Texas offensive lineman Patrick Vahe (77) and offensive lineman Connor Williams (55) block Iowa State's JaQuan Bailey (19) for Texas quarterback Shane Buechele(7) in the third quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Football

Rotation of linemen doesn’t block Texas from consideration for national award

Posted November 22nd, 2016

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Texas running back D’Onta Foreman said on Tuesday that he “definitely” has the best offensive line in the nation.

Someone else might agree.

Texas has been named a semifinalist for the 2016 Joe Moore Award, which is given to the top offensive line in college football. Texas is one of 18 semifinalists for the award, and the Longhorns will battle teams like Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan for the honor. Among the semifinalists, Texas (5-6) is the only team with a losing record.

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Texas has allowed 26 sacks this season, but the offensive line was likely nominated for the Joe Moore Award thanks to its work in the run game. The Longhorn linemen have also paved the way for Foreman, a junior who leads the nation with his 1,863 rushing yards.

Due to injuries, ineffectiveness and a suspension, Texas has started a different combination on its offensive line in nine of its 11 games. The Longhorns have yet to have the same starters on their offensive line in two consecutive games. Nine different Longhorns have started on the offensive line, and that number doesn’t include tight ends Caleb Bluiett or Andrew Beck.

“To be able to produce and do what we’ve done with a rotation of the front five and a true freshman quarterback, that says something for those guys and those kids of their growth, their maturity and the things they want to get done and get accomplished this year,” Texas offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said. “That’s a huge feat.”

Gilbert credited assistant coach Matt Mattox’s work with the offensive line, but he also lauded his players. A day earlier, sophomore tackle Connor Williams said the line’s depth had been an asset.

“I think as an o-line, we’re a unit and we’re interchangeable,” Williams said. “Whoever is next to me, I feel like we can produce the same. I think we’re a good unit and we’re solid in depth, and I think we have faith in anybody that comes up and takes anybody’s position.”

Williams leads the Longhorn linemen with 10 starts, and senior right guard Kent Perkins and freshman center Zach Shackelford have both started nine times in 2016. Gilbert declined on Tuesday to update the playing status of Shackelford and sophomore Jake McMillon, who has started at three different positions on the offensive line. Shackelford (ankle) and McMillon (knee) missed last week’s game against Kansas with injuries.

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