Dallas Colleges: Camrhon Hughes
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 his patience but his persistence in rebuilding that 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 selected 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 with the fifth, Donald Hawkins, coming 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.
Safe to assume those type numbers have not exactly locked down a starting job for every player that 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 that of Josh Cochran’s 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.
Given that 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 even available in the past would have been a ludicrous assumption.
Even last season Texas could barely go beyond six offensive linemen. But the emergence of Kennedy Estelle (tackle) Flowers (guard), the improved health of Camrhon Hughes (tackle), Harrison’s arrival, as well as James’, does make 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."
“… it would not be a problem at all,” he said.
Yeah, but talk is cheap. For real evidence of the coach’s stance on pick and rolls as opposed to blocking and tackling, look no further than Camrhon Hughes. The soon-to-be freshman backup offensive lineman took a severe step back in his progress by tearing up his knee playing hoops last month. OK, so maybe Hughes is not exactly on the same level as Seals-Jones when it comes to excelling at two sports.
But the point is, at least Brown allowed Hughes to play two sports, even if one is at a rec center not the Frank Erwin Center.
“I talked to my buddies across the country that are coaching, they want to all pull [the players] off Twitter, Facebook, not let them play basketball, not let them do this, do that,’ Brown said. “They are human beings, and they're kids.”
They are also valuable commodities. Texas spends more than $550,000 putting together a football recruiting class. In Hughes’ class of 28, that is roughly $20,000 spent on each player signed. Once the player is in school, Texas spends $42,000 per year.
That is a sizable investment even for a school with a $150 million budget. In Hughes’ case, the return on the investment has now been delayed or even possibly scuttled altogether.
Remember Ivan Williams? Brown does. The running back ruptured his patella tendon playing pickup basketball.
“It really curtailed his career,” Brown said. “He went to fullback instead of tailback after that.”
Williams played in 23 games as a freshman and sophomore before the injury and played in 15 after the injury. Still pickup basketball is a fixture in many of the players’ day. Tweets are sent out looking for players, times arranged and fun is had by all. That is until someone goes down like Hughes did.
Then the fun comes to a crashing end. In Hughes’ case all 6-foot-7, 320 pounds of it.
“I think Camrhon's dad said, ‘Medicine ball is the only ball you'll be picking up in your future,’” Brown said after the injury. “Parents usually handle (the restrictions placed on their kids.) We just tell them to be careful.”
That’s really all they can do. Despite the fact that Texas invests more than $100,000 in a four-year player’s career, these are amateur athletes. Pro athletes often have clauses in their contracts restricting them from playing pickup basketball. For example, Aaron Boone of the Yankees tore his ACL and was then cut. Chad Pennington tore his as a free agent and saw his stock go down. Terrell Suggs has vehemently denied tearing his Achilles playing hoops despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary. All of those professionals potentially have money to lose.
Hughes might too some day. But, right now, he’s just a freshman doing what most other freshmen football players do, run the court in his spare time. If Brown were to forbid the players from playing basketball, it very well could cause some strife among the team. And it could certainly be used against him in recruiting.
So for now, Texas and Brown will just have to live with the possibility that injuries might happen on the hardwood. Like he said, players are “human beings and they’re kids.”
They are all kids who are more than welcome to play two sports at Texas.
Hughes, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, enrolled in January to get a head start with his football career, and his chances of factoring into the depth chart increased with the recent news of Paden Kelley's decision to quit football. But now he'll be relegated to rehab and the hopes of a full recovery by the time preparation for the 2013 season rolls around.
Hughes, whose brother Naashon Hughes (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) is a 2013 Texas commitment, was one of four offensive linemen the Longhorns signed in 2012.
This is the second stroke of bad luck that has come his way in the past months. His house burned down in the early morning hours of Nov. 10 while he and his family were asleep inside. Everyone was able to escape unharmed.
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