O-line is out to prove their toughness for 2011 season

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Texas hopes its offensive line will be better than last year, when it struggled to open up holes in the running game and give quarterback Garrett Gilbert protection. New line coach Stacy Searels is trying to establish a more physical mentality.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns offensive line is out to prove one thing this season — their toughness.

Many considered the O-line to be soft after a poor showing in 2010, the result of a nonexistent running game and an increase in sacks allowed.

But with new offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who joined the Texas staff this offseason after spending his last four years at Georgia, the Longhorns have taken on a new mentality up front.

“It’s all about smashing you in the mouth and moving quickly to get there,” said senior left guard David Snow.

Searels is an imposing figure on the practice field, standing 6-feet-6-inches and weighing over 280 pounds, and brings a tougher, meaner and nastier edge to his new squad.

Senior left tackle Tray Allen said the linemen talked about being a punishing group after the Longhorns loss to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving, and they’ve been striving for that persona ever since.

“Being a tougher offensive line is what we’ve been working on and hopefully we show everybody on [Saturday],” Allen said.

The Longhorns admit they were complacent a year ago, after coming off back-to-back trips to BCS bowl games. With Searels in the fold, though, that’s unlikely to be the case in 2011.

“He’s going to make practice as hard as he can [to prepare] for game situations,” Snow said. “He’s going to push you throughout the whole practice.

“He has a lot of energy, he’s very exuberant. He’s going to get after you.”

Gone are the days of zone blocking schemes and lateral running plays. Searels has Texas blocking downhill this year, a return to the philosophy that preceded the spread offense.

Now, the Longhorns’ mentality is to come right at the defense, a change that Searels instituted on the first day of camp.

“He established it the first day,” Snow said. “When a new coach comes in they have to change the culture.”

Searels is one of six new Longhorns coaches this year. Despite all the new faces on the staff, head coach Mack Brown says he’s been pleased with the way the group has meshed.

“It’s always hard to fit your line coach in with all the other guys,” Brown said. “Stacy’s come in and been great. Stacy and [first-year defensive tackles coach] Bo Davis are best friends, so the offensive and defensive lines have worked.”

So far, Searels has put his stamp on the offensive line and settled on a starting five. Now it’s up to him to identify the backups.

“Stacy feels pretty good about the first five,” Brown said. “Now he’s got to find seven, then he’s got to find eight, then he’s got to find 10 and we’re not there yet.”

Whoever the top 10 linemen will be, one thing is certain: Searels won’t tolerate softness. Come Saturday, he’ll find out just who has the toughness to restore Texas to prominence.