Monday, August 27, 2007

19 Days, 19 Questions: #5

With 5 days left until KICKOFF, 'The Forty' is back in business and going to run down the top 19 questions for the upcoming year.

#5: Can a revamped offensive line protect Colt and the offense?

The 2006 offensive line was full of stars. Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard, and All-American Justin Blaylock all went on the the NFL. Yet, it seemed the offensive line never was fully able to establish a dominant running game, as was expected. Jamaal Charles seemed to take a step backwards in the running game, and many blamed his O-Line (others blamed the lack of VY). Just by watching the games, it was clear that Texas lacked an explosive running game (which luckily didn't seem to affect Colt). Everything on the ground seemed to be a grind and there were very few big runs. For the first time since 1996, Texas did not have a 1,000 yards rusher.

But now, Texas must move on from one of the most experienced lines in the country to a group of talented but inexperienced linemen. Senior Tony Hills will lead the way for this line at along with senior center Dallas Griffin. Sophomores Adam Ulatoski, Charlie Tanner and Chris Hall add the element of youth and inexperience to the line. Hills is a converted tight end, but a veteran starter on the line. Senior Dallas Griffin is in his 5th year and has seen time in 22 games, but lacks experience as a starter. Ulatoski started 7 games his redshirt freshman year.

Texas took a hit last year when talented lineman Cedric Dockery went down with a torn ACL in the OU game. He did not return the rest of the year and his playing ability is still up in the air. Another setback came when J'Marcus Webb transfered in the summer due to grade issue. Webb was highly recruited and expected to see significant playing time this year.

Texas is going to look at Roy Watts, Jr., Steve Moore, Buck Burnette, Michael Huey and Britt Mitchell to come in a freshman and see some quality time on the line as backups. The Longhorns are counting on young players being able step in immediately and perform well. Unfortunately for Texas, TCU is the second game on the schedule and may provide the biggest test for this unit.

The TCU game will show the true character of much of this year's Texas team, but no unit more than the offensive line. TCU brings in last year's 3rd ranked defensive and will attempt to be all over Colt and Jamaal in the back field. If the O-Line can with stand this test, keep Colt up right and Charles with some holes, the future of the season will look even brighter for the Texas offense. If they perform poorly... Well, at least the next week is Central Florida.

My Prediction: The offensive line will come together by the Oklahoma game. TCU will give this unit fits, but not cost Texas a victory. This may not be a star-studded line, but they will get the job done. Charles will put up more yards than in 2006 and Colt will have another outstanding year. There are going to be some growing pains and frustrating moments, but Texas fans will not be too disappointed in the 2007 offensive line

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