The Texas Longhorns released an official depth chart on Monday morning prior to Saturday’s Red River Showdown against the Oklahoma Sooners.
With head coach Charlie Strong’s job security rapidly dissipating, choosing the right starters from this roster’s mix of veteran experience and youthful talent will be crucial if the Longhorns have any chance of staying competitive in Dallas.
Here is Texas' offensive depth chart prior to OU pic.twitter.com/1fed7RnXYz— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) October 3, 2016
Not much changes on offense, other than Kent Perkins reclaiming his top spot at right guard after a one-week suspension for a DWI. The reliable senior will hopefully be able to aid in creating holes for an offense which was still able to rush at 6.7 yards per carry in his absence.
Though the offense stalled in the second half of Saturday’s Oklahoma State game, there weren’t any blatantly necessary depth chart changes on that side of the ball. Freshman center Zach Shackelford didn’t turn in a stellar performance, as there were several bad snaps, but his errors weren’t egregious enough to start Jack McMillon in his place.
Here is Texas' defensive depth chart prior to OU pic.twitter.com/ENAOgZngEA— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) October 3, 2016
But the Longhorns got creative with changes on the defensive side of the ball. Freshman Brandon Jones is now the starter at nickel back. The experiment of starting Jones at safety didn’t work out last weekend, but it’s clear the coaching staff wants the highly touted freshman’s talents on the field.
Senior Dylan Haines is also now officially demoted to a back up at the safety position in favor of fellow senior Kevin Vaccaro. Throughout his career, Haines has 25 starts, the most on the team. Alongside Vaccaro at safety will be junior Jason Hall, who delivered a couple of bone-crushing sacks Saturday and was one of the few players to turn in a solid performance.
Fox end Naashon Hughes is another player who faced a big demotion, as sophomore Breckyn Hager is now officially listed as the team’s starter at that position. The junior has NFL talent, but hasn’t made enough of an impact at what is supposed to be an impact position, with only six total tackles on the year. By contrast, Hager has brought energy to the unit in notching 23 tackles (second on the team) and a team-high 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Sophomore Chris Nelson has also surpassed Paul Boyette at defensive tackle, bringing the total to four changes among the starters for the OU game.
It’s important to note that the Texas depth chart moves are not set in stone, and don’t always match up to who actually trots out on the field for the first play. For example, Dylan Haines and Jason Hall were the starters at safety on the depth chart released last weekend, but it was Jones and sophomore safety DeShon Elliott who took the field first.
With Strong now taking over defensive coordinator responsibilities, perhaps these changes will invigorate a lackluster unit which has allowed 48.7 points per game to the three power five conference teams its played. Or maybe these depth chart shake-ups will ultimately be a failed desperation move — a Hail Mary that can’t shore up the Texas D enough to, well, stop a Hail Mary.
I guess we’ll see on Saturday.