If texas wants to run, re­vamped line must get the job done

Hix says switch to left tackle to pro­tect Gil­bert’s blind side not a big deal

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - by Randy Riggs AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF

IRV­ING — Kyle Hix re­turns to his foot­ball roots this fall, in more ways than one.

Af­ter three years at right tackle, the gi­ant Longhorn will spend his se­nior sea­son at left tackle, the po­si­tion where he be­came a highly re­cruited stand­out at Aledo High School.

Ad­di­tion­ally, if Texas’ of­fen­sive scheme pans out the way coach Mack Brown and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Davis hope, Hix will get more op­por­tu­ni­ties to drive block for a down­hill run­ning at­tack than he did on the right side. Talk about re­turn­ing to your roots … “It’s what you do since you’ve been lit­tle, start­ing out in pee­wee ball,” the 6-foot-7-inch, 316-pound Hix said Wed­nes­day on the fi­nal day of the Big 12 me­dia days. “You don’t throw the ball there. You run it. It’s kind of what comes nat­u­ral to you.” Texas is bank­ing on it. The Longhorns’ com­mit­ment to re­vi­tal­iz­ing the po­tent run­ning at­tack that has been missing the past cou­ple of years is de­pen­dent on what hap­pens with their to­tally re­tooled line. Hix and guard Michael Huey are the only re­turn­ing starters,

and they are play­ing new po­si­tions with both switch­ing from the right side to the left.

Cen­ter David Snow, right guard Tray Allen and right tackle Britt Mitchell will re­place fifth-year se­niors Chris Hall, Char­lie Tan­ner and Adam Ulatoski. But it’s not like the new starters just got off the bus. Allen and Mitchell are se­niors, Snow a ju­nior.

“They’ve got a ton of ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Hix, the only Longhorn named to the All-Big 12 pre­sea­son of­fen­sive team. “We all know what we’re do­ing. So I don’t think there will be that big of a letdown.”

Again, the Longhorns are bank­ing on it.

With Texas av­er­ag­ing just 147.6 rush­ing yards last sea­son — its low­est av­er­age since 2002 — Brown be­lieves an im­proved run­ning at­tack will pay div­i­dends on sev­eral fronts, not the least of which is help­ing ease sopho­more quar­ter­back Gar­rett Gil­bert into his post-Colt McCoy start­ing job.

Brown said Texas con­ducted stud­ies that showed “we had more ex­plo­sive plays when the quar­ter­back was un­der the cen­ter as well as the tail­back be­ing right be­hind the quar­ter­back.”

But it all hinges on what hap­pens up front. If the line per­forms the way Texas needs, the Longhorns have a chance to make the ground game work re­gard­less of who lines up at tail­back.

But if the line doesn’t live up to Brown’s hopes?

Well, the most re­cent mem­o­ries of Texas fans are the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game — when McCoy was sacked nine times by a Ndamukong Suh-led Ne­braska de­fense — and the BCS ti­tle game, when the Longhorns rushed for just 81 yards vs. Alabama, an av­er­age of 2.9 yards per carry.

Asked if the Ne­braska game was em­bar­rass­ing, Hix showed some fancy foot­work.

“Ne­braska’s a great team, Suh’s a great player. Their whole de­fense is re­ally, re­ally good,” he said di­plo­mat­i­cally. “But we won the game and that’s what we were try­ing to do.”

Speak­ing of foot­work, Hix said reac­quaint­ing him­self with the foot­work on the left side of the line was the biggest hur­dle he had to scale in mak­ing the switch from the other side.

“You just re­verse ev­ery­thing. Af­ter that, it’s not a big deal,” he said. “It took me about a week or so to get used to it in spring.”

Orig­i­nally, coaches lined up Allen next to Hix at guard. Even­tu­ally, they de­cided to re­unite Hix with Huey and move Allen to the right side.

“He (Hix) is best friends with Michael Huey,” Brown said. “We hope they can be­come a good tan­dem for us.”

It’s es­sen­tial, es­pe­cially on the left side since they will be pro­tect­ing Gil­bert’s blind side. Hix now oc­cu­pies what most re­gard as the most crit­i­cal po­si­tion on the line since he’ll of­ten be on an is­land against an op­po­nent’s best rusher.

But Hix, a man of such few words that Brown brought him to the me­dia days be­cause “we want him to be a leader on the line,” doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily see it that way.

“Nah, doesn’t mat­ter,” he said of the in­creased pres­sure of play­ing left tackle. “You can give up a sack just as eas­ily on the right side as you can on the left.”

But the left side be­ing Gil­bert’s blind side?

“Trust me,” Hix said. “A sack from the right is just as ef­fec­tive as a sack from the left.”

Rodolfo Gon­za­lez

Kyle Hix played right tackle for the last three sea­sons. Now he’s re­turn­ing to his for­mer po­si­tion of left tackle.

Ralph Bar­rera

Guard Michael Huey (63) lifts wide re­ceiver Jor­dan Ship­ley af­ter Ship­ley scored against Louisiana-Mon­roe last sea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.