Will the Texas Longhorns have senior linebacker Dalton Santos available for the 2015 season?
According to several reports early on Tuesday, some around the team though it was possible that Santos won't recover from an ankle injury he sustained during the spring in time to exhaust his eligibility this fall:
Despite what others are reporting, a decision to redshirt Dalton Santos is not finalized. More medical info is needed. @HornSports— Matt Cotcher (@MLCotcher) July 21, 2015
At the time of the injury, head coach Charlie Strong expected Santos to fully return to offseason conditioning by mid-July and reiterated that stance during the breakout portion of Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday:
#Longhorns #Hookem coach Charlie Strong said LB Dalton Santos should be ready to hit the field by training camp— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) July 21, 2015
A consensus four-star prospect and top-10 inside linebacker out of Van in the 2012 class, Santos developed a reputation as a strong special teams player early in his career and started one game as a freshman. In 2013, he moved into the starting lineup for seven games and finished fourth on the team with 74 tackles. However, the 2014 season saw the 6'3, 252-pounder struggle to stay healthy or earn playing time behind Steve Edmond, so he only made 11 tackles and no disruptive plays (tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, or forced fumbles).
If Santos suffers a further setback and can't play, look for freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson to move into the starting role. Now up to 240 pounds after arriving at under 220 pounds, Jefferson looked like the team's future at the position during the Orange-White game. From the long-term perspective, getting him on the field early and often is the best thing for the team, so if Santos does end up having to take a redshirt, it would accelerate Jefferson's progress.
However, based on Strong's statement, it looks like Jefferson will have to win the job outright.