THE OFFENSIVELINE WILL BEAR THE WEIGHT OF VINCE YOUNG'S DEPARTURE, AND IT SHOULD BE UP TOTHE TASK
2005 RECORD 13-0(8-0 in Big 12 South)
KEY RETURNEES DTFrank Okam (Jr.) NFL scouts are already drooling over his size (6'5", 315)and explosiveness DE Brian Robison (Sr.) Big 12 shot put champ led team insacks (seven) and tackles for loss (15) in '05 WR Billy Pittman (Jr.) Emergedas a big-play receiver, averaging 22.1 yards a catch
BIG MAN ON CAMPUSWith a sprinter's speed-he finished fifth in the 100 meters at the NCAA outdoorchampionships (10.27)-and the ability to break clear of tacklers, sophomoreJamaal Charles has an outside shot at the Heisman Trophy. Last year the6'1", 190-pound running back was on his way to a 1,000-yard rushing seasonbefore an ankle injury in the fifth game slowed him for three games. He stillwound up with 878 yards on 119 carries, a 7.4-yard average.
Longhorns fanswere still celebrating their team's national championship victory over USC-11days after the Rose Bowl-when Justin Blalock gave them another reason to raisetheir bottles of Shiner Bock. Before a crowd of more than 50,000 at Texas'sofficial victory party in Royal Memorial Stadium, Blalock, the normallyreserved right tackle, hammed it up. Holding the Sears Trophy in his left handand a camera phone in his right, he went to the mike and declared, "I willbe returning for my senior year."
As everyone fromsea to shining USC knows, Texas's other All-America junior on offense,quarterback Vince Young, chose not to come back for his final college season,making Blalock's return crucial to the Longhorns' chances of repeating. Theyhave depth everywhere but at quarterback, where Young's successor will beeither redshirt freshman Colt McCoy or true freshman Jevan Snead, both of whomlack not only Young's experience but also his running skills. For Texas's20-game winning streak to continue, its offensive linemen will have to provideextra protection for the QB and work harder to clear a path on rushingplays.
No lineman atTexas, and perhaps in the country, does those things better than Blalock, aphysical 6'4" 329-pounder who's so light on his feet, he has earned thenickname Dancing Bear. Versatile enough to play guard or tackle, he wasprojected as a late first-round or a second-round pick had he entered the NFLdraft. It was his block on fourth-and-five against blitzing USC cornerback JoshPinkard that sprang Young for the winning touchdown in the Rose Bowl."Going into every snap, my mind-set is, The guy on the other side of mewill not make this play," says Blalock.
He anchors a linethat, despite losing All-Americas Jonathan Scott and Will Allen, rivals any inthe nation. Still, the unit will be hard-pressed to match the performance oflast year's line, which helped the Longhorns average 50.2 points and 274.9rushing yards per game. Says Blalock of this year's front five, "What wehave to do is communicate like we did last year and play like five fingersmaking a fist."
If so, Texas maypack a powerful follow-up punch. "If Vince had come back, we would be morecomplacent because all the talk would have been about us repeating," sayscoach Mack Brown. "With him leaving, that has not been an issue. There isno doubt-this team can win a national championship."
DARREN CARROLL (BLALOCK)