Per Oklahoma State player Brandon Garrett's Twitter machine, it sounds like Joe Wickline - widely regarded as the best college offensive line coach in the business - is heading to Texas. Jesus at IT has been following this one as well and said things were looking good even before Garrett's Tweet.
So what does it mean? For starters, it looks like Strong and Patterson weren't just whistling Dixie when it came to talk of fully deploying Texas' substantial resources to put together a "dream staff". There's been some Interwebs consternation over the past few days as the Offensive Coordinator position has remained unfilled, but whoever Strong ultimately tabs will probably be pinching himself at the chance to work with a position coach of Wickline's caliber.
So just what makes Wickline so great?
My most in-depth film study of Oklahoma State's offense came after our 2012 game with them up in Stillwater. You'll likely remember the almost comical rushing total the Longhorns allowed that day, and while Diaz' deficiencies played a role it was hard not to be wowed by the execution on display from the Cowboys' offensive front. I've rarely seen a front five that functioned so well as a unit, or did such a good job springing both between-the-tackles and edge runs with ONLY five (the Cowboys rarely employed an in-line TE in that game). OSU's front was a zone-blocking symphony - they showed great agility in their lateral/bucket steps to seal off our DL, executed combo blocks flawlessly and managed the handoffs on those blocks cleanly to get one guy free to the second level while the other kept the defensive lineman well in hand.
I was struck by how often our DL were sealed away from the lane and how seldom one of our guys was able to come off a block and even get a hand on the ballcarrier. I'd see a runner heading into a small space and expected some contact and congestion, only to see him shoot cleanly through the hole with a head of steam.
It was a master class on both assignment and technique, and it was the kind of show that OSU has replicated time and again over the years while burnishing Wickline's rep as a fantastic teacher. His guys know zone blocking inside and out, and they seem to execute with just about as much fluency as you can expect from 3- and 4-year vets (as opposed to 7-8 year NFL veterans with vastly more practice time).
From what I've seen of the Cowboys' approach, it's not a road-grading vertical displacement type outfit, but rather one that wins with athleticism and technique. As the same can be said for the Terrell Davis Broncos, the Oregon Ducks and plenty of other wildly successful ground attacks, I'm of the mind that I don't care how the cat gets skinned so long as we've got runners hitting the second level clean with a head of steam. I suppose there's room for concern as to how a zone scheme predicated on technique and athleticism translates to consistent victories on third and one, or whether it's optimal preparation for facing off with an Alabama-style crop of 5-star DL.
The flip side is that Wickline has been making his bones with snips and snails and 3-star O-linemen for much of his OSU run. They haven't lacked for realized talent, but they haven't had first dibs when it comes to claiming Texas' most highly regarded O-line recruits, either. It doesn't always follow that a guy who's been whipping ass with 3-star recruits can make purely linear gains when upgrading to higher-ranked talent, but I'd imagine a guy who knows his business as well as Wickline does will be able to make plenty of hay with the kind of guys he'll be able to land on the 40. If I had to guess I'd say he'll have some baseline requirements for agility and smarts, but the state's status as a spread offense factory should see it crank our plenty of athletic dudes who can put on weight, soak up knowledge and start paving the way as redshirt juniors.
Welcome to the 40, Coach Wickline - everybody wanted you, and we got you. I get the feeling that your boys will be fun to watch.