Even though the Texas Longhorns seemingly avoided the worst-case scenario of losing junior right tackle Kent Perkins for an extended period of time, Orangebloods' Alex Dunlap told an Austin radio station on Thursday that Perkins won't play on Saturday against the TCU Horned Frogs.
There was hope that Perkins might be ready to play earlier in the week when play caller Jay Norvell said that Perkins practiced on Tuesday and was day to day, expressing hope that he would be able to play in Fort Worth. However, that optimism quickly diminished behind the scenes.
The two top candidates to replace Perkins if he can't play are senior Marcus Hutchins and sophmore Tristan Nickelson. Hutchins was abysmal in his appearance replacing Perkins, contributing to at least two sacks. On Monday, senior left guard Sedrick Flowers called him out publicly for not being prepared to play, an extremely disappointing development since Hutchins started at left tackle last season.
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline eventually pulled Hutchins and insert Nickelson into the lineup. At 6'9 and 304 pounds, Nickelson is a huge physical presence, but he has questionable mobility and footwork at this time, which led many to speculate that he would redshirt during his first season on campus.
The other two options that Wickline has available are junior college transfer Brandon Hodges and freshman Garrett Thomas. Despite talk that Hodges would be able to contribute early at a tackle position, but he's currently listed as the back up to right guard Patrick Vahe. As for Thomas, he's been reshaping his body so he can play outside, sacrificing a significant amount of mass in the process -- he's down to 274 pounds after weighing in at 306 pounds in 2013 at the Dallas NFTC.
The offensive line experienced issues across the board when Perkins went out. On standard downs, the running game was unable to find any room, leaving the offense behind the chains and susceptible to pressure on third and long. Texas ultimately gained only two yards of offense after Perkins went down after losing 39 yards on five sacks.
"We have to find a better way to protect Jerrod on third down so he can drop back in the pocket and throw the ball," Norvell said on Tuesday. "That was not good at all. We just have to execute better. We don't have anyone to blame but ourselves."
If the Horns can't protect Heard, exploiting a depleted Horned Frogs secondary will be much more difficult.