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Texas HC Charlie Strong expects injured players to return

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It sounds like the banged up Horns benefited from a week off as much as anticipated.

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A bye week allowed the Texas Longhorns to get healthier, prompting head coach Charlie Strong to express optimism Monday about getting three injured starters back against the Kansas State Wildcats this Saturday.

"I think those guys will be ready to go this week," Strong said. "Perk is still day by day, but he was able to move around somewhat yesterday. Ridgeway, you know, I think Ridgeway will be ready."

Junior offensive tackle Kent Perkins missed the last two games and most of the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys when an opponent's helmet hit his knee. If he isn't ready to go this week, the good news is that senior Marcus Hutchins and sophomore Tristan Nickelson were a much-improved combination against the Oklahoma Sooners.

As for junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, he suffered his shoulder injury in the Cotton Bowl, returned briefly, and then exited the game in the fourth quarter. Sophomore defensive tackle Poona Ford suffered his own shoulder injury, but was able to play on the final Oklahoma drive.

The other key starter the Horns could have back is senior wide receiver Daje Johnson, who suffered a concussion against the TCU Horned Frogs. Senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson said that his classmate is now back practicing with the team in preparation for a Saturday return.

Freshman running back Chris Warren could also see his first action since suffering an ankle injury against the California Golden Bears. According to Strong, Warren "could add something to the mix" at running back behind senior Johnathan Gray and sophomore D'Onta Foreman. Warren is presumably still third on the depth chart following fellow freshman Kirk Johnson's debut on special teams against the Sooners.

Two linebackers could be need another week or more before returning, however -- freshman Breckyn Hager is still day-to-day after he suffered a high ankle sprain in Fort Worth and redshirt freshman linebacker Edwin Freeman is "working back" from his shoulder injury sustained against Cal, but could need at least two more weeks to fully recover.

With Perkins, Johnson, and Ridgeway all likely to play and the entire team less banged up following the week off, simply being healthy could help the Horns show some improvement after the strong performance against Oklahoma.