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Line changes may benefit UT run game

AUSTIN, Texas -- This is supposed to be Tray Allen's time.

He's a senior. Injuries kept him off the field in previous seasons. The once-vaunted recruit had been a watcher, not a doer. Not anymore. Not this season. Allen earned the left tackle spot. Allen was pegged as Texas' guy in what was to be a run first, pass second offense.

Allen might not start Saturday. Texas rushed for 36 yards against Oklahoma and gave up 18 plays for negative yards, including eight sacks. Allen hasn't done the job he was supposed to, and could be a victim of Texas' "Get it done or get out of the way" philosophy in 2011.

"We have a lot of work to do," Texas coach Mack Brown said of the offensive line.

The first task seems to include getting Josh Cochran more playing time. Cochran is a true freshman. He and Allen are listed as possible starters at left tackle, and both will likely play against Oklahoma State.

"He's a guy that comes in and competes, like a lot of our young guys," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said of Cochran. "You're wanting to get those guys experience and you're wanting to get those guys to play. The biggest thing you get from a lot of our young players is they compete."

Maybe this is a motivational tool to get Allen to compete more. Maybe Cochran is just better. Either way, it is a signal that Texas understands it has a problem, and unlike past years, the staff is making changes to correct that problem.

Of course, the problem isn't all Allen. The problem also isn't just the production in the Oklahoma game. After averaging 250-plus rushing yards per game through the first three games, the Texas running attack has ground to a halt in Big 12 play. Against Iowa State, Texas had just 145 yard and a 3.5 yards-per-carry average.

Baylor rolled up 391 rushing yards against the Cyclones the following week. Sure, the Bears have Robert Griffin III, but it was Terrance Ganaway who had 200 yards rushing. Baylor is his third school in five years. Where was that success with Texas and Malcolm Brown?

That leads us back to Texas and its 36 rushing yards against Oklahoma. That's the fewest rushing yards for the Longhorns since they had 18 against Nebraska in the 2009 Big 12 title game.

"It was a lot of things," guard David Snow said. "You can't just pinpoint a couple of things."

Oklahoma State is 75th nationally, allowing 166 yard per game, and is not exactly a run-stopping juggernaut. But, the Sooners gave the Cowboys a blueprint for stopping the Longhorns.

"They obviously tried to do a lot of run blitz and hurt our run game and force our quarterbacks to throw the ball,'' Mack Brown said. "That is the game plan now that we will see the rest of the year. We will get that every week now that this is on film."

Harsin also saw plenty of film. He saw enough to know that things must change not only with the line but with the quarterbacks as well.

"OU made plays, and when those happen, we've got to be able to, on the back end of it, either get rid of it, find the quick throw and get the ball out of our hands," he said. "Everybody has got to kind of help out and account for each other, and as we look at that game and we prepare this week, those things are things that we're talking about and keeping in mind."

Which might explain the shuffling of the offensive line as well. Texas has stated its intentions to be a run-first team, and is holding its offensive linemen accountable. With young linemen like Cochran and freshman Sedrick Flowers potentially seeing more playing time, upside and effort seem to be two things the coaches think can get the running game back on track.

"They may not know everything and all the details and nuances of what you're trying to get done," Harsin said. "They are playing hard. They've got a passion for the game. That is what we appreciate about those young players."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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