Six days after Texas Longhorns junior right tackle Elijah Rodriguez officially assumed the leading role in the competition for that position, Horns247 broke the news on Thursday that Rodriguez had undergone surgery to correct the high ankle sprain on his right leg.
The operation on the 6’6, 300-pounder was successful, the school later announced, but there is not currently a timetable for Rodriguez to return.
High ankle sprains impact the stability of the tibia and fibia, so it’s possible that Rodriguez had a surgery similar to the one that was likely performed on sophomore center Zach Shackelford in early April.
Shackelford suffered repeated high ankle sprains last season, with the first coming midway through preseason camp. He eventually managed to start in nine games, but injured his ankle again against Iowa State, played against Baylor, Texas Tech, and West Virginia, then missed the Kansas and TCU games.
Eventually, another sprain to the same ankle in late March prompted the April procedure.
The surgery is called a Tightrope fixation for ankle syndesmosis, which “damages the soft tissue structures between the tibia and fibula and causes these bones to separate... The TightRope system anchors the ends of the tibia and fibula together with a braided polyethylene cord, rather than with a rigid surgical screw, to restore the original position of the bones and to allow for proper healing.”
The recovery time for this particular procedure can be four months or more, but Shackelford is now back in the starting lineup, though it’s not clear how much he participated in offseason workouts beyond rehab.
So Rodriguez may not necessarily miss the entire season — a three-month recovery would put him back on the field in mid-November.
However, if it was a tightrope fixation that was performed on Shackelford and Rodriguez underwent the same surgery, it’s possible that Rodriguez won’t be available until a potential bowl game.
Since Rodriguez has already taken a redshirt season, if he’s unable to play and eventually wants to return for a sixth season in 2019, he would be eligible for a medical redshirt.
For now, senior Tristan Nickelson assumes the leading role at the position, while sophomore Denzel Okafor competes with the former junior college transfer.