Desmond Harrison

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Senior offensive lineman Desmond Harrison and junior offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle have been suspended for this Saturday’s game against BYU.

Multiple reports first said both starters had been dismissed by head coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday evening; however, Texas announced later that night they were just suspended for this weekend’s contest. 

With the loss of senior center Dominic Espinosa — who started all 40 career games — to injury, Estelle was Texas’ most experienced offensive lineman with nine starts. Harrison had been suspended for the game against North Texas, but, on Monday, Strong announced he was eligible to play this Saturday against BYU.

Texas’ most experienced offensive linemen are now junior guard Sedrick Flowers and sophomore tackle Kent Perkins, who have both started just two games.  

The Longhorns are now down to 14 active offensive linemen on the roster for this Saturday, including three walk-ons and three true freshmen, making Flowers the only letter winner left on the offensive line.  

With sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes set to make his first career start against BYU this weekend, the timing of Texas’ suspensions could cause trouble for the Longhorns.

Since Strong took over last January, he has changed the culture of the program, dismissing a total of seven players from the team. In March, the Longhorns dismissed senior fullback Chet Moss and senior safety Leroy Scott because of a violation of team rules. 

Things were fairly quiet for the program until July when the Longhorns dismissed five more players. Freshman defensive back Chevoski Collins, sophomore running back Jalen Overstreet and senior running back Joe Bergeron were all dismissed for violation of team rules.

Junior running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner are also still suspended for Saturday’s game.

After last week’s purge, where six players were dismissed from the team, multiple sources are reporting that three more players are facing suspension.

According to Horns Digest, senior offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, junior wide receiver Daje Johnson and junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle have been found in violation of team rules and maybe suspended from the team.

Johnson, a Pflugerville native, has been in and out of trouble throughout his time at the University. Despite trouble off the field, he has seen success on the field. Johnson has scored four touchdown on 808 total yards from scrimmage throughout his career at Texas.

Estelle and Harrison were both expected to start this season.

If these players are suspended, it would make nine players who have been disciplined by headcoach Charlie Strong over the past week.

Senior guard Trey Hopkins fields questions at last month's Big 12 Media Days. One of five returning starters on Texas' offensive line, Hopkins can play guard, tackle or center if needed.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

As Texas employs its revamped up-tempo offense for the first time on night, much of the focus will be on how quickly the Texas skill players can get down the field and score.

While the running backs and receivers prepared all offseason for offensive coordinator Major Applewhite’s scheme, the offensive linemen could very well be the ones forced to make the biggest adjustment.

The linemen have spent the offseason sprinting to the line between plays and practicing getting the snap off quickly in order to keep the fast-paced offense in rhythm. Senior guard Trey Hopkins said that quarterback David Ash is adamant on running through plays as quickly as possible to keep defenders on their toes, and he believes that the difference will be evident in Week 1.

“I feel like we have David pushing us in the backfield saying ‘Come on, let’s get up to the line,’” Hopkins said. “We’re really limiting the amount of time, squeezing every last second out of the amount of time we can get from snap to snap. I think that’s something that will be really noticed in the season.”

Hopkins joins fellow senior Mason Walters as a starter at guard for the first game at left guard, with Dominic Espinosa lining up at center. Josh Cochran and Donald Hawkins bookend the line as the starting tackles.

Junior college transfer Desmond Harrison recently received clearance to practice after being deemed ineligible due to taking a course through BYU over the summer. Despite Harrison’s lack of practice time, head coach Mack Brown expects the junior to see considerable playing time at left tackle against New Mexico State.

“We still expect him to play quite a bit on Saturday night,” Brown said. “We’re just going to put him out there and turn him loose. We still feel like he needs to be out there and he needs to continue working on his conditioning and learn what to do and be ready to go by the time we get to Big 12 play for sure.”

The Longhorns’ veteran line figures to be among the best in the conference due to its depth and experience. Even though Texas only allowed 16 sacks last season, Hopkins wants the team to play with greater consistency and dominance in 2013.

“Our goal for the offense line is to be dominant in every phase,” Hopkins said. “I think last year we had glimpses of where we were dominant against certain opponents or we had a really great run game or we had really great protection one game but could never really sustain that throughout the whole season and that’s one thing we have as our goal is to maintain consistency throughout the season no matter who our opponent is.”

Junior running back Joe Bergeron believes that the offensive linemen work well together, and this should help open for holes for him in the running game come Saturday.

“All of them are in sync,” Bergeron said. “All of them are working together. All of them are communicating better. It definitely it is a good feeling knowing that you’re going to hit in one place, and just like you practiced you should hit in
the game.”

The Longhorns offense expects to score early and often under the new offensive scheme, and the continuity and depth of the offensive line is a major part of that.

Sophomore Daje Johnson averaged 11.5 yards per touch as a freshman. He wants to be Texas' version of Tavon Austin.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Stock Up: 

RB/WR Daje Johnson (So.)

By far the most explosive player on the Texas roster, the returning sophomore running back/wide receiver is primed for a big year. Johnson’s maturity was questioned during his freshman campaign and even missed a game due to suspension, but the light switch appears to have come on for the blazing speedster. After averaging 7.5 yards per carry in 2012, Major Applewhite has vowed to get the home run hitter more touches, and they will be electric. 

OT Desmond Harrison (Jr.)

The junior college transfer could end up being the difference between a great Texas team and a good Texas team. The left tackle is a behemoth at 6-foot-8, 310 pounds and could be the anchor of an offensive line that can be described as average the past few seasons. An academic transcript issue kept him out most of August, but he has been cleared and is back with the team. If Harrison can be the force Stacy Searels believes he can be, David Ash and the stable of running should be very productive.

 

Stock Down:

LB Steve Edmond (Jr.)

Before the 2012 disaster on the defensive side of the ball, redshirt sophomore Steve Edmond’s hype was through the roof. Comparisons to Derrick Johnson were being thrown around before he spent a single snap as a starter, and it just never came to fruition. Not even close. After Jordan Hicks’ season-ending hip injury, Edmond looked lost, getting swallowed in traffic too many times to make an impact. The redshirt junior lost weight in the offseason, but so did Dalton Santos, who is waiting in the wings to take the middle linebacker job from Edmond if he doesn’t right the ship.

TE M.J. McFarland (So.)

The former high school receiver was recruited to Texas to play tight end and has a build like former Longhorn Jermichael Finley. McFarland hasn’t panned out yet, and he’s listed third on the tight end depth chart heading into the weekend. Hope isn’t lost yet for the athletic freak, but hopefully it all comes together soon because he could add a game breaking dimension to the offense.

Illustrations by Colin Zelinski.

At the start of the 2013 recruiting cycle, Mack Brown and company knew they needed a ton of help in this class. And they got it. Almost.

1,810 pounds will have to do.

That’s the combined weight of the six 2013 linemen who have verbally committed to Texas: defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, defensive end Jake Raulerson, center Darius James, offensive tackle Kent Perkins, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison and guard Rami Hammad.

Those six will throw their weight around with the other 14 offensive lineman and 15 defensive linemen on scholarship for the 2013 season.

Consequently, it may be a while before some members of the incoming class get the chance to carry their share of the load. Even though Hammad, Robinson, James, Perkins and Raulerson are all listed by rivals.com as the best prospects in Texas at their respective positions, their playing time could be scarce.

The Texas lines are packed with more experienced commodities (the only starter Texas will lose from either line is defensive end Alex Okafor), and acclimating the incoming freshmen to the speed of the college game will take time. Hammad, James, and Perkins especially are early candidates for redshirts.    

Harrison, however, is a notable exception. A junior college transfer, Harrison has only two years of eligibility left and is under pressure to make an immediate impact. Although he may not be a starter from Day One (like fellow junior college transfer Donald Hawkins), Harrison should provide valuable depth at both tackle positions.

Although Harrison’s niche is already well established, the same cannot be said for the class’ two defensive linemen, Robinson and Raulerson.

Robinson could be the cream of the crop in their class if he indeed makes it to Austin. Even though he has been committed to Texas since Feb. 16 of last year, Robinson has taken official visits to Southern California, Florida State and as of last weekend, Alabama.

If he signs with Texas on Feb. 6, he has the talent to find playing time in a crowded Longhorn defensive front. Rated by rivals.com as the best prospect in Texas, Robinson could cause just as much disruption as Malcolm Brown or Brandon Moore did in their first years at Texas.

Alternatively, Raulerson has been committed to Texas longer than any other member of the 2013 class. He is already taking classes at UT and will participate in Spring Practice. Unlike Robinson, Raulerson’s future as a Longhorn is secure; what role he will play is murkier.

Raulerson is listed by Texas as a defensive end, but he played offensive tackle throughout high school. At 6 feet 5 inches and 262 pounds, Raulerson would need to put on considerable weight to be effective at that position at this level.

As an early enrollee, Raulerson will have a head start on learning the system as well as access to Texas’ strength and conditioning program. Even so, with all the returning talent on the defensive line, Raulerson will have to make quite an impression to avoid a redshirt position in his first season.

Although it’s always difficult to project a recruit’s impact, this is particularly true with linemen. Discerning how a recruit will develop both physically and mentally is a tricky business.

Still, the potential for this group to be a force in the Texas trenches is real. And while that opportunity may still be a few years off, the Longhorns should be optimistic about the big things coming to Austin.

Desmond Harrison commits to Texas

Contra Costa Community College offensive tackle Desmond Harrison verbally committed to Texas on Monday afternoon.

Harrison picked the Longhorns over offers from Arizona State, Southern California, North Carolina State and others. He will be eligible to play for two seasons within a three-season span.

Although Harrison may not immediately crack the starting lineup, his greatest contributions will be adding depth and versatility to the Texas offensive line. Harrison’s best assets are his nimble footwork and superior athleticism, especially given the former power forward’s 6-foot-8, 310-pound frame.

Harrison’s commitment is the 14th of the 2013 class, and provides some momentum for Texas recruiting. Texas’ last verbal commitment was on Oct. 8, when Livingston athlete Chevoski Collins picked the Longhorns. Since that time two former members of the class decommitted, and Texas lost out on several other recruits.

Texas will likely add two to three more members to this unusually small recruiting class before National Signing Day on Feb. 6. Potential candidates for the last few spots include Irving offensive guard Rami Hammad and Waco lineman Andrew Billings.