Texas Longhorns fans were ecstatic when Charlie Strong lured offensive line coach Joe Wickline away from the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Longhorns had just stolen one of the game’s best from a Big 12 rival. This was quite the coup for Texas.
Maybe Strong had a sense for the job at hand.
The Longhorns will return one starter on the offensive line in 2014. Three lineman have graduated. A fourth, Josh Cochran, was forced to retire with recurring shoulder injuries. His in-season replacement, Kennedy Estelle, was an academic casualty and missed the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Having Estelle back would help Wickline as he breaks in a slew of new players. Fans will be watching to see if Estelle squares away his academic issues and commits himself to the new regime. Turning a cast of inexperienced players into a formidable line will not escape the watchful eyes of Longhorn Nation, either.
Dominic Espinosa is the only returning lineman. Beyond that, the rest of the line is a work in progress. Desmond Harrison is a behemoth of a man who did not quite develop into the dominant left tackle everyone thought he would. It will be interesting to see how Harrison grows under Wickline’s care. Guard Sedrick Flowers has 18 games played under his belt and is expected to step in as a starter. Curtis Riser will compete for the other guard position. If Estelle washes out, a host of young, but talented, linemen will have a shot at a tackle position.
Wickline is known to excel at developing unheralded lineman into a cohesive unit. He is intense. He knows how to get the best out of his players. The 2013 season is a perfect example. The Cowboys’ best offensive lineman was lost for the year just before the season opener. The line coach worked his magic as the group tried to gain some traction in the early part of the season. Once it did, the Oklahoma State offense took off. Wickline’s group gave up just 11 sacks in Big 12 play.
The cupboard is not bare on the Forty Acres. There is talent on the roster. How quickly that talent gels may dictate how the 2014 season goes.
Sounds like Texas has the perfect man for the job.