Some of sophomore center Dominic Espinosa's success can be attributed to a familiar Longhorn name.
Jason Glynn, who made 38 consecutive starts for Texas at center from 2002-04, spent two summers working with Espinosa while he was still in high school at Cedar Park.
Glynn made the connection after meeting Espinosa's father, Art, while they worked together at a car dealership after Glynn graduated from Texas. Glynn is now a sales rep for Johnson & Johnson.
"I worked with his dad when I got out of school," Glynn told Orangebloods.com. "He asked me to check out his son. I said, 'I hear from all the dads that my son is great and the best player ever.' I went over to the school and told his dad, I'll do the first evaluation for free.
"I said, 'I'll be honest with you - if I think I can help him, I'll try. If I don't think he has a shot, I won't take your money.'
"After that session, I told his dad, 'Yeah, he'll play somewhere, guaranteed.' And we pretty much worked together the next two summers."
GOOD FOOTWORK: What stood out to Glynn during that first evaluation were Espinosa's feet.
"He was a big kid even then," Glynn said. "The biggest difference between high school and college is footwork, and he could do everything I asked him to do at 16 years old. So there was no question in my mind in three years, he'd mature into a college player body-wise. He had the feet to make it happen, and he was real strong through the hips and everything you'd want in an offensive lineman."
Espinosa's technique was good in high school and has continued to improve, Glynn said.
"The thing I liked about him in high school that I think he does really well is get to the second level and take on linebackers," Glynn said. "He's a guy who plays to the whistle, and more importantly, he's a smart kid who does well in school and comes across well. He's well-spoken and is as good of a kid off the field as on the field."
MEAN STREAK: Glynn saw Espinosa's nasty streak one broiling afternoon when his father, Art, was getting after him during a workout with Glynn.
"His dad pushed him pretty hard," Glynn said. "Dom responded well to it, for the most part. But one day we worked together, Dom already had practiced at the high school. This was like his second or third practice of the day, and you could tell he didn't want to be there. His dad was there, too.
"It got to the point where it was time for him to drive the bag, and I held it a few times. And his dad was popping off at him a little bit. I said, 'Dom, you want your dad to hold this bag?' And Dom said, 'Hell yes, I do.' And Dom got after it."
I asked Glynn if there are any similarities between himself and Espinosa.
"We both put our heads down and worked," Glynn said. "We know football is fun but it may not be the only thing we're going to do, and I think he knows that. If he gets an opportunity in the NFL, that's great. But he's going to be successful at whatever he does after he plays football."
GETTING STRONGER: Glynn likes what he's seeing from Espinosa (6-4, 298) heading into Espinosa's sophomore season at center. Espinosa has increased his bench press by 100 pounds since last year, when he was coming off shoulder surgery.
"That strength will help him," Glynn said. "But the best things about him are his feet and his intelligence. He understands the game, and he'll put himself in a good position before something bad happens. While strength is very important, I don't know that it's going to make him that much better as a player."
Glynn said he struggled his first year as a starter in 2002 and then bounced back in his second year as a starter in 2003, winning the Most Improved Offensive Player award for that season.
"My first year, I gave up six and a half sacks and then gave up a half sack the next two years," Glynn said. "I don't think you can judge anyone's career after their first year. That was just kind of setting the stage for better things."
PAYING OFF: Stacy Searels' gamble to play two freshmen on the line last year (Espinosa and OT Josh Cochran) should pay off this season.
"I told people all last year that we're young in the offensive line and we're going to lose some games, because that's what happens when you're young in the offensive line," Glynn said. "But I told them to wait one or two years, because that's when it's going to be exciting. I think we're on that trajectory."
Teammates have said Espinosa is taking much more of a leadership role on the line and has become much more assertive in making the calls.
"Dom has stepped up big as a leader, making all the calls and making sure the line is reading the defense correctly and connecting all the assignments," said left guard Trey Hopkins.
INCREASED EXPECTATIONS: Espinosa will be better off for starting his redshirt freshman season, despite some obvious struggles against bigger, more experienced defensive tackles.
"He had your typical first year," Glynn said. "He would do well a big percentage of the time. But any freshman is going to be on the ground more than he should be.
"I'm sure the game was really fast for him. This year, I think he's going to do really well. The more you play, the slower the game gets and you just get comfortable.
"You know your strengths and weaknesses and play to all that stuff. He is doing that and will do that this year."