AUSTIN, Texas -- Trey Hopkins played right tackle last season.
The junior is at left guard right now. But at any moment he could go to center, a place where he has been working as a backup.
“I’ve been moved around quite a bit,” he said.
Same goes for Mason Walters. He has been a fixture at guard, but there were those days back in the spring when the junior was asked to snap a few.
“You never know where you’re going to be,” Walters said. “I could go out there and one day be at center. That’s how [offensive line coach Stacy] Searels does it.”
Searels also refuses to allow his players to only know one position. Instead as defensive ends coach Oscar Giles is apt to say, he likes to throw all the different ingredients in the pot and try and come up with the best stew.
And in 2012, Texas has all the ingredients for a solid line. Four of the five players are returning starters. The fifth, Donald Hawkins, is a junior college transfer who came in and took a starting spot in the spring.
“We have guys up front that actually know what they’re doing,” Hopkins said.
And know how to do it regardless of the position they’re playing. That’s because Searels refuses to have his linemen typecast as just a guard or just a tackle.
Just about every player is given a shot at another position at one time or another. The theory being, that if injuries hit, Searels can shuffle the deck and still come up with a flush hand.
“If anything happened we believe we’re going to have a guy that can step up and there will not be a step back,” Hopkins said.
But there is another underlying benefit as well. Searels’ method allows for each player to have a deeper understanding of not just his position but of all the positions along the line.
“You have to know not only what you’re doing as an offensive lineman but you have to know what the guy next to you is doing to work as a cohesive unit,” Hopkins said. “It makes us better if I know what my left tackle is doing because I can move within that framework and not have any miscommunication or anything like that.”
That, in turn, leads to confidence from the players about their individual play and the play of the individual next to him. A confident player is one who is inclined to be more aggressive. Aggressive is one of the first steps to becoming tougher. And ultimately toughness is what Mack Brown has been preaching about since the end of 2011.
“You go back look at our BCS games we haven't run the ball as well as we needed to in those games,” Brown said. “I thought Colt [McCoy] was so good and so accurate that we became a softer offensive football team from a running standpoint.
“We were throwing the ball on 3rd-and-4, and I wanted to bring the toughness back. I want us to get so we are a more physical football team from top to bottom.”
The downhill blocking scheme which was implemented last season by Searels and Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has started to allow the line to become more physical. So too has the depth and versatility along that line.
“We’re in a system that compliments what we have,” Hopkins said. “[Harsin] knows what he has and he knows what our strengths are and that is what we utilize.”
And Searels knows he can utilize any player in any place within that system.