Next man up.
For a team that has dealt with a number of injuries this season, that’s been a consistent mantra for the Texas Longhorns, and one that head coach Tom Herman repeated on Thursday evening when asked about the impact of star cornerback Holton Hill’s suspension.
The junior was suspended this week for the remainder of the season following a violation of team rules.
So the ‘Horns will have to turn to a back up to replace Hill, with junior Davante Davis likely taking the first rep of the game due to his experience, according to Herman.
However, freshman Josh Thompson is also expected to play against Kansas on Saturday.
“That's the one advantage of playing corner,” Herman said. “I think you can rotate those guys a little bit and then see who's playing really well, or if both are playing equal, continue to play them both.”
While the staff expressed disappointment in Davis during preseason camp, Thompson has taken advantage of his opportunities this season, despite his youth.
“Josh [Thompson] has really come along in terms of progress made throughout the course of the season,” Herman said. “That's a true freshman that really embraced getting better, embraced his opportunities on special teams, and has worked his way into being a guy that we think we can count on in that role, too.”
In fact, the 6’0, 200-pounder is in the conversation as the best special teams players on the team — Thompson has 11 tackles on the season, with most of them coming in that phase.
Known as a fast, physical defender who can also play the nickel position, Thompson has exciting upside because of his skill set and willingness to do the little things to get better and earn playing time.
Davis, on the other hand, hasn’t played much in the last year after starting the first four games of other 2016 before falling out of favor with the previous staff. At the end of the season, the 6’3, 200-pounder got back on the field a bit, but wasn’t able to translate his late production into playing time in 2017.
So it’s surely been a frustrating stretch for Davis, who burst onto the scene as a freshman by starting the last five games and earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
“He’s physically able to do it,” Herman said in early August. “He just has some breakdowns from time to time that can be costly, so he’s got to be more consistent.”
There aren’t any strong indications that Davis has become more consistent, but he will have a chance to show some improvement over the final regular-season games.
Based on how well Thompson has played on special teams, however, he seems like the better bet to take advantage of the opportunity provided by Hill’s suspension.