To paraphrase a common military acronym, the Texas Longhorns tight end situation is back to normal, and that means that it’s all messed up.
The latest setback? Monday’s fracture ankle sustained by senior tight end Andrew Beck, the only player at the position who has caught a pass in a Longhorns uniform. As a result, Beck will miss at least six to eight weeks — he likely won’t return until the start of October, at the earliest.
Beck had broken the foot before, then re-broken it. The latest injury came during a non-contact drill, as Beck merely went to push off of it and sustained another fracture. despite flying out to Oregon to have Nike made a custom insole for him.
“We’re going to leave no stone unturned when it comes to making sure that our guys are as equipped as humanly possible to prevent something like that from happening,” Herman said.
Still, the precautions weren’t enough, and the significant blow of losing Beck has Herman concerned about the position once again.
How high is Herman’s anxiety? “At an all-time high,” he responded.
The Texas head coach repeated his previously articulated stance about putting the best players on the field, whether that means replacing the tight end with a running back or with a wide receiver.
“One good thing is we have Kendall Moore,” Herman said, referencing the Syracuse grad transfer who joined the program for preseason camp. “Even before Andrew got hurt, he had the most college catches in that entire room with 12 in his career.”
Another option is former wide receiver Garrett Gray, who is yet to record a catch in his Longhorns career, which is now entering its fourth season.
“Garrett’s closer,” Herman said. “Garrett, again, it’s nice to have him back from class. He missed a ton with some of the classes he was taking in the summer. It’s good to see him out there. He’s put on a lot of weight, a lot of strength. He’s a really smart guy that can run and catch, too.”
Listed at 6’4, Gray is now up to 240 pounds, giving him the mass to be more effective as an in-line blocker. His biggest contributions could still come as a wide receiver — he had 4.4 speed when he came out of high school at under 200 pounds and recorded 37 touchdown catches during his two seasons playing at Marble Falls.
“I think he’s your best option right now,” Herman said.
Another option during the first two games, when freshman Reese Leitao will be sitting due to his suspension, is freshman Cade Brewer, the former pass-catching specialist at Lake Travis.
“I think Cade Brewer will help us this year,” Herman said. “How much I don’t know, but I certainly can’t envision him redshirting. He’s going to play on special teams and play on offense probably a little bit as well.”
Having a handful of options is an improvement over previous seasons for the Longhorns, but that isn’t exactly saying much.
And so the anxiety returns.