in the Big 12 in rushing offense this season.

Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller earned the headlines at Texas A&M this year, but Swope was the man for the Aggies. He actually had the same number of catches as Fuller in 2010, but had almost 250 fewer yards and eight fewer scores. Fuller battled injuries this year, but Swope caught 89 balls for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns, far surpassing the future NFL receiver's output.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Johnson, like Byndom, didn't quite get the press of other cornerbacks in the Big 12 like Brodrick Brown, E.J. Gaines or Justin Gilbert who broke up tons of passes and intercepted lots of others, but he quietly earned a reputation as one of the league's premier lockdown defenders.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin looked shaky in a season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), throwing for just 129 yards and looking generally unimpressive. He wouldn't have another game like that the rest of the year. He topped 285 yards passing in four games this season and was sixth in the Big 12 in total offense, throwing for 2,872 yards as a first-year starter, and equaling the eight wins produced by Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert in their first years as starters.
Henry Josey and Malcolm BrownUS PresswireTexas' Malcolm Brown and Missouri's Henry Josey have revitalized rushing attacks.
Missouri and Texas made their living with NFL quarterbacks behind center over the last half decade. Vince Young and Colt McCoy at Texas and Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert at Missouri took the program to new heights and did so with thousands of pass attempts.

This season? Both programs are grounded.

"There’s a little bit of a contrast there with all the wide-open offenses and the quarterbacks and the passing yards we’ve had this year and traditionally in this league the last few years," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "Both of us run the ball here pretty good."

A bit of an understatement, perhaps.

While a pair of wide-eyed, first-year starters in David Ash and James Franklin take snaps, Missouri and Texas have developed the Big 12's top two running games.

"We can throw it well, but we’d like to be at least 50-50 or 60-40 run to pass," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "And if you can run the ball and and stop the run in college football, you’ve got a chance."

Texas has averaged better than 246 yards a game on the ground this year, enjoying the fruits of consecutive 400-yard weeks on the ground for the first time since 1977.

Missouri, meanwhile, averages just fewer than 245 yards a game this year. The Big 12's next best, Kansas State, averages just 217 yards a game.

Both teams, best known for slinging it this decade, rank outside the Big 12's top half in passing offense.

"We didn’t need the passing game much the last two weeks. We threw it some and threw it downfield," Brown said. "But we do feel like over the next four weeks here, we’re going to have to be more balanced. We’ll still be physical. We’ll still run the ball, because that’s what we’re doing best right now, but we also feel like when people are stacking the box, it’ll alleviate some of the pressure in the passing game."

Both have the advantage of running quarterbacks. Ash ripped off runs of 47 and 18 yards against Texas Tech and Missouri's Franklin is 11th in the Big 12 with 599 rushing yards, second among quarterbacks behind Kansas State's Collin Klein.

Franklin also leads the team with 10 touchdowns, third in the Big 12. The Tigers' Henry Josey leads the Big 12 in rushing with 1,149 yards, fifth nationally and 234 more yards than any Big 12 back.

The Longhorns are led by freshman Malcolm Brown and his 635 yards, but even though he was sidelined in Saturday's game, fellow freshman Joe Bergeron exploded for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.

"We’re doing a pretty consistent job of running the football, but I don’t think our offense is very consistent," Pinkel said of his 4-5 team. "We’re very hot and cold. We’re having to work through that, and we’re not working through it fast enough."

For both coaches, the aim is balance. Brown cited his Rose Bowl champion team in 2004 that was outside the top 100 in passing and second nationally in rushing. With McCoy at the helm, those numbers were reversed.

Texas has shown the ability to do both with its offense, just rarely in the same season.

"We’d like to get back to where we do both really well," Brown said.

The Longhorns finally have the physical running game they looked for last year, but outside of handing it over to offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and offensive line coach Stacy Searels, Brown couldn't venture a guess as to why it's worked this year and didn't in 2010, when the Longhorns won just five games.

But expect this game to look markedly different than the Big 12 matchups the league has become known for.

"It will be a great test," Brown said, "a real physical game and a fun game to watch."
We'll move on to the cornerbacks today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
This group is subject to more change during the season than perhaps any other position. You never quite know how chemistry will develop, and in these rankings, you really have to rely heavily on experience, similar to quarterbacks. It's not the only factor, but you have to acknowledge that it's a major one.

So, here's how I rank them:

[+] EnlargeLevy Adcock
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtOklahoma State's Levy Adcock, 73, is among the Big 12's best returning offensive linemen.
1. Oklahoma State: This is a no-brainer. The Cowboys broke in four new starters last season, but became a big reason why OSU's offense was one of college football's best. Despite throwing 532 passes, third-most in the Big 12, the group surrendered just 10 sacks. All five starters return, too. Running back Kendall Hunter also rushed for more than 1,500 yards. Right tackle Levy Adcock headlines the unit as the league's best overall lineman.

2. Baylor: The Bears might be a bit of a surprise here, but Baylor's strong skill-position talents wouldn't look nearly as good without this group, which lost a first-round pick at left tackle in Danny Watkins. However, Philip Blake is one of the league's best centers and four starters return from a line that helped Baylor finish second in the Big 12 last season in yards per carry, just behind Nebraska but nearly a half-yard more than Oklahoma State, the third-place team.

3. Missouri: The Tigers suffered a big loss in center Tim Barnes, a three-year starter and the offensive line's leader, but they return four starters from last season line and have the most career starts on the line of any team in the Big 12, with 105, which ranks 11th nationally.

4. Texas A&M: A&M's rising sophomore tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, had to learn on the go last season, but their development should be fun to watch this season on an offensive line blocking for the Big 12's best overall collection of skill-position talents. The line returns four starters, replacing only center Matt Allen.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners' goal-line problems last season cost them a game at Texas A&M, but this line was very solid the rest of the season and has plenty of upside. Likely starter Jarvis Jones won't be available until perhaps October, so the Sooners will turn to touted redshirt freshman Daryl Williams at right tackle in the interim. Center Ben Habern and tackle Tyler Evans add a lot of experience.

6. Texas Tech: Tech boasts one of the Big 12's best guards in Lonnie Edwards, but don't be surprised if Mickey Okafor grabs the Big 12's first-team spot at right tackle by season's end. The Red Raiders return all five starters, and will have to play well to support new faces at every skill position on offense.

7. Kansas: Four of the Jayhawks' starters are juniors and another is a senior, and for all of KU's struggles last season, it did have some success running the ball in spots, even though its 1,615 total rush yards were the fewest in the Big 12. James Sims (742 yards, 9 TDs) returns and KU adds a possible home-run threat in Darrian Miller, but the offensive line returns 97 total starts, 15th-most in college football and second-most in the Big 12. That has to pay off eventually, if not this season.

8. Iowa State: The Cyclones boast the league's best left tackle, Kelechi Osemele, but center Ben Lamaak is gone and ISU might turn to redshirt freshman Tom Farniok as his replacement. Brayden Burris is solid at right tackle, but sophomore Ethan Tuftee, who has very little experience (just five appearances total), enters fall camp as the starter at right guard.

9. Texas: No, I don't know how this happens. But it's hard to deny. Run blocking has been a struggle for Texas, and new position coach Stacy Searels will have to change that for the Longhorns, who have kept quiet about any real depth-chart developments throughout the spring and into fall camp. Tray Allen's health is a concern, but Mason Walters played well in 2010 and David Snow has a lot of experience at center with 19 starts and 39 appearances. If this group can't ascend in these rankings during the season, Texas' turnaround from last season 5-7 campaign will not happen. Texas, though, has the fewest career starts in the Big 12, with 36, which ranks 105th nationally.

10. Kansas State: Kansas State has had the Big 12's leading rusher the past two seasons, but he's gone and so are three offensive linemen, including the unit's best blocker, guard Zach Kendall. Center Wade Weibert and guard Kenneth Mayfield also are gone, leaving gaps in the interior. Senior Zach Hanson joins Manese Foketi and Clyde Aufner on a unit that returns just 42 career starts, second-fewest in the Big 12 and 97th-most in college football.

Finding the Big 12's most experienced team

June, 7, 2011
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This spring, we took a look at which teams brought back the most experienced scoring skill-position players, but college football pundit Phil Steele put together his list of college football's most experienced teams on the offensive line, as well as its percentage of returning tacklers. He also tabbed each team's returning lettermen, complete with a warning that teams hand out letters at widely varying rates.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireMissouri quarterback James Franklin will have an experienced supporting cast next season.
Still, here's how the Big 12 ranked in the three numbers, followed by some thoughts from yours truly.

Returning career starts on the offensive line: (national rank)

1. Missouri - 105 (11th)
2. Kansas - 97 (15th)
3. Texas A&M - 86 (28th)
4. Texas Tech - 83 (33rd)
5. Oklahoma - 81 (36th)
6. Baylor - 77 (43rd)
7. Oklahoma State - 76 (48th)
8. Iowa State - 54 (84th)
9. Kansas State - 42 (97th)
10. Texas - 36 (105th)

  • The first immediate reaction I had was: "Well, this won't make Texas' effort at climbing back into Big 12 contention any easier." I'd say most people who follow the Big 12 are well aware of the Longhorns' struggle up front in recent years, but I didn't realize they had the league's least experienced line. The Longhorns have done a great job of recruiting linemen in recent years according to recruiting rankings, but the development hasn't been there. Can Stacy Searels change that? Dare I say Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray's careers depend on it?
  • I still consider Oklahoma State's offensive line the best in the league, but it's interesting to contrast "returning starters" with "returning starts." The Cowboys gelled really well last season, but they replaced four starters last season and have just the seventh-most starts in the Big 12.
  • Beware of nonconference? SMU travels to Texas A&M and Tulsa plays both Big 12 schools in Oklahoma. SMU brings back the nation's most experienced line, and by a long ways. The Ponies have 158 returning starts, 21 more than any team in college football. Tulsa also returns 116 starts, more than any team in the Big 12 and fifth nationally.
Percentage of returning lettermen (national rank)

1. Texas A&M - 80.26 percent (5th)
2. Missouri - 79.37 percent (8th)
3. Oklahoma - 75 percent (25th)
4. Texas Tech - 71.23 percent (52nd)
5. Texas - 71.01 percent (54th)
6. Baylor - 70.27 percent (62nd)
7. Oklahoma State - 69.81 percent (64th)
8. Kansas State - 68.18 percent (78th)
9. Iowa State - 64.91 percent (102nd)
10. Kansas - 63.08 percent (109th)

  • Quite a difference for Kansas between the experience on the offensive line (second most) and the rest of the team (least) when compared to the rest of the conference.
  • Meanwhile, you're starting to see why a lot of people are high on Missouri and Texas A&M. The Aggies still have to get over the hump, but on paper, they're as complete a team as you'll find in this league. Missouri's obvious question mark is at quarterback, but this is a good representation of what people mean when they say "If they get solid play out of James Franklin, they're going to be pretty good."
  • Even more nonconference trouble? Like we mentioned before, SMU and Tulsa are in the top 5 nationally in this stat, too. Joining them? Florida State, which returns 80.65 percent of its lettermen. The Sooners travel to Tallahassee on Sept. 17 for the Big 12's premier nonconference matchup.
Percentage of returning tackles (national ranking)

1. Texas A&M - 76.32 percent (19th)
2. Kansas State - 75.17 percent (22nd)
3. Iowa State - 72.63 percent (27th)
4. Oklahoma - 69.78 percent (44th)
5. Texas - 65.02 percent (71st)
6. Oklahoma State - 58.51 percent (84th)
7. Kansas - 55.81 percent (94th)
8. Missouri - 55.45 percent (95th)
9. Texas Tech - 53.56 percent (99th)
10. Baylor - 45.77 percent (114th)

So, putting all these numbers together, in addition to my returning touchdown maker numbers, I'd say it's pretty clear who the Big 12's most experienced team is:

Texas A&M.

We'll see what that means on the field come fall.

Roundup: UT salaries, key recruiting moves

January, 31, 2011
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A few notes and nuggets from the offseason weekend that was:

Before Mack Brown began his coaching search that eventually required him to make six offseason hires, he met with the Texas Board of Regents to discuss coaching salaries. It sounds like they were, uh, receptive to what he had to say.

After a shocking and disappointing 5-7 season in 2010, Brown's assistants received hefty raises. Brown is expected to meet with the media in Austin later today for the first time since the season finale, a home loss to Texas A&M. Texas already sat comfortably at the top of the heap in assistant coaches' pay, and these latest raises only accentuate that. No one is making what defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made ($907,000) in 2010, but you definitely won't hear any complaints coming from the football facilities any time soon.

Here's a breakdown of last year and this year's salary among the coaching staff, courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman.

Defensive coordinator
  • 2011: Manny Diaz - $625,000 (made $260,000 at Mississippi State in 2009)
  • 2010: Will Muschamp - $907,000 (took Florida head coach job)
Offensive coordinator
  • 2011: Bryan Harsin (will call plays) - $625,000 (made $259,520 at Boise State in 2009)
  • 2011: Major Applewhite (also coaches running backs) - $500,00 (made 269,509 in 2010)
  • 2010: Greg Davis - $477,084 (resigned after season)
Tight ends
  • 2011: Bruce Chambers - $200,000
  • 2010: Bruce Chambers - $187,039
Defensive ends
  • 2011: Oscar Giles - $200,000
  • 2010: Oscar Giles - $162,451
Defensive backs
  • 2011: Jerry Gray - $425,000 (previous NFL salary unknown)
  • 2010 Duane Akina - $318,509 (left for Arizona)
Offensive line
  • 2011: Stacy Searels - $425,000 (made 301,200 at Georgia in 2010)
  • 2010: Mac McWhorter - $292,759
Receivers
  • 2011: Darrell Wyatt - $315,000 (made 250,000 at Kansas in 2010)
  • 2010: Bobby Kennedy - 212,519 (took receivers coach job at Colorado)

Life as a Longhorn right now? Well, last season's struggles aside, it's clearly pretty good.


Huskers find a new kicker

Nebraska will need a lot of new faces on special teams, after punter/kicker Alex Henery and kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic both exhausted their eligibility following the 2010 season.

The Huskers had a commit for their 2011 class, Niklas Sade, but he decommitted and pledged to North Carolina State last month.

The solution: Nebraska went after Mauro Bondi, a Boca Raton, Fla. native and (former) Wake Forest commit who has an impressive YouTube highlight reel and sounds ready to replace Henery.

"I definitely followed him, so I have to live up to that and maybe do even better," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Bondi gives Nebraska 18 commits for its 2011 class. ESPN.com ranks the Huskers' class No. 14 nationally.


Cowboys' top commit 'solid'

One player who doesn't sound like he's decommitting or recommitting anywhere is ESPNU 150 member and running back Herschel Sims, Oklahoma State's top commit.

The Cowboys' running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, left Oklahoma State to join former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. Sims had reportedly been wavering earlier in the recruiting season, but took his official visit to Stillwater in January and his high school coach told the Tulsa World that Sims is solid with the Cowboys and ready to sign on Wednesday, adding that there isn't "any doubt about it."
"During his official visit, he called that Saturday night and said, 'I can’t imagine playing anywhere else,' Sims' coach, Steve Warren, said. "He loved it."

With Sims, Oklahoma State has 27 recruits committed to its 2011 class, which can begin signing letters of intent on Wednesday. ESPN.com ranks Oklahoma State's class No. 20 nationally.

Texas finally has a full coaching staff

January, 21, 2011
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Mack Brown had to make six -- six! -- hires this offseason, but he's officially finished.

He's once again mined the SEC for a coach, bringing in Stacy Searels, formerly of Georgia and LSU, to coach his offensive line.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came from Mississippi State and defensive tackles coach Bo Davis came to Texas from Alabama.

"Georgia was a very tough place to leave, but Texas is one of those few places that I knew if they called, I had to look into it," Searels said in a release. "At the end of the day, the opportunity here was just too much to pass up."

Searels (pronounced s-EARL-s) replaces departed offensive line coach Mac McWhorter.

"I have admired his work as a coach for many years," Brown said. "He has a great deal of respect around the country, and at Appalachian State, LSU and Georgia, he has developed some of the best offensive lines in the nation. Will Muschamp, Arthur Johnson and Bo Davis have all worked with Stacy, and their recommendations, and those of many other coaches I talked to, could not have been any stronger. I am really excited about Stacy joining our staff."

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