Following a season in which the Longhorns failed to win more than nine games for the fourth year in a row, culminating in a 30-7 defeat against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, new head coach Charlie Strong came into the offseason looking to bolster its program in a multitude of ways.
For Strong, one key way to improve the program was to upgrade the talent level coming to the team. In an increasingly competitive state featuring vastly improved programs such as Baylor and Texas A&M, Strong focused on building the team through the offensive line in his recruitment of the Class of 2015.
Currently, the Longhorns have 17 commits for the Class of 2015, five of those commits being offensive linemen. This is the highest number of offensive line commits the Longhorns have had in four years. The five commits on the offensive-line -- offensive tackles Connor Williams, Ronnie Major and Toby Weathersby and offensive guards Patrick Vahe and Garrett Thomas -- will come to a Texas team that has recently seen mass changeover on its offensive line in the first year of the Strong era.
Of the changes at offensive line, the first came during the season opener, in which senior center Dominic Espinosa broke his ankle during a 38-7 Longhorns win. Prior to the injury, Espinosa was viewed as the anchor of the Texas offensive line -- and the Texas offense as a whole -- as Espinosa had started 40 consecutive games for the Longhorns, dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season.
After the departure of Espinosa, the offensive line was dealt another blow when Strong suspended senior offensive tackle Desmond Harrison and junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle for violating team rules. Estelle was eventually dismissed from the team on Sept. 23, making him the ninth Longhorn dismissed from the team during Strong’s tenure as head coach.
The injury to Espinosa and the dismissal of Estelle dealt large blows to an inexperienced Longhorns offensive line, that minus Espinosa had only nine career starts coming into the season. With an offensive line that has lacked any true sense of cohesion thus far, the Longhorns are currently ranked 106th in the nation in points per game, averaging under 16 points per game in their last three contests.
For a Longhorns offense that has struggled to move the ball both on the ground and through the air, a revamped offense can be expected for the 2015 season. The addition of the five offensive line commits will be an integral part of that revamped offense, and their ability to play together as a cohesive unit will be vital to the Longhorns hopes of returning to the top of the Big 12 in years to come.