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Saturday, January 14, 2012
Houck: Tyron Smith can be 'very, very good LT'

By Tim MacMahon

Retired offensive line coach Hudson Houck doesn’t know whether the Cowboys will move Tyron Smith to left tackle next season.

Houck, however, has no doubt that Smith would be ready for the challenge after a tremendous rookie season as a right tackle.

“He can certainly be a very, very good left tackle,” Houck said during a Saturday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s The Football Show. “This is an extremely talented guy. When you take a look at him being 20 years old to start with and not being able to have a minicamp, not being able to have OTAs and come in cold turkey and just be able to start on a team in the National Football League against very, very good players, this guy has done incredible things up to this point. …

“He is a tremendous worker and a very good person. He’s going to be an outstanding player in this league.”

Houck lobbied to draft Smith with the ninth overall pick last season, and the USC product paid off by being the Cowboys’ best offensive lineman on a consistent basis, prompting Houck to compare his talent to that of Cowboys legend Larry Allen.

The issue is that a 20-year-old rookie was consistently better than left tackle Doug Free, a five-year veteran who signed a four-year, $32 million contract after the lockout was lifted. That’s why it makes sense for the tackles to flip sides, having Smith protect Tony Romo’s blind side and putting Free at right tackle, where he played in 2009 after Marc Colombo’s injury.

Houck said Free’s struggles this season were “overblown a little bit” while acknowledging that a move to right tackle might be in Free’s future.

“I’m not so sure he played that differently or that poorly,” Houck said. “That’s up for conjecture. I think we expected more and all of us expected more because of that contract that he signed. I think Doug has some things that he has to work on, but this is a very smart guy and a very dedicated guy. He will work hard to improve those skills, and perhaps they’ll move him back to the right side.”