Ask the Texas Longhorns about championship depth, especially on the offensive line, and head coach Tom Herman hasn’t been feeling especially optimistic in the last several weeks.
On Saturday in Los Angeles against the USC Trojans, All-American left tackle Connor Williams left the field under assistance after suffering a knee injury when he was rolled up on. Wearing a brace after the game, Williams is set for further evaluation once he returns to Austin.
One of the top offensive tackles in the country and the most irreplaceable single player on the entire team, Williams leaving the game forced the move of senior right tackle Tristan Nickelson to the left side, with sophomore Denzel Okafor stepping for Nickelson.
For a stretch of the game, freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger was under consistent pressure and the Texas offense stalled.
The hope is that the injury to Williams isn’t serious, as he’s absolutely essential in pass protection and run blocking.
However long the team’s best player is out, the loss exacerbates depth issues for offensive line coach Derek Warehime — junior Elijah Rodriguez looked like the prospective right tackle early in fall camp. Then, a high ankle sprained ended his season by requiring surgery. And Rodriguez has played virtually every position along the line.
Last weekend against the San Jose State, redshirt freshman right guard Patrick Hudson went down with an ACL tear not longafter escorting Chris Warren III in for a late touchdown run.
And then there were defections — nine-game starter Brandon Hodges, a capable right tackle, suffered academic issues during the spring and then became a graduate transfer. Former Under Armour All-American Jean Delance, who would now be eligible for playing time, departed the program during preseason camp.
Junior Alex Anderson can fill in for any further interior issues, but the next man up at offensive tackle is redshirt freshman JP Urquidez.
While keeping Connor Williams back on the field is a huge priority for the near future, the margin for error is becoming smaller by the game in the offensive trenches.