Josh Cochran

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

QB David Ash (Jr.)

For the first time in his career, Ash came into this season as the unquestioned starting quarterback. It took a concussion in the fourth quarter of Texas’ loss to BYU to knock Ash off the top of the depth chart. He returned two weeks later against Kansas State, only to be knocked out with yet another head injury. Ash needs a week between when he’s medically cleared and when he can suit up again. He can get a medical redshirt if he’s not cleared by season’s end. 


RB Johnathan Gray (Jr.) 

Gray was on his way toward turning in the first 1,000-yard season by a Texas running back since Jamaal Charles in 2007 before rupturing his right Achilles tendon last week. Losing Gray is a big blow to a Longhorns offense that relies on their running game so much but backups Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are more than capable of picking up the slack.



OG Mason Walters (Sr.) 

Walters was a game-time decision before Texas’ Big 12 opener against Kansas State with a knee injury. He started in that game and has started every game since. In fact, Walters has started each of Texas’ 47 games over the last four seasons. He is considering having postseason surgery to repair his knee but, for now, Walters is playing through the pain. 



OT Josh Cochran (Jr.) 

Cochran missed spring practice with a fractured leg but, after starting all 13 games last year, started the first three games year... before sustaining a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the last six games. He is out again this week against Oklahoma State. 



OT Kennedy Estelle (So.)

Estelle was the highest-rated offensive line prospect to sign with Texas before last season and has filled in admirably for Cochran in the each of the last six games. But he went down with a hip injury against West Virginia and fellow sophomore Sedrick Flowers replaced him for the second half. Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite indicated Tuesday that Estelle should be ready to go this week.


DT Chris Whaley (Sr.)

Whaley became the heart and soul of this Texas defense over the last few weeks, scoring key touchdowns against Oklahoma and Kansas while constantly finding his way into opposing backfields. But he was carted off the field in the first quarter of last week’s win after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Desmond Jackson quickly picked up two sacks and a forced fumble in Whaley’s place but even Jackson admitted that Whaley is irreplaceable. 


LB Jordan Hicks (Jr.)

Hicks missed the final 10 games of the 2012 season with a hip injury, earning him a medical redshirt before this season, only to be knocked out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles four games into this year. The Texas defense has adjusted much better to his absence this season than it did last year, but Hicks has still been sorely missed. 


LB Tevin Jackson (Jr.)

Jackson has played in nearly every game since coming to Texas in 2011 but didn’t crack the starting lineup until last season, starting the final two games of the year against Kansas State and Oregon State, making a career-high seven tackles in the Alamo Bowl win over the Beavers. But he suffered a torn left ACL in the win over Kansas two weekends ago and is also out for the season. 

The Longhorns offensive line suffered two considerable blows last Saturday when senior right guard Mason Walters and junior right tackle Josh Cochran left the game against Ole Miss in the first half after sustaining injuries.

Walters (knee) and Cochran (shoulder) each entered the week listed as questionable for Saturday’s Big 12 opener against Kansas State. While the Texas coaches remain hopeful that both veteran linemen can suit up against the Wildcats, they realize that neither should be expected to play the entire game.

Sophomores Sedrick Flowers and Kennedy Estelle filled in admirably against Ole Miss after Walters and Cochran went down, and they both figure to be a major part of the game plan again this week. Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said that while both Flowers and Estelle have room to improve, he expects each to step up again this week when needed.

“We’ll need both of those guys to step up and play well for us Saturday night against a good defensive front,” Applewhite said. “They did some good things. Obviously there’s going to be some plays you want back in the game, but overall I thought Kennedy and Sedrick did some really good things when they’re in there.”

Head coach Mack Brown listed Estelle as the starter at right tackle on the depth chart on Monday, while Flowers remained behind Walters at right guard. That said, both should receive considerable playing time this week, and senior left guard Trey Hopkins is excited to see what the sophomores can do.

 “We’re upset whenever one of our starters goes down but I’m excited for guys like that to get an opportunity to play,” Hopkins said. “I think they both stepped up pretty good. They’re both young and haven’t played that much in game situations, especially Kennedy. I think he’s really working hard this week in practice to really pinpoint what he needs to get
better with.”

With the offensive line potentially losing the experience of Walters and Cochran this week, sophomore running back Johnathan Gray believes it is up to the Longhorns’ veteran starters to limit mistakes on the field and help ease Flowers and Estelle into the lineup.

“With those guys down, we have to do a better job of being more focused and have less mental errors when they get hurt and new guys come in,” Gray said. “We definitely have to get the job done and can’t lose a step.”

Regardless, Hopkins remains optimistic that Walters and Cochran will line up to his right on Saturday, and he believes they are doing everything in their power to play against
Kansas State.

“I’m very confident that they’re going to do whatever they need to do to get back on the field,” Hopkins said. “I know they’re very dedicated to doing whatever they need to. They both love playing this game they wish they were in the game with us last week. I know they’re going to fight as hard as they can and do whatever’s in their will to get back out there.”

If they remain inactive, though, the Longhorns believe both Flowers and Estelle are highly capable of filling the void, and they do not expect the offensive line to miss a beat. 

Texas was hit with three injuries this weekend against Ole Miss in addition to the two it suffered against Brigham Young University the previous week.

Right guard Mason Walters and right tackle Josh Cochran both left the game in the first half, leaving the offensive line without two of its starters. Walters suffered a hip injury, which puts his status as questionable for this week’s game. Cochran is also an "or" on the depth chart for when Texas takes on the Kansas State this weekend.

Mike Davis suffered an ankle injury against Ole Miss. The wide receiver is listed as "or" with Marcus Johnson on the depth chart. Davis has been seen walking with a boot since Saturday’s game.

Quarterback David Ash was inactive against the Rebels with a shoulder injury, placing Case McCoy in the starting spot. On the depth chart this week, he is listed as "or" with McCoy for the starting role.

Texas’ offensive powerhouse Daje Johnson was also out against the Rebels with an ankle injury. The running back/wide receiver has been seen moving around campus on a scooter and is out for this weekend's game.



OT Josh Cochran out for spring after sustaining leg injury Wednesday

Junior offensive tackle Josh Cochran will be out for the spring after sustaining a lower leg fracture during Wednesday practice, Texas head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd said Wednesday evening.

Cochran started in all 13 games last season as a sophomore, playing both right and left tackle. His aid to the Texas offense earned him first-team Freshman All-America honors by Yahoo! Sports. As a freshman, he played in 12 games with seven starts, the first at Oklahoma State.

When Cochran will return is unclear, but he should be recovered in time for August practices, Boyd said.

Dominic Espinosa, who started every game at center last year as a freshman, is one of four returning starters on the Longhorns offensive line, joining junior guard Mason Walters, sophomore offensive tackle Josh Cochran, and senior guard Trey Hopkins.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

Junior college transfer Donald Hawkins has entered the offensive line brotherhood at Texas.

Being the only starter on the line who did not start last year, he had a lot of catching up to do. But with fellow starters Mason Walters, Trey Hopkins, Dominic Espinosa and Josh Cochran, he assimilated quickly.

“The offense was a little different to what he had done. He had to adjust to it, adjust to the coaching staff, adjust to our style of play,” Walters said. “The jump he made from spring ball to now is extremely encouraging that he is definitely going to be a force on the line.”

Hopkins says it took a little time for him and the other offensive linemen to get to know Hawkins. But now he is one of them. And with an animated leader like Walters, it couldn’t take very long for Hawkins to open up.

“At first he didn’t let us see all of himself and into his personality,” Hopkins said. “But now he’s really become a brother of the offensive line and he’s a great guy. He’s funny and he keeps us laughing.”

The brotherhood of offensive linemen, led by coach Stacy Searels, boasts versatility. Each players has the skills to play both tackle and guard, which could be beneficial in case of an injury.

Hopkins, who has played both right tackle and left guard, said understanding every position on the line is helpful if they want to play in the NFL. But it also helps with cohesiveness and chemistry among players.

“If I can know not only what I’m doing but what my center and my left tackle are doing, it makes me move better within that framework, not get tripped up with the guys, and not have any miscommunications,” Hopkins said.

Head coach Mack Brown said Hopkins, Walters and Espinosa are important team leaders. The three of them made it a goal to help the freshmen.

Bringing back so many returning starters has helped create a solid line and provides learning opportunities for the younger players. But in helping the younger players, Hopkins believes the veterans are learning themselves.

“It’s a great thing [having four starters return],” Hopkins said.

“Just because we’re able to help the young guys. In helping them, we’re able to re-instill what we already know and that gives us the confidence. I can say, ‘hey I know this,’ so I know it well enough that I can teach someone else.”

Walters agrees that the impact of bringing back returners will be extremely beneficial for the offense, especially with an offense that is so reliant on the run game.

“A lot of time you’re working double teams, techniques to get to people and if you’ve worked with a guy enough, little nuances that can sometimes thwart a play, you don’t have to worry about because you know you can adjust on the run with a guy that you have played with for a year,” Walters said.

Brown said the line is in a much better position than it was at this point last season. Last season, the line allowed 28 sacks. Running back Malcolm Brown has witnessed the growth of the line firsthand.

“The offensive line is great,” Malcolm Brown said. “As a whole, we weren’t all there last year. We had a new system and everyone was still learning. The offensive line looks really great.”

The linemen brotherhood has been spending more time together outside of practice and they have become closer as a unit. Their favorite thing to do together isn’t much of a surprise.

“We like to eat,” Walters said. 

Center Dominic Espinosa (55) opens a hole for running back Joe Bergeron (24) to run through. Espinosa has started every game this year.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

In one short year, the Longhorns’ offensive line has gone from a glaring weakness to a
definitive strength.

Like most of the team, it went through many changes. Texas hired Georgia’s Stacy Searels to coach the offensive line this January. True freshman Dominic Espinosa has started at center since the first snap of the season opener. Senior David Snow, who started all 12 games at center last year, moved over to left guard.

Another freshman, Josh Cochran, replaced senior Tray Allen as the Longhorns’ starting left tackle and backup guard Luke Poehlmann has made his presence felt at tight end. So far, the moves have paid off.

“We’ve got the right five guys,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “Running the football builds confidence for the O-line, the tight ends, the running backs and the receivers. Everybody’s doing their job.”

The offensive line was highly criticized last year as Texas averaged just 23.8 points per game and Garrett Gilbert threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. No Longhorns running back topped 600 yards rushing in 2010 but they have three — Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Fozzy Whittaker — on pace to do that this year.

“Last year, we never got good at anything,” said head coach Mack Brown. “So we said let’s do something we can identify with. That was let’s get better in the running game and play action because we weren’t protecting very well.”

One of the biggest reasons for the transformation up front has been the new leadership Searels has provided. Like Texas’ last three defensive coordinators, Searels, a two-time All-SEC selection at Auburn, came from the SEC to Austin. Searels, who coached at Georgia for three years and was in charge of LSU’s offensive line when the Tigers captured the 2004 national title, has worked wonders with Texas’ offensive line this season.

“Coach Searels has done a great job with those guys,” Harsin said. “He’s a technician with those guys and done a good job drilling them with what they’re trying to do, drilling them in their techniques and what they’re going to see. He’s constantly critiquing and coaching.”

Like Searels, Malcolm Brown and Bergeron weren’t a part of the Longhorns program last year when Texas tried and failed to install an effective rushing attack. But the freshman tailbacks have resurrected the dormant running game this year, already combining to run for more than 1,000 yards.

“Good backs help,” said Mack Brown. “One obvious advantage to [the offensive line] is Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown are good players. Fozzy’s a better player than he’s been and he’s been able to stay healthy.”

Brown and Bergeron are not the only first-year players making contributions to the drastically improved run game. Cochran, whose Hallsville team went 4-6 in his senior year of high school last season, has done his part to make sure Texas doesn’t have a similar year again.

“Josh is really smart,” said Mack Brown. “He’s moving his feet. He’s gotten more comfortable. He can really run. He’s athletic. So Stacy and Major [Applewhite] and Bryan are using him on sweeps.”

Poehlmann, a fourth-year junior, is a seasoned veteran compared to players like Cochran but is helping the Texas offense in new ways, too. The junior offensive guard moved over to tight end against Kansas and it hasn’t been a coincidence that the Longhorns’ two most productive offensive outings have come with Poehlmann opening up holes on the edge of the offensive line.

“The O-line is doing a great job,” Whittaker said. “When you look into their eyes, you can tell that they’re focused and ready to push them off the ball no matter what kind of play it is.

When Whittaker is asked something, he almost always finds a way to work in the phrase “got to give credit to the offensive line” into his response. Not bad for a group that was considered a liability a year ago.  

Texas' offensive linemen try to make push up front for quarterback David Ash. The line was hammered by Oklahoma all game, giving up eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Many units were considered strengths for Texas heading into this year’s Red River Rivalry before getting embarrassed against Oklahoma. The offensive line was no different.

Despite giving up only five sacks in its four games, the Longhorns offensive line allowed the Sooners to rack up eight. Oklahoma’s defense also made 17 tackles for loss as Texas averaged fewer than one yard per carry in spite of the production the Longhorns got out of running backs Malcolm Brown (59 yards), Fozzy Whittaker (45 yards) and D.J. Monroe (23 yards)

“We did not play well in the offensive line,” said head coach Mack Brown. “We did not make the yards we needed to make. We did not protect the quarterback like we needed to. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week at that area.”

There could be a bit of movement along the offensive line as there is now an “or” between senior Tray Allen’s and true freshman Josh Cochran’s names on the depth chart at left tackle. Allen, who waited four years behind players such as Kyle Hix and Adam Ulatoski to start, was the top-rated offensive tackle coming out of high school in 2007. Cochran, on the other hand, is in his first season at Texas and was not nearly as highly touted of a prospect as Allen.

“[Cochran]’s a guy that comes in and competes,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “Like a lot of our young guys, you’re wanting to get those guys experience and you’re wanting to get those guys
to play.”

Another first-year offensive lineman who has also caught the coaching staff’s eye, Sedrick Flowers, is finally over an ankle injury. The earliest the 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard would see the field, however, would be after the Longhorns’ bye week against Kansas Oct. 29.

“We think he has a chance to be really good,” Brown said. “He’s better but he hasn’t been able to get the experience in practice we’d need him to get so he’s not as far along as we’d like him to be at this time.”

Even though Texas held Oklahoma to 86 yards rushing, 64 of them coming on one long, Dominique Whaley-touchdown run, the Longhorns were out-rushed as they managed only 45 yards on 36 carries.

Texas lost 51 yards on eight sacks and a whopping 117 yards on Oklahoma’s 17 tackles for loss, including going backward 35 yards on back-to-back sacks of David Ash.

“That stuff can’t happen, especially against a good team,” said senior guard David Snow. “You can’t have that. You play a really good team and make mistakes, it’ll cost you.”

Another chunk of lost yardage came on trick plays, which had worked wonderfully in the Longhorns’ first four contests. Freshmen receivers Miles Onyegbule and Jaxon Shipley were both brought down for big losses on reverse-pass plays. One piece of trickery was effective, however, when a screen pass went for a sizable gain with Allen lining up near the left sideline and throwing a nice lead block.

Oklahoma State’s defense, even though it ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 in yards allowed, is superb at getting takeaways. The Cowboys have already forced 17 turnovers and the nation’s third-best turnover margin, along with 14 sacks in five games, which is good for 21st in the country and third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Texas’ offensive line should have easier time with Oklahoma State’s defensive front than it did with Oklahoma’s.

“We played a very good opponent up front,” Harsin said. “Those guys did a very good job of giving us some different looks and obviously being talented. I thought the O-line did a nice job of competing. It wasn’t perfect, nor was any position on the field, but those guys kept competing.”

The blame for turnovers is often placed on those who commit them. However, the fact that McCoy and Ash had their worst game the same week that their offensive line did is no coincidence. Texas won’t be giving up eight sacks or committing five turnovers anytime soon but that doesn’t mean the Longhorns offensive line doesn’t have to step up this weekend.