Luke Poehlmann



Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz now understand what it’s like to be both criticized and admired by Texas fans.

Both sit at 13-7 as Texas coaches. But people’s sentiments towards them are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Mack Brown can certainly sympathize.
“Last year people wanted Manny to have my job,” Brown said. “This year they’re mad at Manny. Last year they thought I hired the wrong guy in Bryan. Now they’re wanting autographs and pictures.”

Even though the pair’s situations have changed, neither are changing their demeanor or the way they coach.

As the Longhorns were walking off the field after their last-minute win over Oklahoma State, Harsin hugged or high-fived each player that passed by him heading to the locker room. Maybe it’s because he sits in the booth, but it was a surprising sight.

“If I could say one thing about coach Harsin, it’s that he’s passionate,” offensive lineman Luke Poehlmann said. “It’s kind of inspiring to see that as a player because it feels like it bleeds into our offense. All the players can see how much he cares about it and how hard he works to get us prepared. He’s a great coach.”

Poehlmann said he loves playing for Harsin because of his creativity. Though he hasn’t changed, he’s grown with the team and gotten to know the players better.

“Coach Harsin is really consistent,” offensive lineman Mason Walters said. “Win, lose or draw, he always brings that same mentality the next day of ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better’ ... It’s always about growing and it’s never about staying the same with Coach Harsin.”

Perhaps Harsin’s most important steps this year have come with David Ash. The quarterback has made significant strides and has controlled the offense very well. The Longhorns are fourth in scoring offense in the Big 12 and have stood their ground in shootouts against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor.

Last year, Diaz’s defense was sixth nationally in rushing defense and eleventh in total defense. Now the Longhorns are at the bottom, eighth in total defense in the Big 12 and 107th in the country. Diaz refuses to change what he’s doing.

“All it’s about is your persistence as a teacher,” Diaz said. “How can a scheme all of a sudden not be able to stop a run? Or how can a scheme not be able to stop a pass or do whatever? What it comes down to is your teaching.”

Said senior safety Kenny Vaccaro, “It worked last year, why shouldn’t it work now? I think we have talented players across the board. It’s not coach Diaz’s fault.”

Harsin and Diaz are taking on some of the highest expectations in the country. One is meeting them, one is falling way short. At Texas, it comes with the territory.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Diaz, Harsin stick to guns

Senior Luke Poehlmann has been the Longhorns’ de-facto substitute on the offensive line throughout his time at Texas. This season he’s been a key part of UT’s running game.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Luke Poehlmann isn’t in the Longhorns’ starting lineup, nor will his contributions show up in a box score, but his flexibility and willingness to adapt makes him an invaluable member of the Texas roster.

Poehlmann, a fifth-year senior, has lined up at nearly every position on the offensive line since he arrived on campus in 2008. He has also caught touchdown passes at tight end and excelled on special teams.

He’s Texas’ super-sub and has been used at a frequent rate this season as a sixth lineman and wing blocker in Texas’ power set,  a formation that’s been extraordinarily effective in short yardage situations — the set was used for all four of Joe Bergeron’s touchdowns against West Virginia last Saturday.

“Luke is playing so well for us,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He can play either guard, either tackle. He comes in on our power sets, just doing a phenomenal job, and is also becoming a tremendous leader.”

His leadership has been incredibly useful on a young team – he’s the only senior who sees playing time in the rotation on the line. He’s an upbeat guy, with an incredible work ethic that rubs off on his teammates.

Despite his status as a sub, his fellow linemen have an incredible amount of respect for him. Poehlmann has done everything asked of him in his four years on campus and hasn’t complained a bit. He’s always engaged in every practice and group meeting. He keeps the team’s energy up, and if there’s ever a lull he gets on the guys.

“Luke is ready to get us going before the game,” offensive guard Trey Hopkins said. “It’s not even just when he’s on the field. Just having Luke’s presence around, he does a great job of just getting our engines going.”

But it’s Poehlmann’s senior year and he wants to play, and he’s making the most of his opportunities come game day. Poehlmann may not be starting, but the coaching staff is finding spots for him on the field because of how effective he’s been.  

The coaching staff was so impressed by his work ethic and efforts in the power package that they gave him the opportunity to play right tackle, in place of Donald Hawkins, for the second half of the Oklahoma State game. It was a crucial situation, but Poehlmann handled it flawlessly, protecting David Ash for a number of critical late game drives. 

His performance earned him the Longhorns’ award for offensive lineman of the week, but more importantly, trust from the coaching staff.

“He just provides a lot of things for us offensively,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “There is no hesitation from any of us to put him in any situation.”

He may not know what position he will line up at next, but Poehlmann enjoys his role. It brings something fresh every game, and allows him to contribute frequently in what wil be his final season in Austin.

“It’s been a blast,” Poehlmann said. “I just try to make myself available to play whatever I guess the situation calls for. It’s been a blessing to get to play. Wherever I can help the team out the most, whatever the situation calls for, wherever that is at, I have to do that.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: Poehlmann pulls weight on, off field

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.  

Luke Poehlmann was an integral part in Texas' run game against Kansas. He should see extended playing time as Texas hopes to keep its dynamic run game rolling.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns have a new tight end. A big one.

Luke Poehlmann, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound junior, moved from the offensive line to tight end prior to last week’s win over Kansas. With Texas desperately searching for an answer to its blocking woes at that position, Poehlmann proved to be the answer.

“That’s what we’re looking for, more push and power off the edge,” said senior left guard David Snow. “He did a great job for us. He pushed off the line and that whole right side got a great push. We’re really excited about it.”

Poehlmann sealed the edge, allowing the Longhorns tailbacks to gain a season-high 441 yards rushing against the Jayhawks. Bryan Harsin, the Texas play-caller, decided to move the junior to tight end during the bye week to jump-start the outside running game.

“He dominated the 27 plays he was in there,” said head coach Mack Brown. “We’ve got to continue to grow with him.”

The decision worked so well that Harsin anticipates Poehlmann seeing more action in his new role over the final five weeks, beginning Saturday against Texas Tech.

“That helped us, just having a bigger body out there on the edge in some of those one-on-one blocks,” Harsin said. “I don’t see a reason why we’re not going to use him there again.”

But Poehlmann wasn’t a complete stranger to tight end before the move. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, he spent some time at the position in practice — albeit a brief stint.

“That didn’t last too long after he was running a couple routes,” said senior tight end Blaine Irby, smiling. “I haven’t seen him catch the ball in a while. Hopefully we’ll get him on a corner route or something.”

That could come as soon as this week against the Red Raiders, but don’t expect Poehlmann to become too involved in the passing game. His value is still as a blocker.

“He was asking if he could go out the back side (for a pass against KU),” Harsin said. “I don’t think he was quite ready for that yet. But maybe this week.”

While Poehlmann’s brief experience at tight end helped ease the transition, his background as an offensive lineman certainly came into play.

“He’s a guy that’s been in the trenches, he know exactly what it takes,” said senior running back Fozzy Whittaker, who rushed for 68 yards against KU. “He’s blocked defensive ends all the time. Having him on the edge was a big  help for us.”

Poehlmann switched his uniform from No. 77 to No. 82 to become an eligible receiver. And though he played a critical role in beating Kansas, he wasn’t immune from a little good-natured ribbing from some of his former lineman this week.

“No. 82 is not supposed to be on a guy that big,” said sophomore right guard Mason Walters, half-joking. “But at the same time he fought hard.

“He learned the technique early in the week, it’s not something we really knew we were going to do. Luke worked on it all week; keeping his hands inside, running his feet the whole time. He did a great job.”

Poehlmann missed the final 10 games of the 2010 season after tearing his ACL against Wyoming, the second game of the year. He saw limited action through the first six games of this season, and jumped at the chance to get more playing time at tight end.

“He was really excited about that opportunity and you could tell in the game,” Harsin said. “That vibe just helped across the board, just having him in there.”

Texas’ newest tight end just might be the most important one yet. He’s certainly the biggest.